Dog Traits & Personalities for the Seven Breed Classes

You probably pay close attention to the characteristics of certain breeds if you're looking to bring home a new pet. Whether you want a pup to cuddle with or one to join you on runs and hikes, dog personality traits are largely defined by which of the seven main breed classes he falls under. If you already know which dog personality type you'd like, do your research on which breed is best suited for you and/or your family. Your local shelter is a great place to find the perfect dog. They have both purebred and mixed-breed dogs.

Herding Dog Personalities

Dog breeds that belong to the herding group, as detailed by the American Kennel Club (AKC), are smart and serious with an energetic flair. Because they're territorial of "their" property and people, they make for terrific watchdogs. They may bump or nip at people, though, as is their innate response as animals whose ancestors were bred to help herd and organize. These dogs have an instinct for working, and are very athletic.

Herding dogs are intelligent and may be the easiest (and most willing) group of dogs to train. As such, they are well suited to dog sport and competitions.

Herding dogs are a good match for large families; they'll enjoy spending time with groups of people. Even if you don't have a big household but live on an expansive property with multiple animals, a herding dog will fit right in. Companionship is very important to this dog group, so bring one into your family if you're looking for a loyal, loving pet.

Breeds that belong to the herding group include the Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepard, Bearded Collie, Belgian Sheepdog, Border Collie, German Shepard, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Puli, and Shetland Sheepdog.

Hound Dog Personalities

There are two types of hound dogs: scent hounds and sight hounds. The latter use their vision to find what they're looking for. They are agile and speedy. Scent hounds, on the other hand, smell their way to what they are trying to find. They're tough, but slow.

Both types of hound dogs are very inquisitive, independent creatures. They can be trained, but must understand why they are being taught to do something. Their intelligence is a double-edged sword;if they don't think the training is important, they'll simply ignore all your hard work. For this reason, it's best to seek professional help for training a hound dog.

Hound dogs are a good match for people who have a secured place for them to explore. They should be kept on leash at all times, or else they may get loose. They also require a patient pet parent, as hound dogs are often interested in tracking sights or scents you may have no interest in.

Breeds that belong to the hound group include the American Foxhound, Basset Hound, Beagle, Dachshund, Greyhound, Norwegian Elkhound, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Treeing Walker Coonhound, and Whippet.

Sporting Dog Personalities

Expect a sporting dog to be active and alert at all times. Known to be multi-taskers, these dogs are both easily trained and befriended. They're bred to be hunters, and depending on the sub classification of the breed, will find, point, flush out, hold, or retrieve what they're hunting. The water dogs of this classification love swimming, as you can imagine, and would happily spend all day at a shoreline. Sporting dogs also make for great therapy or assistant dogs.


Sporting dogs are a good match for someone who can keep them entertained and exercised. If you're looking for an animal who can keep up with your active lifestyle, a sporting dog may be your forever pet. They are particularly good family dogs as well.

Breeds that belong to the sporting group include the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Irish Setter, Korean Jindo Dog, Labrador Retriever, Pointer, and Weimaraner.

Terrier Dog Personalities

Known to be feisty and fun, terriers come in all shapes and sizes. Largely territorial, terriers will bark at anyone approaching their home or family. They're also hunters of small animals (such as foxes or rats), and will dig to find their prey.

Terrier dogs are a good match for patient but high-energy pet parents. They want to work, because it feels like playtime to them. If you can match their energy level, you're bound to be best friends.

Breeds that belong to the terrier group include the Jack Russell Terrier, Rat Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer, Scottish Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and Welsh Terrier.

Toy Dog Personalities

Want a lot of dog in a very little package? A toy breed may be perfect for you. They may be small, but what they lack in size they make up for in character. Toy dogs are full of personality, and for generations were bred specifically to be companions. Most toy dogs are very loyal, though some can be territorial depending on breed and upbringing.

Toy dogs are a good match for people living in tight quarters. They don't require a lot of space, but they do deserve attention. They may also be good for adults without young children or a single professional.

Breeds that belong to the toy group include the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, Chinese Crested Dog, Italian Greyhound, Maltese, Pomeranian, and Pug.

Working Dog Personalities

The most diverse group of dogs, working dogs were bred in order to help you. Their jobs vary from pulling sleds to guarding livestock. They are strong and smart, and definitely capable of being trained. Many of these dogs act as guards, but as long as they're properly socialized they can be super friendly.

Working dogs are a good match for most people. As long as you have the space for them, are consistent, and keep them active, working dogs make a great pet.

Breeds that belong to the working group include the Akita, Boxer, Great Dane, Mastiff, Portuguese Water Dog, Saint Bernard, Samoyed, and Siberian Husky.

Non-Sporting Dog Personalities

dalmatian-with-red-collarThe non-sporting dog breed began for working dogs that no longer performed the activity for which they were originally bred. Dalmatians, for example, were raised to accompany horse-drawn carriages. Bulldogs were previously used to bait bulls. Neither dog needs to fill those roles, today, and now have a fitting place in the non-sporting dog breed category.

In general, breeds that don't quite fit in any of the above categories will find themselves in the diverse group of non-sporting dogs. Some dogs may be small, yet too big to fit in the toy breed category. Others may be hunters, but not hounds or sporting dogs.

Non-sporting dogs are a good match for many different types of people. Because personalities vary from dog to dog, however, it's important to meet your new puppy first to find out if he'll be a fit for your lifestyle.

Breeds that belong to the non-sporting group include the Bichon Frise, Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Dalmatian, Keeshond, Lhaso Apso, and Poodle.

Although dog personality traits seems to be consistent over these seven main breeds, that doesn't mean your own special pet can't have other personality traits as well. Your hound may play detective in the yard, sniffing every square inch of grass for "clues," but may also be happy to kick back with you on a lazy Sunday. Likewise, your toy dog may be small, though not enjoy as much cuddling as his full-sized counterpart.

Remember, all have individual dog personality traits regardless of breed group. Just because one group often produces friendly pups doesn't mean socialization and training don't play an important role in their development. Spend some time with a dog before bringing him home to determine for yourself that you'd make a good pair. And be honest; the dog may be the cutest you've ever seen, but Great Danes aren't good apartment dogs, and tiny Chihuahuas don't exactly enjoy marathons.

Once you've found your perfect match, enjoy a long-term rewarding relationship!

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Erin Ollila


Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform and even transform its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an MFA in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at


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