Havanese standing outdoors.
Havanese

What's a dog breed?

People have been breeding dogs since prehistoric times. The earliest dog breeders used wolves to create domestic dogs. From the beginning, humans purposefully bred dogs to perform various tasks. Hunting, guarding, and herding are thought to be among the earliest job…

What's a dog breed?

People have been breeding dogs since prehistoric times. The earliest dog breeders used wolves to create domestic dogs. From the beginning, humans purposefully bred dogs to perform various tasks. Hunting, guarding, and herding are thought to be among the earliest jobs eagerly performed by the animal destined to be called “man’s best friend.”

For thousands of years, humans bred dogs toward the physical and mental traits best suited for the work expected of them. The sleek Greyhound types bred to chase fleet-footed prey, and the huge mastiff types used as guard dogs and warriors, are two ancient examples of dogs bred for specific jobs.

As humans became more sophisticated, so did their dogs. Eventually, there emerged specific breeds of dogs, custom-bred to suit the breeders’ local needs and circumstances. The Greyhound, for instance, was the foundation type for the immense Irish Wolfhound and the dainty Italian Greyhound. All three have a distinct family resemblance, but you’d never mistake one for another.

So, then, when is a breed a breed and not just a kind or type of dog? The simplest way to define a breed is to say it always “breeds true.” That is, breeding a purebred Irish Setter to another purebred Irish Setter will always produce dogs instantly recognizable as Irish Setters.

Each breed’s ideal physical traits, movement, and temperament are set down in a written document called a “breed standard.” For example, the breed standard sets forth the traits that make a Cocker Spaniel a Cocker Spaniel and not a Springer Spaniel.

The AKC standard for each breed originates with a “parent club,” the AKC-recognized national club devoted to a particular breed. Once approved by the AKC, a standard becomes both the breeder’s “blueprint” and the instrument used by dog show judges to evaluate a breeder’s work.

There are over 340 dog breeds known throughout the world. The American Kennel Club recognizes 200 breeds.

Affenpinscher

Affenpinscher

Loyal, curious, and famously amusing, this almost-human toy dog is fearless out of all proportio…

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Afghan Hound

Afghan Hound

Among the most eye-catching of all dog breeds, the Afghan Hound is an aloof and dignified…

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American Hairless Terrier

American Hairless Terrier

The American Hairless Terrier, a Louisiana native, is a smart, inquisitive, and playful dog tha…

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Barbado da Terceira

Barbado da Terceira

The Barbado da Terceira is a medium-sized herder that is a great companion and family dog. The…

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Barbet

Barbet

An archetypic water dog of France, the Barbet is a rustic breed of medium size and balanced…

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Bedlington Terrier

Bedlington Terrier

Graceful terriers in sheep's clothing, Bedlington Terriers, named for the English mining shire…

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Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise

The small but sturdy and resilient Bichon Frise stands among the world's great 'personality dogs.'…

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Bolognese

Bolognese

The Bolognese, a member of the Bichon family, is an enchanting small, white companion dog with a…

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Chinese Crested

Chinese Crested

With their spotted pink skin, spiky 'crested' hairdo, furry socks and feathery tail, you can'…

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Coton de Tulear

Coton de Tulear

The Coton de Tulear, 'Royal Dog of Madagascar,' is a bright, happy-go-lucky companion dog whose…

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Giant Schnauzer

Giant Schnauzer

The Giant Schnauzer is a larger and more powerful version of the Standard Schnauzer, and he should…

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Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel

The tallest of the AKC's spaniels, the Irish Water Spaniel is instantly recognizable by its crisply…

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