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One breed, made famous in radio, television, film and books, arguably set the standard for what every American family wanted in a dog: a collie named Lassie. Not every dog can be a Lassie. But many breeds make wonderful family dogs, though some are better suited for suburban and farm families than households living in the city. Family dogs such as Labs, Golden Retrievers, Beagles and Irish Setters are playful and protective. Pugs, Brussels Griffons and French Bulldogs love their families – particularly their laps.

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever, despite his name, did not come from Labrador, but from Newfoundland. The area was populated with small water dogs, who, when bred with Newfoundlands, produced a breed referred to as the St. John's Water Dog, a prototype for the Lab of today.

Early in the 19th century, the Earl of Malmesbury reputedly saw one of the dogs of this type and had it imported; in 1830, the noted British sportsman Colonel Hawker referred to the Lab as “the best for any kind of shooting…generally black and no bigger than a Pointer, very fine in legs, with short, smooth hair…is extremely quick running, swimming, and fighting…and their sense of smell is hardly to be credited.”

Initially, the dogs were not known as Labradors until the Duke of Malmesbury admitted that he “always called [his] Labrador dogs.” However, the breed eventually died out in Newfoundland due to a heavy dog tax and quarantine law.

Many Labs were interbred with other types of retrievers, but luckily, the breed prevailed and fanciers drew up a definitive standard. Accurate pedigrees of today's Labs go back as far as 1878. The Lab was recognized as a distinct breed by the English Kennel Club in 1903. The first registration of Labradors by the AKC was in 1917, and from the 1920s through the '30s, there was a great influx of British dogs that formed the backbone of the breed in this country.


The Bulldog, to the best of our knowledge, had its origin in the British Isles. The name “bull” was applied because of the dog's use in the sport of bull baiting, which was extremely cruel. The original Bulldog had to be very ferocious and so savage and courageous as to be almost insensitive to pain.

In 1835, dog fighting as a sport became illegal in England. Therefore, the English Bulldog had outlived his usefulness and his days were numbered. However, there were dog lovers who felt deep disappointment at the passing of the breed, and they set themselves the task of preserving it.

They proceeded to eliminate the undesirable fierce characteristics and to preserve and accentuate the finer qualities. Within a few generations, the English Bulldog became one of the finest physical specimens, minus its original viciousness.

We may be justly proud of the Bulldog we know today, and we must express our gratitude to our British cousins, who realized the value of the English Bulldog sufficiently to preserve him for posterity.

Golden Retriever

In the early 1800s, game was plentiful in England and Scotland, and hunting was both a sport and a practical way of obtaining food. Retrievers came into prominence because of the desire for a medium-sized dog that would do well in wild-fowling, both upland game and waterfowl. Records kept from 1850 to 1890 at the Guisachan estate of Dudley Marjoribanks, first Lord Tweedmouth, near Inverness, Scotland, record the development of the original strain of Golden Retrievers.

Lord Tweedmouth bought “Nous” in 1865, the only yellow in a litter of black Wavy-Coated Retrievers. From a cousin living near Berwick, on the Tweed River, he acquired “Belle,” a Tweed Water Spaniel. This now-extinct breed was a hardy type used for retrieving and known for their intelligence, courage, and ability in water. In two litters, Nous and Belle produced four yellow puppies. Later breedings incorporated more Tweed Spaniel and Wavy-Coated Retriever, and a red setter.

By the end of the 19th century, Yellow or Golden Retrievers were well established in England, and they were first shown in England in 1908 in classes for Flat-Coated Retrievers “of any other color.” In 1913, they gained separate status, and the Golden Retriever Club (of Great Britain) was officially recognized. The breed established its presence in the 1930s and '40s, as hunting dogs and at field trials and shows, then also in obedience trials.

While a few Goldens had appeared in North America as early as 1882, the AKC registered its first Golden Retriever in 1925. While the early dogs in North America were mostly darker shades of gold, lighter shades also became popular. All are acceptable under the breed standard. The breed's versatility, intelligence, and agreeable personality suit it for many purposes, and it has become one of the most successful, recognizable, and popular breeds in all areas of competition.


The actual origin of the Beagle seems to be obscure with no reliable documentation on the earliest days of development. These dogs were snappy, tireless hunters, full of energy and quickness but lacking in type. The turning point for American Beagles came in the 1860s, when dogs from a well-bred strain in England were imported to inject beautiful breed type.

There are accounts of packs of hounds in England before the times of the Romans, and these dogs are thought to be the basis of both sight and scent hounds. In 1888, the National Beagle Club was formed and held its first trial. From that time on field trials carrying championship points sprang up rapidly all over the United States, and classes developed for hounds under 13 inches and 13-15 inches.

By the 18th century, fox hunting became quite popular, and the Foxhound was developed by crossing a buck hound and a Beagle. Beagles are still used today for hunting in packs on larger hare, but are equally prized for their companionship, courage and stamina. Two distinct types came through this mixture, one of which was named the Southern Hound and the other the North Country Beagle. Their compact size, short, easy-to-care-for coat and intelligence make the Beagle an excellent family dog.

Previous to 1870 in the United States, the little hunting hounds of the southern states, then called Beagles, were more of the type


The truth of how the Pug came into existence is shrouded in mystery, but he has been true to his breed down through the ages since before 400 B.C. Authorities agree that he is of Oriental origin with some basic similarities to the Pekingese.

China is the earliest known source for the breed, where he was the pet of the Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. The breed next appeared in Japan and then in Europe, where it became the favorite for various royal courts. The Pug became the official dog of the House of Orange after one of the breed saved the life of William, Prince of Orange, by giving alarm at the approach of the Spaniards at Hermingny in 1572. Later when William II landed at Torbay to be crowned King of England, his cortege included Pugs and they became the fashionable breed for generations. By 1790 the Pug's popularity has spread to France where Josephine, wife of Napoleon, depended on her Pug “Fortune” to carry secret messages under his collar to her husband while she was imprisoned at Les Carme

In 1860, British soldiers sacked the Imperial Palace in Peking and dogs of the Pug and Pekingese type were brought back to England. This was the first time since the early 16th century that dogs in any great number had been taken out of China. Black Pugs were imported from China and exhibited for the first time in England in 1886. One year earlier, the Pug had been accepted for registration with the American Kennel Club. The Pug is well described by the phrase “multum in parvo” which means “a lot of dog in a small space.” He is small but requires no coddling and his roguish face soon wiggles its way into the hearts of men, women and especially children, for whom this dog seems to have a special affinity. His great reason for living is to be near his people and to please them. He is comfortable in a small apartment or country home alike, easily adaptable to all situations.

Irish Setter

The Irish Setter, recognizable from media such as Big Red, first came into popular notice in the 18th century The solid-red Setter first appeared in Ireland in the 19th century, and in 1812, the Earl of Enniskillen declared he would have nothing else in his kennel.

In less than a century following his arrival as a breed, the Irish was firmly established not only in his native Ireland but throughout the British Isles. Solid red became synonymous with dogs of “high mark,” and the breed was revered for its remarkable sporting abilities. Most authorities agree that the breed arose from mixtures of Irish Water Spaniel, Irish Terrier, English Setter, Spaniel, Pointer, and a dash of Gordon Setter. Efforts are being made to reunite the Irish Setter's field ability and beauty, and dual champions are becoming more and more common.

Originally, the Irish Setter was included in the family of Setters that included mostly red and white setters, although today in America the solid red is typical and the only acceptable variety to date in the show ring. He is a popular breed across the globe, and he is probably the most recognizable of the Setters and even among the Sporting breeds. As a gun dog, the Irish works equally well on a number of birds, and after importation to America in the 19th century, he soared in popularity there as he had in the British Isles. Despite a veritable monopoly on the field trial circuit by the Llewellin (English) Setter and Pointer, the Irish proved himself in America and demonstrated great ability. However, combined with the Irish's token good looks, the field handicap imposed by the aforementioned breeds has led to the breeding of two increasingly different types of Irish Setter, field and bench.

Brussels Griffon

During the early 1800s, it was the custom for coachmen to keep small terrier types as ratters in the stables, and such dogs of that period in Belgium were Affenpinscher-like, known as Griffons d'Ecurier (wire-coated stable dogs). These dogs emanated from the German Affenpinscher and the Belgian street dog. When or why other breeds were introduced can only be conjecture as the stablemen were not detailed record keepers.

It is reasonably well documented that the Pug and the King Charles and the Ruby Spaniels were crossed with the original Belgian dog. From these crossings, two distinct types of coat emerge, the harsh-coated bewhiskered rough, and the smooth coated Brabancon. (Named in honor of the Belgian national anthem, La Brabonconne.) Distinctive colors are also attributed to these crosses — the rich red color; the black and tan color, and the solid black color.

The spaniel cross is also largely responsible for the facial characteristics and impression, which is so much a part of our present-day Brussels Griffon. The Brussels Griffon is a member of the Toy Group and was first recognized by the AKC in 1910. No longer finding much purpose as a stableworker, the Brussels Griffon is a hearty, intelligent and active companion.


There is much uncertainty about the origin of the Newfoundland. Some say that his ancestors are the white Great Pyrenees, dogs brought to the coast of Newfoundland by the Basque fishermen; others that he descended from a French hound (probably the Boarhound); but all agree that he originated in Newfoundland and that his ancestors were undoubtedly brought there by fishermen from the European continent. Many old prints of Newfoundlands show apparent evidence of a Husky ancestor, while other traits can be traced to other breeds. At any rate, a dog evolved which was particularly suited to the island of his origin.

He was a large dog, with size and strength to perform the tasks required of him. He had a heavy coat to protect him from the long winters and the icy waters surrounding his native island. His feet were large, strong, and webbed so that he might travel easily over marshes and shores. Admired for his physical powers and attractive disposition, he was taken to England where he was extensively bred. Today, most Newfoundlands of pedigree, even in Newfoundland, are descended from forebears born in England. The Newfoundland is admired and bred in many different countries besides his native land, including England, France, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the United States.

The breed standard was written for a working dog, essentially a dog as much at home in the water as on dry land. Canine literature gives us stories of brave Newfoundlands which have rescued men and women from watery graves; stories of shipwrecks made less terrible by dogs which carried life lines to stricken vessels; of children who have fallen into deep water and have been brought safely ashore by Newfoundlands; and of dogs whose work was less spectacular but equally valuable as they helped their fishermen owners with their heavy nets and performed other tasks necessary to their occupations. Although he is a superior water dog, the Newfoundland has been used and is still used in Newfoundland and Labrador as a true working dog, dragging carts, or more often carrying burdens as a pack horse.

In order to perform these duties the Newfoundland must be a large dog — large enough to bring ashore a drowning man. He must have powerful hindquarters and a lung capacity which enables him to swim for great distances. He must have the heavy coat which protects him from the icy waters. In short, he must be strong, muscular, and sound so that he may do the work for which he has become justly famous. Above all things, the Newfoundland must have the intelligence, the loyalty, and the sweetness which are his best-known traits. He must be able and willing to help his master perform his necessary tasks at command, and also have the intelligence to act on his own responsibility when rescue work demands it.

French Bulldog

There is a difference of opinion as to the origin of the French Bulldog, but one ancestor must have been the English Bulldog — probably one of the toy variety, of which there were a great number in England around 1860.

These toy Bulldogs were sent in large numbers into France, where they were crossed with various other breeds and were given the name Boule-Dog Francais. One found dogs with rose ears, while others had bat ears, which are now an outstanding feature of the French Bulldog. Another distinctive feature of the French Bulldog is the skull.

The correctly formed skull should be level, or flat, between the ears, while directly above the eyes, extending almost across the forehead, it should be slightly curve, giving a domed appearance. In the early days of breeding in Europe, the tendency was toward the rose ear.

This movement was opposed by Americans and the breed would eventually lose the feature that strongly accentuates its individuality, and the result would have been practically a miniature English Bulldog. This controversy over type was responsible for the formation of the French Bulldog Club of America, the first organization in the world devoted to the breed.

In 1898, fanciers gave a specialty show in the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria. The affair proved a sensation, and it was due, no doubt, to the resulting publicity that the quaint little chaps became the rage in society.


Collies are legendary for their herding skills. They are strong, loyal, affectionate, responsive and fast. The rough-coated Collie has a beautiful long coat. The coats of both varieties—rough and smooth—used to be mostly black, but now can be sable and white, tri-color, blue merle and white. Collies can do well in both the country and the city, but they do need companionship.

​Collies are intelligent, proud and cautious. They are good at listening to people and understanding their moods, and they love children, so they make great family pets. Collies need daily exercise, organized activity to be happy and need gentle training and they will be an extremely loyal friend. While there are two varieties of Collie, the rough-coated (shown here) is by far the more familiar to people


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