Caring for your dog

Choosing the right dog

As your dog may be a member of your family for many years, it is important to choose the right dog for your family and lifestyle.

Talk with owners, breeders and vets and check your library and the internet for information on different dog breeds.

Things you should consider when choosing a dog include:

  • amount of time you can spend with your dog
  • training of your dog
  • how much exercise your dog will need
  • whether it will be suitable for young children (or elderly people)
  • the size of your property
  • the dog’s grooming needs
  • potential health problems of a particular breed.

Breed categories
Behavioural research
Menacing breeds and type

Breed categories

Most breeds were bred for specific purposes. The main categories are:

  • sporting
  • hound
  • terrier
  • toy
  • working and herding
  • catch all category called 'utility'.

Every category has its good and bad points. Some of the happiest and healthiest dogs are a mixture of breeds.

Some dogs are listed in more than one category as there are various opinions about their classifications.

In addition to genetic tendencies to certain behaviours, owners can influence their dogs behavioural development by training, especially if they raise a dog from a puppy.

Individual dogs have their own temperaments and personalities but the following is a useful guide to the general characteristics in breeds.


These dogs were bred to hunt and work closely with people. They have been bred to hunt but not to kill and are responsive, intelligent and like to be around people. If they are trained and active, they will be happy. If they are untrained, they can chew and chase.


  • Bracco Italiano
  • Hungarian Vizsla
  • Italian Spinone
  • Large Munsterlander
  • Pointers (German Shorthaired, German Wirehaired)
  • Retrievers (Chesapeake Bay, Curly-Coated, Flat-Coated, Golden, Labrador, Duck Tolling)
  • Setters (English, Gordon, Irish Red Setter, Irish Red and White)
  • Spaniels (American Cocker, American Water, Brittany, Clumber, Cocker,
  • English Cocker, English Springer, Field, Irish Water, Sussex, Welsh Springer)
  • Vizsla
  • Weimaraner
  • Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Hounds are probably the oldest category of dog. They were bred to pursue game and will chase but not kill, possessing inhibited aggression. They can be friendly and sociable, especially if exercised and trained. Some hounds bay - a noise that is an acquired taste. If not trained well, they can be howlers and hard to house-train.


  • Afghan Hound
  • American Foxhound
  • Basset Griffon Vendeen (Grand and Petit)
  • Basenji
  • Basset Hound
  • Beagle
  • Bloodhound
  • Borzoi
  • Coonhound (black and tan)
  • Dachshund (Miniature and Standard)
  • Deerhound
  • Finnish Spitz
  • Greyhound
  • Harrier
  • Ibizan Hound
  • Irish wolfhound
  • Norwegian Elkhound
  • Otterhound
  • Pharaoh Hound
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Saluki
  • Scottish Deerhound Whippet
  • Elkhound
  • English Foxhound

Terriers were bred for purposes such as hunting and killing vermin and are small, tenacious, lively and fearless. Terriers typically have little tolerance for other animals, including other dogs. Out of control they can be aggressive, problem barkers, disobedient, and nippers.


  • Airedale Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Australian Terrier
  • Bedlington Terrier
  • Border Terrier
  • Bull Terrier (Miniature and Standard)
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Dandie Dinmont Terrier
  • Fox Terrier (Smooth and Wire)
  • Irish Terrier
  • Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Lakeland Terrier
  • Manchester Terrier
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Norfolk Terrier
  • Norwich Terrier
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Sealyham Terrier
  • Skye Terrier
  • Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Welsh Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier

These dogs were bred to be companions. They can be sweet, gentle, smart and devoted but may be snappy if untrained. They are intelligent companions but spoiled dogs can be over-protective of their owners. Toys are suitable for people with limited living space. These dogs tend to have lower activity levels and therefore lower exercise needs.


  • Affenpinscher
  • Australian Silky Terrier
  • Bichon Frisé
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chihuahua
  • Chinese Crested Dog
  • China English Toy
  • Griffon Bruxellois
  • Havanese
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Japanese Chin
  • Lowchen (little lion dog)
  • Maltese
  • Mexican Hairless
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Papillon
  • Pekingese
  • Pomeranian
  • Poodle (toy)
  • Pug
  • Shih Tzu
  • Silky Terrier
  • Yorkshire Terrier

Working dogs are intelligent and trainable. They were trained for a variety of tasks, from pulling sledges, to guarding property and livestock. With good direction and enough activity, they are excellent companions. Otherwise, they can be aggressive and disobedient. This category of dog is most likely to be "tough", territorial and more suitable for an experienced dog owner as they have a higher level of genetic potential for aggression than other categories.


  • Akita
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Bouvier de Flanders
  • Boxer
  • Bullmastiff
  • Canadian Eskimo
  • Dalmatian
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • Eurasier
  • Giant Schnauzer
  • Great Dane
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
  • Greenland Dog
  • Hovawart
  • Leonberger
  • Komondor Hungary
  • Kuvasz
  • Mastiff
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Newfoundland
  • Norwegian Buhundt
  • Pinscher
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Rottweiler
  • St bernard
  • Samoyed
  • Schnauzer (Giant and )
  • Siberian husky
  • Tibetan mastiff

These dogs are similar to working dogs. They were bred to control livestock, usually sheep and cattle, but also deer and even birds. They have been bred to stalk and herd but not kill, possessing inhibited aggression. In general, these intelligent dogs make excellent companions and respond well to training exercises. They have a tendency to shyness and nipping if not trained and active. Guarding herd dogs were bred to guard and protect, like the German Shepherd.


  • Anatolian Shepherd Dog
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Bearded Collie
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Belgian Sheepdog
  • Belgian Tervuren
  • Bouvier des Flandres
  • Briard
  • Border Collie
  • Collie (Smooth and Rough)
  • German Shepherd
  • Hungarian Puli
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Pyrenean Mountain Dog
  • Samoyed
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Welsh Corgi (Cardigan and Pembroke)

This group is a catch-all category for those breeds that do not strictly fit into any other group and consists of an extremely mixed and varied bunch (some breeds could arguably be in other groups). These breeds are of small to medium build with sturdy and balanced frames, often square-like. In general, they are alert and lively.


  • Boston Terrier
  • Bulldog
  • Canaan dog
  • Chinese Shar-Pei
  • Chow Chow
  • Dalmation
  • Finnish Spitz
  • French Bulldog
  • German Spitz (Klein and Mittel)
  • Japanese Akita
  • Japanese Shiba Inu
  • Japanese Spitz
  • Keeshond
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Lowchen (little lion dog)
  • Poodle (Miniature, Toy and Standard)
  • Rottweiler
  • Schipperke
  • Schnauzer (Standard and Miniature)
  • Shiba Inu
  • Shi Tzu
  • Tibetan Spaniel
  • Tibetan Terrier


Behavioural research

The results of a US study of the 56 most popular breeds of dogs were published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 1985.

The study assessed dog breeds' temperament rather than the original breeding purpose. However, these behavioural groups closely match the conventional groupings. They assessed:

  • Reactivity: excitability, general activity, snapping at children, excessive barking, demand for affection
  • Aggression: territorial defence, watchdog barking, aggression with other dogs, dominance over owner
  • Trainability: obedience training, housebreaking ease, etc.

Results of the survey

The results of the survey in the following tables have been modified to note more recent research from the United Kingdom. These modifications are noted in brackets.

Group 1:
high reactivity | low trainability | medium aggression

Characteristics Breeds
  • more likely to be snappy (e.g. with children)
  • to bark excessively
  • may be difficult to train
  • likely to be an average watchdog
  • likely to have average desire to be dominant (i.e. be "the boss").
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Pomeranian
  • Maltese Terrier
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Boston Terrier
  • Pekinese
  • Beagle (rated as having "medium or low reactivity" in the UK)
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Weimaraner
  • Pug
  • Irish Setter (rated as having "low aggression" in the UK)

Group 2:
very low reactivity | very low aggression | low trainability

Characteristics Breeds
  • highly unlikely to be snappy and
  • highly unlikely to bark excessively
  • likely to be a poor watchdog
  • lacks tendency to dominate
  • may be somewhat difficult to train.
  • English Bulldog
  • Norwegian Elkhound
  • Bloodhound
  • Bassett Hound

Group 3:
low reactivity | high aggression | low trainability

Characteristics Breeds
  • unlikely to be snappy
  • unlikely to bark excessively
  • likely to be a good watchdog/protector
  • likely to be dominant
  • may be somewhat difficult to train.
  • Samoyed (rated as having "medium reactivity" in the UK)
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Siberian Husky
  • Saint Bernard
  • Afghan Hound
  • Boxer (rated as having "medium reactivity" in the UK)
  • Dalmatian
  • Great Dane
  • Chow Chow
  • Old English Sheepdog (rated as having "high aggression" in the UK)

Group 4:
very high trainability | high reactivity | medium aggression

Characteristics Breeds
  • likely to be significantly easier to train
  • more likely to be snappy
  • more likely to bark excessively
  • likely to be an average watchdog
  • an average desire to be dominant.
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Shih Tzu
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Toy Poodle
  • Bichon Frise
  • Standard Poodle (rated as having "medium or low "reactivity" in the UK
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Welsh Corgi (rated as having "high aggression" in the UK)
  • West Highland White Terrier

Group 5:
low aggression | high trainability | low reactivity

Characteristics Breeds
  • less likely to be a good watchdog
  • less likely to want to be dominant
  • likely to be easier to train
  • unlikely to be snappy
  • unlikely to bark excessively.
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Hungarian Viszla
  • Brittany Spaniel
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Newfoundland
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Keeshound
  • Collie
  • Golden Retriever
  • Australian Shepherd

Group 6:
very high aggression | very high trainability | very low reactivity

Characteristics Breeds
  • highly likely to be a good watchdog
  • highly likely to want to be dominant
  • likely to be significantly easier to train
  • highly unlikely to be snappy
  • highly unlikely to bark excessively.
  • German Shepherd
  • Akita
  • Dobermann
  • Rottweiler

Group 7:
very high aggression | high reactivity | medium trainability

Characteristics Breeds
  • highly likely to be a good watchdog
  • highly likely to want to be dominant
  • more likely to be snappy
  • more likely to bark excessively
  • likely to have average difficulty with training.
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Chihuahua
  • Fox Terrier
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Dachshund
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Silky Terrier
  • Airedale Terrier (rated as having "medium or low "reactivity" in the UK)


Menacing breeds and type

Under the Dog Control Act 1996, dogs which have been assessed as belonging wholly or mainly to one of four breeds or the American Pit Bull Terrier "type" are classified as "menacing".

They must be muzzled in public and microchipped. They are banned from being imported into New Zealand - whether as a dog, semen, ova, or embryo.

These dogs must be neutered.

The "menacing" breeds are:

  • Brazilian Fila
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Perro de Presa Canario.

The “menacing” type is American Pit Bull Terrier (including American Staffordshire Terriers).

We recognise American Staffordshire Terriers as 'pit bull type' dogs, and they are classified as menacing.

The exception is where NZ Kennel Club papers can show four generations of American Staffordshire Terrier lineage.

Please note that we do not accept genetic tests as proof of breed or type of dog.

Schedule 4 of the Dog Control Act 1996 lists the menacing breeds and types.

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