Written by Niki Tudge. December 2011 Copyright The DogSmith
The concept of breed differences is that each breed of dog and all members within that breed have similar physical and behavioral traits. Even though individual dog breeds have been selected for function through human directed selection and this function affects both physical and behavioral traits there is still much variance within each breed. Within each breed group dogs should be evaluated as individuals without bias. Recent research has suggested that recent selective pressures may have more influence on dogs’ behavioral patterns than distance ones. Making breed group generalizations can lead to ‘hasty generalization fallacy,’ an unwarranted generalization.
Breed generalization may be appropriate as a tool to narrowing down a breed choice when selecting dog breed suitability for a family but is in no way a guarantee on the individual dog’s behavioral tendencies or physical appearance.
A Quick Overview of The Key Dog Breeds
Retrievers were bred to retrieve ducks and they have soft mouths. Spaniels were bred to flush out birds and pointers, like setters, were bred to point and set only. All of these dogs are highly active dogs. Both sight and scent hounds are hunting dogs. Sight hounds hunt by sight and speed whereas scent hounds hunt through scent and endurance. Scent hounds are noisy and use their vocal signals while hunting.
Guarding dogs for flock and property were bred to ward off intruders and predators. They are strong barkers. Flock guarders can be territorial. Not all property guarders are aggressive. Some, such as Doberman, can be sensitive even though they do have an imposing appearance and a loud bark.
Terriers tend to be active, spirited and energetic and were bred to kill other animals. Draft and rescue dogs were bred to be gentle, easy going and to work closely with people. They are large and strong whereas Toy breeds were bred to be small companion dogs earning the reputation for being ‘yappy and snappy”.
Sled dogs were bred to pull large weights through snow and they tend to howl rather than bark and need lots of exercise. Herding dogs are highly active and require extensive exercise. They were bred to move livestock through intimidation using eyes to stare and mouths to nip.
Dogs that do not fall into one of the other breed categories are termed non-sporting. This group encompasses many different types of dogs ranging from Chows to Dalmatians. Each was bred with a different purpose and they range in physical and behavioral traits.