Dogs with Special Qualities: A Guide to Specialized Dog Breeds

Numerous breeds of dogs exist, some well-known and others only in limited areas and circles. Some breeds are considered specialized dog breeds, whether due to the job they perform or the label they are given.

Most dogs originally had a specific purpose, such as hunting or herding, and even though many continue in those roles, the vast majority of dogs today (especially in the United States and Europe) are companion animals, residing in the homes and hearts of their human friends and caregivers.

Service and working breeds
Specialized dog breeds may have a purpose outside of being good companions; some breeds, particularly those of the working dog lineage, continue to serve people in a variety of ways, such as assistance animals for the disabled, guide dogs for the blind, and herding livestock for farmers. Working breeds include Samoyed, Alaskan Malamutes, and Siberian Huskies, dogs that are not only companion animals, but are also used for hauling materials over snow for long distances. The art of sled dog racing is a sport in which these dogs excel. Working breeds also cover large white dogs, to include the Kuvasz and Great Pyrenees, that continue their heritage of guarding livestock. Mountain dogs from Switzerland, like the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, are also considered working dogs; they were used for tasks such as hauling, driving, and herding.

Small breeds can serve, too
Not to be outdone by their larger counterparts, small dog breeds can also serve a variety of purposes. Although they may not be able to haul hundreds of pounds like the sled or mountain dog breeds, some small dog breeds, to include the Russell terrier (which was originally used on farms as a vermin-killer) have been trained to help alert deaf people to doorbells, telephones and other noises. Yorkshire Terrier, the Bichon Frise, Pug and other small breeds have been known to make excellent pet therapy dogs. The Papillon, once known as a dog of the royal French court, is sometimes used as a seizure alert dog. Another benefit of small dogs: they make great pets for people who live in apartments.

What kind of dog is that?
Both small and large dog breeds have become “designer dogs.” These result from breeding two purebred types of dogs and generating a hybrid, or mix. People who breed together such dogs as pugs and beagles to create a “puggle” are often looking to attain the positive qualities of each breed. However, at times genetic problems result.

Endless combinations result from cross-breeding and developing designer dogs. The Chug, for example, is a cross between a Chihuahua and a Pug, and a Cavachon comes from mating a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with a Bichon Frise. These and many other designer dog breeds make good apartment dogs because of their small size.

Some good can and has resulted from designer dogs. For example, breeding Labrador retrievers with poodles creates the Labradoodle, and an Old English Sheep Dog with a Poodle makes a Sheepadoodle, both people-friendly breeds that are good for allergy sufferers.

No sneeze, please!    
Other dog breeds that are best for those who suffer from allergies include the Bichon Frise, the Chinese Crested (or Hairless) dog, the Standard Poodle, and the Portuguese Water Dog, which is considered a working dog breed. These dogs are usually best for people who suffer from allergies because these dogs don’t have much dander, and their fur doesn’t shed as much as other dog breeds.

Most popular
Poodles are not only good for allergy sufferers but are also one of the most popular dog breeds, particularly for families. Every year, the American Kennel Club (AKC) ranks the 10 most popular dog breeds according to the organization’s registration statistics. For more than a decade, the Labrador retriever has held the #1 spot; German shepherds come in second, and the poodle often ranks in the top five. All three of these breeds make the grade as best dogs for families.

Dive in!
labradorsLabradors and poodles may also be popular and strong family pets because they enjoy the water, just like most children! Both breeds were originally water dogs, with the lab retrieving waterfowl, a role this breed still plays, and the poodle originally helping German boaters and waterfowl hunters as well. Though poodles may still enjoy swimming, their role as companion animal has taken over that of working and sporting dog.

Who is the smartest?
Poodles are on the A list for intelligence as well, often placing in the top 10 smartest dog breeds. Included in this list, and usually ranked at #1 is the Border Collie, an active dog that requires a job such as herding sheep or participating in agility competitions, in which the breed excels. Papillons are also considered smart dogs, and their small size makes these energetic dogs good apartment-dwellers.

Bully breeds… or not?
Although popular and smart dogs, German shepherds are considered by some as a “bully” or dangerous dog breed. Doberman Pinschers are also intelligent dogs but, like German Shepherds, considered by some as a dangerous dog breed as are Rottweilers. These three breeds are also ranked among some of the best guard dogs, protecting people and property due to their loyalty to their owners. Because of this “dangerous dog” label, many of these breeds are restricted or even banned from some communities.

Other large dogs, such as Great Danes and Boxers are sometimes considered bully breeds despite their popularity as family pets. Boxers, for example, often rank in the top 10 most popular dog breeds yet also may be listed on home insurance’s “black list.”

Specialized dog breeds often make great companions, even those considered dangerous if treated with the proper attention, respect and care.

More from Dog Breeds
Back to Top