Just like people, dogs tend to have distinct and unique personalities. Some of a dog’s personality traits are completely individual, but many traits are predictable based on the breed.
Knowing the common traits of certain dog breeds is helpful, since it enables you to choose a dog whose personality meshes well with your lifestyle. For example, if you live an active, adventurous lifestyle, you will want a dog whose personality is full of energy so he can keep up.
If you’re someone who lives in a small apartment or envisions a relationship full of cuddling on the couch with your dog, a more relaxed and affectionate personality type is probably best for you.
Dog Breed Personality Types
The American Kennel Club classifies dog breeds in seven different groups. These groups all tend to have common personality traits, so you can learn a lot about a dog’s personality by determining its group.
The seven groups are:
- Herding dogs
- Sporting dogs
- Non-sporting dogs
- Toy dogs
- Working dogs
Let’s take a look at 20 popular dog breeds, separated by group, to get some more insight on these breed’s personality traits.
Herding Dog Personality Types
Hollywood’s stereotype of the Collie as a devoted family dog is no mistake. They love being around children and their favorite people. They are quick learners and train happily. The Collie’s herding nature also makes them quite athletic and able to keep up with active families.
German Shepherd Personality
The German Shepherd is the ultimate family pet. They form gentle relationships with their family members but defend courageously. Highly intelligent herders, the German Shepherd is able to learn skills and commands for a wide variety of purposes, and they carry themselves with confidence and focus. They are eager to please and great for owners who like to get things done.
Other herding breeds: Sheepdog, Cattle Dog, Corgi
Hound Personality Traits
Beagles are the most popular hound dog in America, probably for their loving and happy personalities. Hounds are bred for hunting, and beagles were bred to hunt in packs. So, they enjoy being with others and, therefore, also make great family dogs. They do well with a lot of playtime and have a strong sense of smell that can distract them at times.
The Dachsund’s small physical size is no match for their big personality. Their short legs do not make Dachsunds great running or hiking buddies, but that does not mean they are low-energy. They are a unique mix of a great guard dog - brave, loyal, and a bit stubborn - while being friendly enough to win over just about anyone.
Other Hounds: Saluki, Whippet, Basset Hound
Sporting Dog Personality Types
Cocker Spaniel Personality
The Cocker Spaniel’s distinctive long ears and curly hair are a prime outward sign of their sweet, friendly personalities. As sporting dogs, they were bred to help hunters find game and are, therefore, highly trainable and make great companions. Cocker Spaniels love to exercise and play and are great with kids. If they don’t get enough energy out, though, they can become frustrated and destructive.
Golden Retriever Personality
The iconic Golden Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds in America for many reasons. Their devotion to their people and puppy-like positivity make them wonderful family dogs as well as service dogs. Golden Retrievers were bred to retrieve waterfowl over extended periods of time, so they maintain focus and enjoy being outdoors, including swimming.
Labrador Retriever Personality
Ranked by the AKC as the number-one most popular dog breed, you probably know someone with a Labrador Retriever, if you don’t own one yourself (3). This is no coincidence; these dogs seem to have it all. They are fun-loving, friendly, and affectionate, but still active and energetic in a wide variety of activities. Labrador Retrievers form close bonds with family members and socialize well with other people and animals.
Other Sporting Dogs: Welsh Spaniel, Vizsla, Weimaraner
Non-Sporting Dog Personality Types
Boston Terrier Personality
The Boston Terriers, by their concurrent terrier breeding, are extremely determined, which stems from their roots hunting vermin like rats, even to the point of digging into the ground. Boston Terriers are also part of the non-sporting dog group, which are known to be playful and friendly. Boston Terriers are silly and make great city dogs because of their small size and upbeat, adaptable personality traits.
Also non-sporting dogs, the distinctive Bulldog is friendly and loyal. Bulldogs tend to be calm by nature, but they still enjoy getting out for walks. Moderate exercise is important for weight-management given their small but solid stature and the fact that their calm nature can make them come off as lazy. Bulldogs are great companions and are courageous and steady.
French Bulldog Personality
According to the AKC, the French Bulldog is one of the most popular of all dog breeds. This is probably because the Frenchie is known to be fun and playful but highly adaptable to a variety of people. They are good with kids and don’t need as much physical activity than some other breeds, which makes them well-suited for city life. Their “bat ears” make them especially charming and distinctive.
Poodles are incredibly versatile, both in size and personality. Hollywood tends to stereotype the poodle as weak and prissy, but that is not the case. These dogs are extremely smart and trainable, and also very athletic. The amount of exercise they need depends on size (Poodles come in sizes from toy to medium), but you can be certain that Poodles are not simply the lap dogs you may have seen in the movies.
Other Non-Sporting Dogs: Shar-Pei, Dalmatian, Shiba Inu
Terrier Personality Types
The largest of the terrier breeds, Airedales can be stubborn. At the same time, they are among the most versatile dog breeds. Skilled in hunting, athletics, and companionship, the Airedale is a do-anything family dog. Despite their tendency to be protective of the home, the Airedale is great with kids and can participate in a variety of family and athletic activities.
Other Terriers: Bull Terrier, Scottish Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier
Toy Dog Personality Types
What the Chihuahua lacks in size, he makes up for in personality! Members of the strong and stubborn toy dog group, chihuahuas are sassy and like to be in charge if you let them. Their very small size makes them poorly suited for excessive activity (chihuahuas are not great hiking buddies), roughhousing with kids, and cold weather. Affectionate and loyal, chihuahuas bond closely with their favorite people.
The Pomeranian’s face seems to be smiling, and this look matches their personality. Pomeranians are smart and easy to train, and they love being with their people more than anything else. They do well with children, as long as the children are old enough to play gently with these small dogs. Pomeranians are also active, but their small size means a little exercise goes a long way, helping them adapt well to city living.
Yorkshire Terrier Personality
The Yorkshire Terrier’s dainty exterior often doesn’t match their feisty, take-charge personalities. Believe it or not, Yorkies were originally bred to catch rats in mills and mines (4). Popular city dogs, they have big personalities in small, cuddly packages. Yorkies form close bonds with their people for a lifetime of curling up on their favorite lap.
Other Toy Breeds: Maltese, Pug, Shih Tzu
Boxers are working dogs, which are known to be reliable and dependable. They are members of the protection “family” of this category, so Boxers are very loyal and affectionate to those they call their own. Their protective nature, however, makes socialization in Boxer puppies especially important in order to avoid aggressive behavior later on. Boxers are not all work, though. They are playful and silly at times and are great with kids.
Doberman Pinscher Personality
Like Boxers, Doberman Pinschers are dependable working dogs. They are stoic and powerful, often considered the royalty of the dog world. Their reputation as protectors is well-suited to their alert and focused personalities, and their energy and muscular build makes them good companions for outdoor activities, although their fearless nature might require you to be a bit more conservative.
Great Dane Personality
Weighing in at as much as 175 pounds, it’s no surprise that Great Danes were bred to work. Their size along with their alert demeanor makes them excellent guard dogs, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good family dogs. Great Danes are patient with children and friendly. Those who are willing to commit to a dog of this size report that they are “a total joy to live with” (2).
The Mastiff can make the Great Dane look small, with many weighing over 200 pounds. They are heavy-boned and can be intimidating, but Mastiffs are typically very docile and good-natured. They are, however, extremely courageous and protective. The Mastiffs tendency to be nervous around new people makes socialization especially important as early and often as possible.
Siberian Husky Personality
You may already know that Siberian Huskies have a historical role as sled dogs. This breeding makes them pack animals that get along well with other animals and are great for families. Their breeding also gives them incredible endurance, so you will want to ensure that they have ample space to run safely. Unlike some of the other working dogs on this list, Siberian Huskies tend to be too friendly to be very good guard dogs, although they are still quite loyal to their loved ones.
Other Working Breeds: Akita, Giant Schnauzer, Rottweiler
Finding a dog whose personality is compatible with yours and your family’s can be key in forming an incredible bond with your pet that lasts for life. Knowing more about a dog breed’s personality traits can be the first step to a lifetime of companionship.
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- American Kennel Club. Dog Breeds. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/.
- American Kennel Club. Great Dane. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/great-dane/.
- American Kennel Club. Labrador Retriever. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/labrador-retriever/
- American Kennel Club. Yorkshire Terrier. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/yorkshire-terrier/
- Marin Humane. Dog Breed Characteristics and Behavior. Retrieved from https://www.marinhumane.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Dog-Breed-Characteristics-Behavior.pdf.
- Ollila, E. (2016). Dog Traits & Personalities for the Seven Breed Classes. Retrieved from https://www.hillspet.com/dog-care/behavior-appearance/how-dog-personalities-vary-based-on-breed.
- Wellness Pet Food. How to Choose a Dog Breed for These 9 Personality Types. Retrieved from https://www.wellnesspetfood.com/our-community/wellness-blog/how-choose-dog-breed-these-9-personality-types.