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Understanding Breeds and Traits

Understanding Breed Traits

When looking for a dog it’s important to understand breed traits. Whether you choose a purebred puppy from a breeder or a mixed breed from a shelter, all dogs will have certain behaviors based on their breeding.

This means that even though you may want a cute and fuzzy sheepdog as your fellow couch potato, that sheepdog needs some time to run every day. If dogs are not able to be exercised in a way that matches their traits, most dogs will become bored and possible destructive.

Dogs are commonly divided into categories based on job they were breed for.   Understanding the dog’s original purpose and the personality traits that go along with that purpose will help you find a dog that gels with your lifestyle. 

Bull dogs


Bulls were originally bred to protect livestock and property, over time some were bred to fight other dogs or attack bulls in a sport called bull baiting.

The bull dog category includes Bulldogs, Bull Terriers, Pit Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers and Stafford Bulls Terriers.

Purpose and Personality Traits

  • Strong minded dogs of fighting ancestry
  • Some are still used in illegal dog fights
  • Portrayed as aggressive in the news
  • Most will not back down if challenged

Guard dogs


Guard dogs were bred to guard property or livestock.

The guard dog category includes Akitas, Chow Chows, Doberman Pinschers, German Sheppards and Rottweilers.

Purpose and Personality Traits

  • Smart thinking breed
  • Strong willed
  • Barks often to deter strangers
  • Highly trainable in the right hands
  • Socialization essential
  • Needs a confident experienced owner
  • Protective drive that needs to be controlled

Gun dogs


Bred to work alongside hunters in the field. Gun dogs are trained to retrieve, flush out or find birds and other animals.

The gun dog category includes Beagles, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Curly-Coated Retrievers, English Springer Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters, Labrador Retrievers and Poodles.

Purpose and Personality Traits

  • Good-natured
  • Intelligent
  • Highly trainable
  • Strong desire to please and obey
  • Needs lot of exercise
  • Good with children
  • Needs companionship
  • Can be mouthy if not trained properly



Bred to move livestock, may also guard livestock.

The herder category includes Australian Cattles, Australian shepherds, Bearded Collies, Border Collies, Old English Sheepdogs, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Rough Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs.

Purpose and Personality Traits

  • Highly Intelligent
  • Excellent companions
  • Easily trainable
  • Needs lots of mental and physical exercise
  • Strong chasing drive
  • Will sometimes herd children
  • Needs early socialization


Understanding Breed Traits

Bred to follow a smell or scent over a long distance. Most have long, drooping ears and loud booming barks that allow the hunter to follow the dogs.

The scenthound category includes Basset Hounds, Beagles, Bloodhounds, Coonhounds and Dachshunds.

Purpose and Personality Traits

  • Friendly
  • Stubborn
  • Strong hunting drive
  • Not obedient
  • Need lots of exercise
  • Strong hound smell



Bred to hunt by sight and speed instead of by scent.

The sighthound category includes Basenjis, Greyhounds, Irish Wolfhounds and Whippets.

Purpose and Personality Traits

  • Gentle
  • Affectionate
  • Strong hunting and chasing drive
  • Needs lots of exercise
  • Not usually obedient
  • May run free if off leash


Understanding Breed Traits

Bred to pull sleds across arctic lands.

The sled dog category category includes Alaskan Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Chinooks, Samoyeds and Siberian Huskies.

Purpose and Personality Traits

  • Active
  • Born to run
  • Needs lots of exercise
  • Destructive if bored
  • Does not do well in hot areas



Breed to be either a lap dog or small hunting dog for small rodents.

The toy dog category includes Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Chihuahuas, Havaneses, Malteses, Pomeranians, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Toy Poodles and Yorkshire Terriers.

Purpose and Personality Traits

  • Need lots of love and cuddles
  • Needs training
  • Often have big dog personalities
  • Needs exercise but for some this can be accomplished indoors
  • Hard to housetrain
  • Can be trained to use pads


Understanding Breed Traits

Bred to hunt and kill vermin above and below ground. Some larger terriers were also used to hunt badgers.

This category includes Airedale Terriers, Border Terriers, Cairn Terriers, Irish Terriers, Kerry Blue Terriers, Lakeland Terriers, Miniature Schnauzers, Norwich Terriers, Rat Terriers, Russell Terriers, Scottish Terriers, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Welsh Terriers, West Highland White Terriers and Wire Fox Terriers.

Purpose and Personality Traits

  • Feisty, willful
  • Fun dogs with lots of character
  • Intelligent, but stubborn
  • Comes in many sizes from fairly small to very large
  • Will chase small animals
  • Often not tolerance for other dogs
  • Very high energy levels
  • Can be destructive if allowed to become bored
  • Can bark out of boredom
  • Independent
  • Diggers
  • Escape artists
  • Needs a lot of companionship

So as you can see all dogs were bred with a purpose in mind. Make sure you pick a bred that matches your lifestyle.

For more Information on selecting a dog read What is the Right Dog for Me?