The Kennel Club divides the breeds into seven groups, all of which share the same general characteristics, apart from the Utility Group which is a mix of dogs who don't fit comfortably into any other Group. Most dogs, with the exception of the giant breeds who tend to have a shorter lifespan will be part of the family for at least ten years, and in that time will be at the heart of the household.
Select the right breed for your particular set of circumstances and they will be happy and rewarding years; children will learn responsibility and respect for animals, older members of the family will have a companion, and everyone will have an uncritical friend when everything goes wrong. He will make strangers smile when he is being exercised, he is a great way of meeting people and, apart from food and shelter will make no demands on you.
Choose the wrong breed and dog ownership will be a chore; whatever you would give unstintingly to a loved pet will be, to a degree, grudged to the dog who does not bring pleasure to your home. So it is vital to find first, the breed that is right for you, and second the particular member of that breed. Visit a dog show where you can see a number of representatives of the breeds that you are interested in and talk to their owners and breeders. The link on the left will take you to Championship Shows throughout the UK, or alternatively check out the Breed Club websites for details of their Club Shows.
Links to Breed Clubs can be found on the Breed pages.
Hounds are hunters, either by sight or scent, and their instincts remain, however long it is since their forefathers worked. So they are not naturally obedient and if your garden is not dog proof may well follow their nose out into the neighbourhood. There are some extremely handsome and glamorous hounds, but if instant obedience is important to you then they are not the perfect choice.
In general Gundogs are highly biddable, though Labradors in particular have a long puppy hood and their happy tails are something of a menace near coffee tables. The European Gundogs, known as Hunt Point Retrievers - such as the Weimaraner - have an extra instinct to hunt as well as retrieve, which makes them more challenging.
This is such a mix of different breeds that every member of the Utility Group needs to be judged on its own merits. What could be more different than the pugnacious Bulldog and the elegant Standard Poodle? It is a Group well worth exploring. There are some very interesting breeds with very varied origins in this Group.
Most Terriers are born troublemakers, but fortunately, apart from the Airedale are all reasonably compact in size and easily controlled. They are not genuinely aggressive, they just love to argue and two dogs or two bitches together is a recipe for trouble. They won't be particularly biddable, but they will disobey you with such good humour that it's hard to get cross.
These are the herding dogs, and until recently were members of the Working Group and were expected to use their intelligence to manage the flocks and herds. The dog you see in Agility and Obedience competitions is generally a Working Sheepdog; the Border Collie is his pedigree cousin and an easier, less demanding pet.
The Working breeds need a firm hand; they have been encouraged to use their intelligence to guard and protect and need to know clearly where they stand in the household pecking order, ie right at the bottom. Many of them, especially dogs, will try and challenge your dominance when they reach sexual maturity at abut 2 years old, so they have to be treated very firmly from a puppy.
These breeds are probably less suited than many to a young family; many Toys are sensitive and easily frightened by boisterous children and there is always the risk that they will defend themselves by snapping. Some, like the Cavalier King Charles is a perfectly robust little family dog, as is the big-hearted Yorkshire Terrier, but most are better suited to quieter households.