How many breeds of dog are there?
The world of dog breeds is vast, with over 450 breeds organised into 7 main types – all with their own unique set of features and behaviours.
For thousands of years, people have bred dogs to do specific things like hunting and herding. Some breeds are rare, while others are more popular.
We’re a nation of dog lovers. More than a quarter of UK adults own a dog – with over 13 million dogs living in UK households as of 2022. Mixed Breeds, Labrador Retrievers and Cockapoos are among the most popular.
The 7 types of dog breeds
While each dog is different, most breeds have traits which set them apart from the pack:
1. Terrier breeds
Fun, feisty and outgoing, terriers like Border Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers may be small in size but have big personalities.
An all-action pooch
Bred to hunt small animals underground, they naturally enjoy digging and chasing. Terriers love to be in the middle of the action and usually need an outlet to release their energy – making them ideal partners for hiking or jogging.
Feisty problem solvers
Terriers can be a great fit for households with kids of all ages, but are often suited to single dog homes as they can be feisty towards other dogs. Although some terriers will learn to get along well with other dogs if socialised early enough. Terriers tend to respond well to reward-based training as they love to problem-solve and are highly motivated by incentives.
2. Hound dog breeds
Affectionate, loyal and social, hounds are natural-born entertainers. From miniature Dachshunds to giant Irish Wolfhounds, they come in all shapes and sizes.
The social dog
Hounds can thrive around people and other dogs, so can make excellent household companions. Having been bred to hunt in packs, hounds can be distracted if something catches their attention. Their first impulses are to sniff and chase!
Patience is key
Hound dogs can be a bit stubborn when it comes to training, so might not respond right away. Try scent-based activities initially, and keep persevering. Take a look at some handy training tips you could try with your dog.
3. Toy dog breeds
Loving, lively and entertaining, toy dogs such as Chihuahuas are proof that the best things really do come in small packages!
Toy dogs are usually standard breeds that have been bred down to a smaller size. Unlike other dog groups, most toy breeds were bred solely as companions meaning they have less need for strenuous exercise. Like many breeds, toy breeds also tend to bond closely with their owners so watch out for signs they may be suffering separation anxiety when you are not around. The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to help ease this anxiety if it does become a problem.
Favour the familiar
While this breed is extremely bonded to their owners, they can be aloof with others. So they might not enjoy the company of other dogs – especially very lively ones. Although they like their own space at times, these lovable balls of fur can be a great addition to most families.
4. Gundog breeds
Friendly, active and robust, gundogs such a Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels often enjoy being in the thick of the action.
The fun is in the chase!
They usually enjoy being around children or other dogs and cats, seeking out companionship at every turn. Gundog breeds, as the name suggests, were originally bred to help their owners hunt game. So, this working breed has a keen competitive streak to go with their gentle loving nature. Gundogs love having a job to do but this means they can become boisterous and unruly if not given enough exercise or kept mentally stimulated. If you're considering a gundog breed, consider how much time and focus they'll need from you just for training – it's a considerable amount!
This dog rises to a challenge
Retrieval games, scent work, playing hide and seek or learning tricks can be an excellent ways to give your gundog the mental and physical work out that they need. When fully focused, they can quickly rise to the top of the class.
5. Working dog breeds
Determined, confident and strong-willed, working dogs, like Huskies, are dogs with a job to do. They love nothing more than helping their human friends.
A loyal friend
From pulling sleds to performing search and rescue, working dogs enjoy being active. Some are natural guardians which means they’re devoted to their owners.
Larger breeds can come from colder climates, meaning these gentle giants come equipped with thicker coats – which sometimes leads to moulting. Something to consider if you or anyone in your household suffers with dog allergies.
Teach the value of sharing
With the right training, working dogs can turn their paw to obedience-based activities. They have a tendency to ‘guard’ everyday items, like television remotes, so you may want to practice ‘give’ requests with them. This breed might also benefit from dog socialisation to help them open up to other people and animals. Like gundogs, working dog breeds require a lot of training, so make sure you've give this a lot of thought before making a decision on what type of dog may be best for your home.
6. Pastoral dog breeds
Hardy, clever and sensitive, pastoral dogs like nothing better than to be by your side. Some pastoral breeds include Border Collies, Old English Sheepdogs and German Shepherds.
Lovers of the great outdoors
Often bred for herding farm flocks, pastoral breeds love being outdoors whatever the weather. Having plenty of open space nearby for them to run and roam is essential. Dogs of this type sometimes bond strongly with one person but enjoy the company of all members of their human family. A well-socialised pastoral dog will be a pleasure to take along to dog-friendly cafés, gardens, and pubs. Their energetic take on life will be sure to attract lots of attention!
Keep calm and avoid boredom
Reward-based training and interactive brain games can help deepen your bond. Pastoral breeds also tend to respond well to calm, well-delivered instructions. Try to prevent your pastoral breed from getting bored, as this can lead to behavioural problems. This is also something to think about when it comes to training – like gundogs and working dogs, pastoral dogs require a high level of training, so it will take up a lot of your time and focus to give them what they need.
7. Utility dogs breeds
Utility breeds were each bred for very specific purposes, so it’s hard to put your finger on an exact set of universal traits. This group includes Shih Tzus, Bulldogs and Poodles.
Dig a little deeper
Ranging from large to small, these dogs are usually ‘ultra-specialists’ who thrive in specific areas or situations. Their jobs were as diverse as running alongside fire engines to keeping monks company. Try to do some research to discover what type of utility breed would be best for you.
A good fit?
Some of these dogs are very aloof while others enjoy regular companionship. Dogs like poodles don’t tend to shed but, for others, coat care can be essential. Chow Chow’s aren’t normally a good fit for obedience exercises, while Toy Poodles are a box of tricks. So, choose wisely.
Getting the right insurance for your dog
Dogs are a diverse bunch, coming in all shapes, sizes and temperaments.
This has been achieved through selective breeding which occasionally yields different health problems for specific groups. For example, Cockapoos are sometimes prone to lameness and ear problems, while Beagles can suffer from skin allergies and meningitis.
If you're thinking about bringing home a new furry friend, make sure you research dog insurance so you get the right policy to suit the needs of you and your dog.
Knowing more about pedigrees and cross breeds
Your dogs’ ancestry can also affect how they behave, inherited traits and potential health factors. For example, pedigrees and cross breeds can be different in lots of ways.
These are some common questions people ask when it comes to dog breeds: