Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Part 2 – The Sporting, Non-Sporting, Terrier, and Toy Groups

< A version of this article was published in the August 2017 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 14SEP17 >

< You can listen to a podcast on this topic that was broadcast on The Woof Meow on 16SEP17 by clicking here >

< UPDATED – 3SEP17 – All three parts of this series have been compiled into a single article at >

Last month I started a three-part series on the importance of understanding your dog’s breed and what they were bred to do before selecting a dog. That understanding is critical to making sure you get the perfect dog that we all seek. Last month I discussed the AKC Herding and Hound groups. This month I will look at the Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, and Toy groups.

Non-Sporting Group

– “The breeds in the Non-Sporting Group are a varied collection in terms of size, coat, personality and overall appearance.1

Some of the more popular breeds in the Non-Sporting group include Bulldogs (#4), French Bulldogs (#6), Poodles (#15), the Bichon Frise (#45), Dalmatian (#62), Keeshond (#92), and more2.

The breeds in the Non-Sporting group are so diverse that discussing them as a group is not very valuable. For that reason, I recommend that anyone considering a dog from this group not only talk to breeders but also veterinarians, trainers, and kennel and daycare owners about your particular breed of interest. Always make sure you seek advice from those with no financial gain in the breed that you choose.


Sporting Group – Naturally active and alert, Sporting dogs make likeable, well-rounded companions. … Potential owners of Sporting dogs need to realize that most require regular, invigorating exercise.1

The Labrador Retriever has been the most popular dog in the US for many years, and the Golden Retriever often holds the number three spot on the AKC most popular breeds list2. Other popular breeds in the Sporting group include; German Short-Haired Pointers (#11), Brittany’s (#25), English Springer Spaniels (#26), Cocker Spaniels (#29), and more.

We see lots of Sporting breeds in Maine due to their overall popularity but also probably because many Mainers love outdoor adventures and so do the dogs in the Sporting group. These dogs are bred to work closely with their handler, so they often are some of the easiest dogs to train. However, they do tend to be some of the larger breeds as well as being well known for their enthusiastic exuberance. If you have a dog from the Sporting group, starting training at an early age is essential. Because of their retrieving instincts, some of the Sporting breeds can be overly mouthy, so training them appropriate bite inhibition before they are 13 weeks of age is critical.


For hundreds of years, retrievers have been bred to have the stamina and instincts to hunt during hunting season while being able to relax and be an ideal companion dog the rest of the year. Within the past few years, some of these dogs have been bred to be, in my opinion, overly driven so as to be more competitive in field trials. These dogs are not always a good choice as a companion as they often exhibit poor bite inhibition and a hyperactive personality.

Terrier Group – “These are feisty, energetic dogs whose sizes range from fairly small, as in the Norfolk, Cairn or West Highland White Terrier, to the grand Airedale Terrier. Terriers typically have little tolerance for other animals, including other dogs. Their ancestors were bred to hunt and kill vermin. …In general, they make engaging pets, but require owners with the determination to match their dogs’ lively characters.1

The most popular breed in the Terrier group is the Miniature Schnauzer at #17. Other dogs in the Terrier group include the West Highland White Terrier (#41), Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier (#50), Airedale Terrier (#55), and others2. You may have noted that Terriers fall lower on the popularity list and that is because a terrier is not for everyone.

The AKC group description indicates that dogs in the Terrier group often have issues with other animals, including dogs. I describe Terriers as being the Seal Team of the dog world; they seek out and kill and do it very efficiently. That sometimes makes them less than ideal for those new to dogs, those with children, and those that are fans of backyard wildlife. If you have other animals in your home, talk to a certified dog trainer or canine behavior consultant about adding a Terrier to your family before committing to do so.


Toy Group – “The diminutive size and winsome expressions of Toy dogs illustrate the main function of this Group: to embody sheer delight.1

The most popular breeds in the Toy group include; Yorkshire Terrier (#9), Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (#19), Shih Tzu (#20) and Pug (#32)2. The most distinguishing feature of these breeds is their size; they are small. The shape of their faces, the length of their coat, and personality can vary widely.

Many breeds in the Toy group were bred specifically to serve as lap companions. We see several toy breeds for boarding and grooming at Green Acres, and they have very endearing qualities. For someone that primarily wants a canine buddy, they can be ideal. I often recommend both the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Pug for first-time dog parents. They are small, durable, have great personalities and are pretty low maintenance, although both breeds may suffer from serious health issues.

Some would argue that future behavior is all about the environment and the way a dog is raised. Environment certainly plays a tremendous role in a dog’s temperament but so do genetics, and we cannot change genetics. If you want the best possible companion that meets your criteria of “the perfect dog,” then spend some time researching the breeds before you get your dog.

Next month I will close out this three- part series by discussing the AKC Working group and Mixed Breed dogs.


1 AKC website –

2 Most Popular Dog Breeds – Full Ranking List –

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Part 1

Does My Dogs Breed Matter? – Part 3

Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family –

How to choose a dog trainer

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at Don also writes about pets at his blog:

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