Dog breed library - Working breeds

Size of dog
Coat length
Grooming required
Size of home required
Size of garden required
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Alaskan MalamuteThe loving and loyal Malamute, with its wolf-like howl, is happiest outdoors with his human family. The substantial but wolf-like Malamute is the largest of the Arctic dogs. They come in a variety of colours and have a double coat: a thick, coarse outer coat and woolly undercoat. They also have large feet with tough pads to cope with harsh snowy conditions. They were bred by the Malhemut tribe in Alaska to pull sleds. As a result, Malamutes are strong and have a keen sense of smell and direction. They need plenty of mental stimulation as they have a tendency to be quite destructive if bored. They much prefer to be outside but need a secure garden as they love to dig. They get on very well with people and can be trained to get on with household pets but do have a strong prey instinct. They need plenty of exercise but have to be careful in hot conditions because of their thick coat which needs regular brushing and they moult heavily at certain times. They are prone to bloat, hip dysplasia and dwarfism.
BeauceronThis large dog has a natural tendency to maintain order. Whether it's in guarding or rounding up. The Beauceron is a large, strong, naturally active and agile, working dog. They are usually black with distinctive tan markings. Their coat is smooth and short with longer hair on the tail and back legs. They originate from France in the 1500s where they were used to guard and herd sheep. Since then they have also proved themselves in the armed forces and in police work. They are brave and intelligent and will automatically keep a watchful eye out for danger. In the wrong hands, the urge to protect could be a problem but it is in the Beaucerons's nature to be tolerant and keen to obey. They tend to be good with children but wary of strangers. With the right training, they will get along with other animals. They need a lot of mental and physical exercise. Their short coat is easy to maintain with the occasional brush. They are generally healthy and hardy but can be prone to hip dysplasia.
Bernese Mountain DogBernese Mountain Dogs are loving and loyal and excellent with children. They make a good family pet. The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large, strong and agile dog. Their thick coat is slightly wavy and largely black with distinctive tan and white markings. They originate from the Swiss mountains and were used to pull carts and help with herding and guarding of cattle. They are intelligent, trainable, quiet and good natured. Good with strangers, they are generally good natured with other animals too. They need plenty of exercise outdoors as they tend to be sedentary inside. They need regular grooming and bathing to keep the coat in good condition and will shed heavily at certain times of the year. They are prone to bloat, cancer, eyelid problems and hip and elbow dysplasia. They are inclined to put on weight which puts added strain on their frame so is something to guard against.
Bouvier Des FlandresThe Bouvier may look a little intimidating but his loyalty is second-to-none. The Bouvier is a large, muscular dog with a coarse, shaggy coat that comes in a variety of colours. The long coat covers the face too, giving the impression of a beard and moustache. They were originally bred in Belgium to guard and herd cattle but also helped ambulances in World War 1. Willing and able to learn, this dog does well with obedience training at an early age. They are a stable breed but their natural instinct is to guard. They are usually good with the family but can be suspicious of strangers. They can be taught to get along with other dogs but care needs to be taken around other animals. They tend to be sedentary indoors so it is necessary to give them enough opportunities for exercise outside. The long, shaggy coat, needs regular grooming but perhaps not as much as might be imagined. Prone to hip dysplasia and eye problems, it is not always easy to tell if there is something wrong with this breed as they have a high tolerance for pain.
BoxerThe name "Boxer" is said to come from the way the breed use their front paws so much, especially when they jump up and paw which looks like boxing. Everything about the Boxer's medium sized body is muscular and powerful. Their short, smooth coat, accentuates the muscular look and usually comes in shades of brown with white. They were developed in Germany and used for a number of jobs including herding and hunting but also fighting. They have proved themselves very useful in the armed services and police. They are intelligent, extrovert and playful, excellent at competitive obedience. They naturally guard too. They make a good family pet and are well known for getting on well with children and they can be taught to get along with other dogs but care needs to be taken around other animals. They have plenty of energy and stamina and will be active around the house as well as enjoying exercise outdoors. Their short coat is fairly easy to maintain. They have been known to suffer from heart problems and various cancers. Some white boxers are more prone to deafness.
BullmastiffThe Bullmastiff is a gentle giant. The perfect guard dog. They are a large and powerfully built dog with a square, wrinkled head and short coat that comes in brindle, fawn or red. They were bred to help gamekeepers deal with poachers. The dogs were taught to track and hold but not attack them. Since then Bullmastiffs have proved valuable in the armed forces and police. Although Bullmastiffs need firm leadership, they are easy to train and naturally calm, good natured and affectionate. Their instinct is to guard. They are people friendly but would pin down, though not attack, an intruder and they are good with children. They need to be taught to tolerate other animals. They need regular exercise outdoors as they are relatively inactive indoors. Their short coat is easy to maintain but their feet need checking regularly because of the weight they carry. They are prone to cancer, hip dysplasia, bloat, tumours and eyelid and lip problems. They also have a tendency to gain weight.
Canadian Eskimo DogThe Canadian Eskimo Dog is one of North America's oldest pure dog breeds. They were thought to have died out but the breed was rescued in the 1970s. They are a large and powerful dog with a wolf-like appearance. Their coat is very thick and dense and they have a mane of fur around their neck. They come in various colours with white. They were bred to hunt and to haul supplies and people in the cold of the Arctic. They are brave, loyal and intelligent. They are not really a family dog but will tend to form a strong bond with their owner. They are generally people friendly and can work well with other dogs but they do have a strong prey drive. They need a lot of exercise and especially enjoy dog sports that involve pulling such as carting, although they are built for stamina rather than speed. Their thick coat means that they can suffer from heat stroke in hot climates. They need regular brushing and will shed heavily at certain times of the year. The small numbers that were used to rescue the breed mean that there are some health problems associated with inbreeding.
DobermannDobermanns have a bad press, but with the right training these can be good family dogs and even be used as therapy dogs. The Dobermann is a medium-sized, muscular dog. The short, glossy coat is often black with distinctive tan markings on the head, chest and legs but the base can be other colours too. They are said to have been bred by German Tax Collector Louis Dobermann to help him with his work. Subsequently they have proved a valuable assistant to the police. Dobermanns are natural guarders and need strong leadership. They are very intelligent and trainable and can do well at obedience. They can be trained to be good with children and strangers and to tolerate other animals. Dobermanns have great strength and stamina and need plenty of exercise. Their short coat is easy to care for. They are prone to cervical spondylitis, certain blood disorders, skin problems, bloat, hip dysplasia and heart problems.
Dogue de BordeauxThe Dogue de Bordeaux is extremely loyal and a natural guard. The Dogue de Bordeaux is also called the French Mastiff and has the typical mastiff look of being stocky with a huge wrinkled head. These mastiffs are quite short legged and have loose-fitting skin. Their coats are short and reddish and they occasionally have white markings on the chest and feet. They were originally bred as a guard dog, both of people and animals such as sheep and cattle but have been used in baiting and hunting too. They are naturally protective of their family and often good with children but they are essentially a guard dog and need firm training to learn tolerance towards others. The Dogue de Bordeaux tends to snore and drool too. They can be trained to tolerate strangers and other animals. They are inclined to be inactive indoors so need a good daily walk outside. They are also surprisingly agile and can jump quite well. Little grooming is needed. They are generally healthy but can be prone to hip dysplasia and the dams often have to have cesareans when giving birth.
Entlebucher Mountain DogThe Entlebucher is a popular family dog in Switzerland. They are the smallest of the Swiss Mountain Dogs. All four have the same sort of markings: mainly black with tan and white in particular areas. The Entlebucher's coat is close, harsh and shiny with a thick undercoat. They are a squarish, sturdy dog. Their origins are uncertain but they were used as a cattle herding and general farm dog in Switzerland. They are faithful, people-friendly, intelligent and eager to please. They tend to get on well with all people and other animals. They are agile and need regular outdoor exercise. Their coat is quite easy to maintain with regular brushing. There are no known health problems.
German PinscherGerman Pinchers make an excellent watchdog and decent family pet once they know what the rules are. They are a medium-sized, tall terrier with a head shaped like a blunt wedge. Their smooth, glossy coat is normally black and tan. They originate from Germany where they were used on farms as an all round worker: herding, guarding, destroying vermin; but also as a family pet. "Pincsher" is the German word for Terrier and the German Pinscher displays many typical terrier characteristics. They are brave, lively, determined and intelligent and respond well to obedience training. They can be taught to get on well with strangers but they have a strong urge to protect. The same goes for other dogs but they don't back down from a challenge and have a tendency to chase non-canines. This breed needs a lot of exercise, hey have a lot of energy and stamina. Their coat needs little grooming and there are no known health problems.
Giant SchnauzerThe Giant Schnauzer makes an imposing guard dog but with the right training can be a lovable pet. They are a large, powerful, square-looking dog with straight front legs, a straight back and a rectangular-shaped head. Their head also has a beard and whiskers. The coat comes in two colours, black and 'salt and pepper' and is hard and wiry with a soft undercoat. They come from Germany and were originally used to herd cattle but have since proved useful for the police and armed forces. These dogs are very protective, loyal, intelligent and trainable but they need a firm, consistent approach and plenty of exercise. They can be wary of strangers so need to be socialised with people and animals from a young age. They can be difficult to manage if not given sufficient opportunity to expend their excess energy. Their dense undercoat needs regular grooming and the top coat needs clipping and stripping. They are prone to cancer, especially toe cancer, bloat, epilepsy and hip dysplasia.
Great DaneThe Great Dane is so enormous, their behaviour has to be impeccable. Fortunately, they are naturally a very gentle giant. They are huge and powerful with a squarish body and a large, rectangular head. Their stance is tall and straight and their coat is short and thick and comes in a variety of colours, including Fawn, Brindle, Blue (greyish), Black, Harlequin (white with irregular black patches) and Mantle (black with white muzzle, neck, chest and parts of legs). They are the national dog of Germany but dogs like this have been seen in pictures since before Christ. They were used for tracking, as guard dogs and for pulling carts. Despite their size, they make a surprisingly good house dog. They are brave, loyal and affectionate, they bark little but are a good watchdog. They are tolerant of other animals, fond of people and affectionate to children. Great Danes need plenty of exercise but jogging is not recommended until they are one year old because of the strain it puts on their joints. The short coat is easy to maintain with regular grooming. They are not a long-living breed and are prone to hip dysplasia, bloat, heart disease and tail injuries.
Greater Swiss Mountain DogThe Greater Swiss Mountain Dog makes a fine large family dog. These dogs are large, sturdy and muscular. They have a thick but short double coat and specific tricolour markings of brown, white and black. They are similar to the Bernese Mountain Dog but with a shorter coat. They originate from Switzerland where they were used to herd cattle and pull milk carts which led to them being nicknamed "the poor man's horse". They are eager to please, calm and good natured. They make a very good watchdog and will bark if they suspect anything untoward. Although they like to chase, they warm to people. They are great with children, not dog aggressive and generally good with other pets. They need a good long daily walk. They are easy to groom. They are prone to bloat, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, digestive problems and excess eyelashes.
Greenland DogThe Greenland dog can bond with an owner but is predominantly an independent working dog. They are very much a tough dog for cold conditions: very thick coat, robust head with powerful jaws and a large, bushy tail. They rarely make it out of Greenland and were used as an all-purpose dog but mainly for pulling sleds etc. They need firm and consistent training. They are good natured and loyal but can also be wilful and boisterous. Greenland Dogs are normally quiet but enjoy a good howl with their pack. They get on well enough with people but are very independent with strong hunting skills. This is a dog that can't sit around indoors all day. They can cope with extremes of cold but not heat and they have the energy and stamina for a lot of exercise. They need regular grooming of their thick coat. They are normally very healthy.
HovawartAlthough strong-willed, the Hovawart makes a loyal and good tempered companion. They look like a shaggier-coated version of the Golden Retriever. They are an ancient herding breed from Germany but have also been used as a watchdog and for tracking and search and rescue. They are an affectionate, calm, intelligent and obedient dog, very trainable; a first class watchdog with an excellent sense of smell. They are wary of strangers at first but will accept people once given the go-ahead and they are excellent with children. They can be trained to get on with other animals. They need a decent amount of outdoor exercise and prefer cooler climates. Their coat needs regular brushing but is not as difficult to maintain as it might look. This is generally a very healthy breed but they have been known to suffer from hip dysplasia and a under active thyroids.
LeonbergerA well trained Leonberger is a gentle giant that loves human company and is great with children. They are a huge, muscular dog with a dense, thick, waterproof double coat. This comes in shades of creamy yellow through to reddish brown in a variety of combinations. The face should have a black "mask" within clearly specified limits. They have a thick mane and often have webbed feet which often makes them powerful swimmers. They were bred in the 19th century by Heinrich Essing, the Mayor of Leonberg in Germany. His aim was to breed something that resembled a lion. Although a good guard dog, they have a very steady temperament and will normally walk away from aggravation rather than respond to it. They are fearless, affectionate, obedient, loyal and very intelligent. They naturally tend to be tolerant and get on well with strangers, children and other animals. They are generally quite sedentary indoors so a good daily walk is essential although they don't need a lot of exercise. They love to swim and adult Leonbergers can be taught to pull carts and sledges. The thick coat needs regular grooming and they will shed heavily at certain times of the year. They are prone to hip dysplasia and other bone disorders and have been known to have eyelid problems too.
MastiffThe Mastiff (often referred to as the English Mastiff) is huge. In the eighteenth century, they were given this description: "As a lion is to a cat, so is a Mastiff compared to a dog". This is a powerful, muscular dog with a smooth, short coat which comes in golden, tiger or brindle. Their head is large and square with a black mask and soft jowls. They have a long history. During the time of the Roman invasion of Britain, some were taken back to Rome for fighting in the Arenas but their main use, over the years has been for guarding and pulling weights. A natural guard: watchful, intelligent and calm, they will not warn of danger, they seldom bark, neither are they aggressive, their tendency is to simply hold an intruder. Their size makes it important to ensure that they are trained to behave impeccably. Mastiffs are often good with children and other animals but may be wary of strangers. They are inclined to be sedentary indoors so a good daily walk is important to keep them fit. The short coat is easy to care for with occasional brushing and bathing. They are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia and bloat and some suffer from CHD, gastric torsion, ectropion, PPM, vaginal hyperplasia and PRA. Many also tend to drool, wheeze and snore.
Neapolitan MastiffThe Neapolitan Mastiff has an impressively ancient line, going back to the time when they were a Roman fighting dog, but their temperament is much more stable than their appearance would suggest. They are a powerfully built, stocky looking dog. Their impressively large head is enhanced with a mass of wrinkles and folds with a large dewlap. Their coat is short and shiny and comes in gray, blue, black, mahogany, tawny and, rarely but occasionally, chocolate, sometimes with brindle and white markings. A small amount of white markings are allowed on their chest and toes but none on their face. In ancient Roman times, they were used for combat, both in a war situation and in the arena. They subsequently went on to find favour as a guard dog. Neapolitan Mastiffs can be affectionate, intelligent, calm and well behaved. Although their first instinct is to protect, a well trained Neapolitan Mastiff will only use their full force when commanded. Usually quiet, only barking if necessary, they can be wary of strangers although loving to the family and they can be trained to accept other people and animals. They tend to be inactive indoors but need a good deal of exercise so a long daily walk each day is essential. The short coat is easy to maintain but the amount of drool they produce often needs regular attention and a towel kept nearby. They are prone to cherry eye, hip dysplasia, bloat and joint pain from growth (this last usually stops naturally). Because of the large head size, puppies are usually born via caesarian.
NewfoundlandWhat the St Bernard is to land, the Newfoundland is to the sea. They are a natural and outstanding water-rescue dog to whom many people have owed their lives. In 1919, a 'Newfie' was awarded a gold medal for pulling a lifeboat containing 20 people to safety. They look like a huge, fluffy bear but underneath the thick, double coat is a strong and powerful dog. Their feet are webbed and their coat is oily and water-resistant. They can be black, brown or 'landseer' which is white with black markings. The black or brown can have a splash of white on chest, toes and tip of tail. They have a long history of helping the fishermen in Canada, they rescued people and goods from the sea and could also haul things on land and be an effective watch and guard dog. They can be slow to train but are very sweet natured. They are calm and obedient, loyal and trustworthy. Although they make a good guard dog, they are more likely to hold than attack an intruder. They are good natured with people, including strangers if reassured that they are friends, good with other animals and especially with children. They are quite sedentary indoors so need a decent daily walk. They prefer cool and shade, their thick coat makes them uncomfortable in hot climates. They should be brushed regularly, especially during times of seasonal heavy shedding but bathing should be avoided as this strips away the coat's natural waterproofing oils. They are prone to a heart disease called sub-aortic stenosis (SAS) and hip dysplasia.
Portuguese Water DogDespite the name, the Portuguese Water Dog might originally have come from North Africa. They are a medium-sized, muscular dog, with long, hanging ears and a thick coat that is either curly or wavy. As their name suggests, they are excellent swimmers and this is aided by having webbed feet. The coat can come in black, white, various shades of brown, black and white or brown and white. They found favour in Portugal for many years, performing a multitude of tasks for the fishermen, including retrieving items from the water and carrying messages between ships. They are loyal, loving and extremely intelligent and can be great fun to have around, but they do have a stubborn streak and are quite capable of outsmarting their owner. Many also love to chew so would need to be given something suitable for this. Generally good with people, children and most pets, they may need careful introduction to cats. An active working type of dog that needs plenty of physical and mental exercise, they can be very good at sports like agility and, obviously, they love to swim too! Portuguese Water Dogs shed very little so their coat needs trimming, although less frequently than the poodle as the coat is slower to grow. They can be given an even trim all over or a "lion trim" - developed from their work in the water where the rear and muzzle were shaved to help with swimming but thick hair was left around their front to protect their vital organs and joints. They can be prone to hip dysplasia, PRA and GM-1 Storage Disease, a fatal disease that effects the nerves.
Pyrenean MastiffThe Pyrenean Mastiff is calm and loyal to their own family but their natural tendency is to guard. They are a very large and powerful dog with a large head and a heavy, coarse, white coat with dark markings. The neck has loose folds of skin and a double dewlap. They are a Spanish mountain dog whose role was to guard sheep against attack from wolves and bears. They are very intelligent, independent and protective. Within their own family, they are even-tempered with children, animals and people they know. Because it is in their nature to want to look after their family, they need to be socialised well with people, children and animals from outside. They do not need a lot of exercise but outings need to be frequent and regular as they will become bored if cooped up. The fairly long coat needs regular brushing and combing and they are a seasonal heavy shedder. They are a generally very healthy breed although can suffer from digestive problems.
RottweilerThe Rottweiler is an imposing dog who is seemingly impervious to pain and as such has earned something of a bad press, but in the right hands they are calm and reliable. They are a large, muscular and powerful dog with a broad head. Their short, thick, glossy coat is normally largely black with distinctive tan markings although there is a red colour with brown markings. They are a mastiff-type dog bred in Germany for herding, guarding and carting. They are highly intelligent, naturally very protective and devoted to their family. They make an excellent guard dog and with the right upbringing will be peaceful and kind. They have proven to be a great asset to the police and armed forces. They are a natural guard dog so need to be taught to accept strangers but can be trained to be good with children and other animals. They have a lot of stamina and need plenty of exercise. The short coat is easy to groom. They are prone to hip dysplasia, eyelid problems and tend to snore, they also gain weight easily.
Russian Black TerrierAlthough bred to catch fugitives in the second world war, the Russian Black Terrier, although effective in his work, is not naturally aggressive. They are a largish, squarely-built dog rather like a Giant Schnauzer in shape with large, bear-like feet. They are powerful but seem to have a light tread and have a thick, coarse, black, wavy coat. They were developed in Russia in the 1940s by the Red Star army for use as a high spirited but stable working dog able to withstand extremes of temperature. They are intelligent and trainable and become very attached to their owner. A well trained Russian Black Terrier is confident, eager to please and very loyal. They have a strong protective instinct and are wary of strangers although tend to get on well with children and are tolerant of most other animals. They have plenty of stamina and always enjoy a long walk. They tend to like snow and water too. The weather-proof coat needs trimming regularly and may need stripping occasionally. They are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia and can suffer with problems with their ears.
Siberian HuskyNoted for their great speed and ability to withstand extremes of cold, Siberian Huskies found great favour in 1925 in Alaska when there was a diptheria epidemic and they were used to transport medicine to people in remote areas. They are a strong, compact, spitz-type breed with a thick double coat for very cold temperatures. They also have hair between the pads on their paws to help them in the snow. They come in a variety of colours but the markings, particularly on the head, are clearly specified. There is a long-coated variety but it is not recognised by most kennel clubs. They were used by the Chukchi Tribe to pull sleds and herd reindeer in Eastern Siberia. They are highly intelligent with lots of energy so need plenty of outlets to exercise their body and brain. They can also be a little wilful and a bit of a handful but are naturally loving, loyal, enthusiastic and happy dogs. They are not watchdogs but enjoy howling. They are people and child friendly and particularly enjoy the company of other dogs although they may not be trustworthy around other animals. They are very active indoors but need a good deal of outdoor exercise too. They get bored very easily and can be destructive if not properly exercised. They often find warm weather difficult to cope with. Care needs to be taken when they are in a garden as they are excellent diggers. They prefer to live in packs. Grooming only needs to be intensive twice a year when they shed heavily. They are prone to hip dysplasia, eye problems, PRA, and a skin problem known as zinc responsive dermatitis, which is treatable by giving zinc supplements.
St. BernardThe Saint Bernard is famous as a search and rescue dog. They can detect a person under many feet of snow and have even been known to detect snow storms and avalanches. Early rescue dogs would go out in pairs so that one dog could lay next to the victim to keep them warm while the other went back for a rescue team. They are giant, strong and muscular with a massive, powerful head. Their dense coat can be rough or smooth and comes in red with white or mahogany brindle with white. They usually have black shading on the face and ears. They were bred by monks from the Saint Bernard Hospice to rescue travellers caught by avalanches in the Alps. Early Saint Bernards were a little smaller and had shorter hair because the long hair would fill with ice and weigh them down. Saint Bernards are gentle, friendly and patient. They are slow moving, extremely loyal and intelligent and easy to train. They are affectionate to other animals, people and children but need to be trained to be impeccably behaved due to their great size. They have good stamina so need a long daily walk but don't tolerate hot conditions well. They need to be brushed and combed fairly regularly and bathed only occasionally so that the coat is not stripped of its natural oils. Their eyes need to be checked, too, as they have a tendency to water. St Bernards are prone to "wobbler" syndrome, heart problems, skin problems, hip dysplasia, tumours, extropion and bloat. They also have a tendency to wheeze, snore and drool.
Tibetan MastiffThis is the most ancient of all dogs, possibly going back as far as 1100BC. They are a powerful, giant dog with a broad, strong head. Their great double coat is very thick with a mane around the neck and is usually black or black and tan. There are two types, although usually born in the same litter: the Tsang-khyi, which is taller and heavier boned with more wrinkles around the face, and the Do-khyi which is leaner with fewer wrinkles. They were used as a guard dog either for property, which could be as much as a whole village, or for sheep. When guarding property, they were normally confined during the day and let loose at night. Although an intelligent dog, their protective guarding instinct and wilful nature makes them more suitable for an experienced owner. They are often loving towards children and can be trained to get on well with other animals but are naturally very wary of strangers. They need a good daily walk as they are not very active indoors. The thick coat needs regular brushing and combing, especially during times of moulting. They are prone to hip dysplasia, thyroid problems, skin conditions and ear infections. They can also suffer from a genetic problem called Canine Inherited Demyelinative Neuropathy (CIDN), which attacks puppies and is fatal.