Experts disagree on the exact number, but estimate there are more than 300 breeds of dogs. Each is valued by someone or by a group of people. In fact, they exist because they were bred to have characteristics that make them well suited for specific tasks. Over thousands of years, dogs were bred to meet a variety of human needs.
Toy breeds are the very small types of dogs, often weighing less than ten pounds. This group is the only one in which the dogs were bred to be mainly companions and "intruder alarms" rather than perform physical labor. Natural "lap" dogs, these cute canines are great for small dwellings.
Dogs in the Hound group were all originally bred to assist with hunting. Many hound types have an amazing sense of smell; others are best known for their stamina during the chase. Their talent for hunting is the main trait these dogs share, since hounds come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.
Working dogs have the size and strength that makes them well suited to guarding property, pulling carts and other intense physical tasks. They are well known for their extremely high intelligence and deep devotion to their human companions. German shepards, Doberman pinchers, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Giant Schnauzers and Boxers are just a few of the better known types of working dogs.
Like the Hounds, dogs from the Sporting group were bred to assist with hunting. Alert and active by nature, sporting dogs fit in well with active owners. If you plan on adding any type of Sporting dog-spaniels, pointers, setters and retrievers-to your family, keep in mind that these high-energy dogs need frequent exercise.
The dog breeds included in the Non-Sporting group vary greatly in appearance and abilities. Dalmatians, because of their amazing stamina and strong sense of territory, were set to run alongside carriages to guard the travelers inside. Later, firemen employed these unique dogs to guard fire wagons. Poodles, which most people associate with high-society, were originally bred as work animals. In addition to pulling small carts, poodles were used to retrieve items from the water.
Terriers are known for their distinctive personalities. Tenacious by nature, these lively dogs require owners willing to provide lots of physical and mental stimulation. Their group name is derived from the Latin "Terra," meaning earth. Bred to hunt vermin, terriers are instinctive, active diggers.
Sight hounds were bred to assist the hunter by virtue of their excellent eyesight. Instead of finding prey by scent, these lean hunters spot their quarry from a great distance. They have amazing stamina and energy and all members of this group need plenty of exercise.
Today, most breeds are partially "unemployed." Many of their jobs have been taken over by machines. Yet, no machine can comfort you when you're down, make you laugh with its antics or see into your soul the way a dog can. Until a machine is invented to fill the human need for companionship and devotion, dogs will always have a place in our homes and hearts.
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