What are the different types of dog – and which is best for my family?

Thinking of adding a four-legged friend to the family? Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, so here’s how to figure out which is best for your brood…

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With so many different types of dogs out there, it can be hard to decide which might be best for your family. It doesn’t just come down to cuteness – you need to work out which types of dog breeds will fit your home and lifestyle. A small, nervous dog might not be best if you have boisterous kids, and going for one of the many types of big dogs wouldn’t be ideal if you live in a small flat.

The Kennel Club divides purebred dogs into seven types of dog breeds, based on their characteristics, origins and natural instincts. It’s just a rough guide though, and of course, like humans, each dog is an individual. In addition, lots of dogs don’t fit these groups because they’re crossbreeds, or mongrels. Use our handy guide as a starting point to discover more about the different types of dogs…

Types of big dogs

1. Working dogs

If you’re looking for different types of big dogs, then this is the category for you – although there are some smaller working dogs too. These animals were bred for a specific job, like the Saint-Bernard, which is renowned for its life-saving abilities.

You’ll need enough space if you’re going for one of the different types of big dogs, both in the home and outside. Many of the working breeds are gentle giants though, so make great family pets. Just be prepared to spend lots of time exercising them, and a fair amount of money feeding them!


2. Gundogs

Also working dogs, gundogs were bred to accompany owners who were hunting and shooting – pointers and setters located the game, while retrievers brought it back with their delicate jaws. This category also includes some types of small dogs, like spaniels.

Generally, this type of dog is very affectionate so can make an ideal family pet, with Golden Retrievers and Labradors among the most popular. They can be very energetic though, so be prepared for lots of walks to keep them happy.


3. Pastoral dogs

These are the types of dogs that have been bred to help humans look after livestock – so think sheepdogs and like the Border Collie. It also includes guard dogs like the Mastiff and German Shepherd.

Herding dogs are very loyal and make great family pets, but they’re also really intelligent, so will needs lots of stimulation. Without enough exercise, there’s a danger they might decide to expend their excess energy elsewhere – like tearing up your couch! Guard dogs can be unpredictable, so they’re not recommended as a first pet if you don’t have experience as a dog owner.

Types of small dogs

4. Toy dogs

These little lapdogs are for you if you’re looking for types of small dogs. This category covers a wide range, from the tiny but smart Chihuahua, to the playful Pug and the sociable Bichon Frise.

Most of these were bred as companions, so they tend to make affectionate and loyal pets. Some can be high maintenance though, needing a lot of grooming or exercising.


5. Terrier dogs

These tough little tykes are known for being brave and tough. Originally, they were bred to help with hunting vermin and foxes, which explains why they’re small enough to fit down holes in the ground to chase their prey.

Excitable and energetic, terriers are warm and friendly so make good pets. They do need a lot of exercise and play to keep them stimulated though, so they make a good fit for an already active family.

Types of dogs that come in all sizes

6. Hound dogs

Ranging from cute little dachshunds with their tiny legs, to floppy-eared bloodhounds, hounds are quite independent because they were bred to hunt at a distance from people.

They might not show their affection as much as other dogs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like being around people. What most hounds have in common though is that they enjoy plenty of exercise, so these types of dogs are well suited to a family who loves long walks and being outdoors.

7. Utility dogs

This category covers all the different types of dogs that don’t fit into any of the other classifications, so it includes lots of types of large and small dogs. Here you’ll find Dalmatians, Bulldogs and Poodles, among others.

Because their temperaments can vary as much as their size, it’s difficult to generalise which would be the best fit for your family – but this also means that given the variety, there’s bound to be one that’s right for you.

Utility dogs