Any dog lover will know that our canine friends can have big personalities! And, whilst every dog is different, most breeds have typical characteristics that set them apart from the rest of the pack. Read on to find out more about dog breeds and their traits.
From the people pleasers to the protectors, each and every dog has their own personality traits. Just like humans, every dog is an individual with their own quirks and behaviours, but there are certain temperaments and characteristics that each breed is known for. When looking for the best dog breed for you, it’s important to consider the typical characteristics of each breed group, and how they might fit into your lifestyle, before you welcome a canine companion into your home.
Typically, dogs fit into seven breed groups: Pastoral; Working; Toy; Gundog; Terrier; Hound; and Utility. Amongst these groups, there are certain behaviours and personalities that are instinctive, and usually have something to do with the role the breed was originally bred to do.
Pastoral dog characteristics
Pastoral dogs are those who’ve been bred to work on farms, often in herding roles. Breeds such as the Border Collie and German Shepherd fall under this category. Naturally, these dogs have a strong instinct to herd and like nothing more than being at the heart of a busy home, with people and animals alike.
When it comes to training, Pastoral breeds are some of the most intelligent dogs out there, with a willingness to learn that means they will pick up new skills and training easily. These are some of the best dogs to get if you’re a new owner due to their trainability. However, these dogs need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to stop them from become bored, so you’ll need to dedicate lots of time to them.
Working dog characteristics
They say dogs are “man’s best friend” and this is no clearer than in the Working breed group. Bred to perform specific tasks, such as rescuing or guarding, this group includes breeds such as Rottweilers and Boxers. Intelligent, watchful and strong, many canine lovers believe that these breeds’ companionship and loyalty make them some of the best pet dog breeds going.
It’s worth noting that whilst they are loving and loyal, Working dogs also tend to be very protective of their own. This means that early socialisation is especially important for breeds in this group to make sure they are friendly to strangers when out and about.
Toy dog breed characteristics
Toy breeds are undeniably some of the best companion dogs around. Bred for exactly this purpose, Toy breeds, such as the Bichon Frise, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, French Bulldog, Pomeranian and Pug, have been bred to look pretty and provide company to their owners. Naturally, these dogs thrive on love and affection and are just as content to run around and play as they are to curl up on the couch.
Toy dogs are perfectly suited for smaller homes and prefer the company of a single chosen human rather than a busy family environment. Despite their size, Toy dogs can be extremely possessive of their owners, which can lead to antisocial behaviour as well as separation anxiety if you don’t adequately train them.
Gundog breed characteristics
Bred to flush out, locate and retrieve game, Gundogs are naturally highly active breeds. With their friendly and playful natures, and their love of people Gundogs, such as Golden Retrievers, Labradors, English Springer Spaniels and Cocker Spaniels, are among the best dog breeds for families. With their even tempers and natural desire to please, many Gundogs, especially Labradors and Golden Retrievers, are also considered some of the best therapy dogs.
Since they’re such people pleasers, Gundogs tend to be easy to train, with a willingness to learn and the intelligence to match. However, much like their Pastoral and Working counterparts, these loving and loyal dogs need lots of exercise, stimulation and time with the family.
Terrier breed characteristics
Terriers might be small in size, but their big personalities more than make up for it! Fun and feisty, terriers were originally bred to control vermin, pursuing small animals underground. Some of the most popular Terrier breeds include: Border Terriers; Jack Russells; Staffordshire Bull Terriers; West Highland White Terriers; and Yorkshire Terriers. Naturally, Terriers love to dig and chase and these cheeky canines can be quite a handful. Terriers are happy to do their own thing and, whilst they love to spend time with their families, their independent nature means they can be left alone for longer than other breeds, making them some of the best dogs for people who work during the day.
However, this independent nature can make training a little more challenging with Terriers than with other breeds. Whilst they are intelligent and quick to learn, they are also strong-willed, and may exercise selective hearing if lesson time becomes boring. Terriers also tend to be very vocal – something to consider if you have neighbours nearby!
Hound dog characteristics
Under the Hound category there are two breed subgroups: scent hounds and sight hounds. Scent hounds include the Beagle and the Dachshund, whilst sight hounds are built for speed and include the agile Greyhound. Out of the two, scent hounds tend to be bubbly, outgoing personalities with lots of character and energy. Meanwhile, their athletic counterparts in the sight hound category have more laid-back personalities and tend to expend their energy in short, sharp bursts, content to spend plenty of time relaxing at home.
Personality differences aside, both Hound groups have been bred to be highly skilled and their intelligence means they require plenty of stimulation and adequate exercise. Hounds tend to be more instinctive than other breeds and will ignore their training in pursuit of their quarry. For this reason, recall and lead training are especially important to make sure you keep your Hound dog safe.
Utility breed characteristics
The Utility group is more difficult to define than the previous six categories. Breeds in the Utility group, such as Lhasa Apsos, Bulldogs, Shih-Tzus and Miniature Schnauzers, don’t automatically fit into the more traditional categories, and their original roles have become obsolete. For this reason, their personalities can be quite diverse. However, as a rule, most Utility dogs tend to be playful and even-tempered and make excellent, versatile companions.
Once you’ve chosen the breed that’s right for you, it’s time to find your perfect dog. If you’re looking to buy a puppy or rehome a pet, make sure you always do so through a credible breeder or organisation. Third-party sellers are now illegal under Lucy’s Law.