Havanese standing in three-quarter view facing forward
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 192 breeds.

Standard Schnauzer

Standard Schnauzer

The bold, bewhiskered Standard Schnauzer is a high-spirited farm dog from Germany. They are the…

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Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff

Watchful, aloof, imposing, and intimidating: The ancient Tibetan Mastiff is the guardian dog…

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Tibetan Spaniel

Tibetan Spaniel

The frisky and curious Tibetan Spaniel was bred ages ago for sentinel work on the walls of Tibeta…

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Tibetan Terrier

Tibetan Terrier

The Tibetan Terrier, “Holy Dog of Tibet,” is an ancient watchdog and companion long associated…

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Welsh Terrier

Welsh Terrier

The Welsh Terrier is as alert and spirited as any self-respecting terrier, but a bit calmer tha…

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West Highland White Terrier

West Highland White Terrier

Smart, confident, and always entertaining at play, the adorable West Highland White Terrie…

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Wire Fox Terrier

Wire Fox Terrier

The Wire Fox Terrier breed standard says they should be “on the tip-toe of expectation at the…

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Xoloitzcuintli

Xoloitzcuintli

The 3,000-year-old Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced "show-low-eats-QUEENT-lee"), the ancient Aztec dog of…

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