10 Breeds You Should Know for the National Dog Show

Wow your friends with our cheat sheet!


Do your friends show off by describing every football play in language that baffles you? Here’s your chance to get back at them while watching the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving Day. All you’ll need is our handy cheat sheet and you can irritate — er, impress — all your friends by saying the breed name before the announcer gets a chance!

Remember, the breeds are categorized into seven groups, so knowing which one to look for in which group is the first step in wowing your friends. But the television coverage won’t show you every dog in every group — there’s just not enough time. They only show you the “cut” — the finalists. But we feel confident if you can ID the following breeds, you’ll look like an expert! Our “breed to know” isn’t necessarily our prediction for the winner; just one you’ll probably see that’s obscure enough to be impressive.

1. The Sporting group

This group contains the retrievers, spaniels and setters, plus a few others like the Brittany, Vizsla, and Weimaraner. Look for a Pointer or German Shorthaired Pointer near the front of the line; the German version is the one with little flecks of brown. A flashy setter, maybe a flecked English, should be in there — or maybe even the fairly rare Irish Red and White (that’s the, er, red and white one).

The Brittany may be right up there; he’s the white and orange long-legged spanielesque dog that had the word “Spaniel” deleted from his name a while back. Also to be expected, the Golden Retriever as well as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever — that’s the one that looks like a taupe-colored Lab with a perm. The breed standard describes their color as “sedge” or “dead grass.” And of course, the ever-competitive Cocker Spaniel is bound to be a top contender — but which one? They come in three varieties: black, parti, and ASCOB (that usually means a buff one; did you know ASCOB stands for “any solid color other than black”?).

Breed to know: Chesapeake Bay Retriever

2. The Hound group

This group contains the racy Sighthounds and classic Scenthounds, plus a couple, such as the Norwegian Elkhound and Dachshunds, which are more difficult to classify. Look for the sighthounds closer to the front of the line, especially the glamorous Afghan Hound (the one with long flowing tresses), and maybe Borzoi (formerly the Russian Wolfhound) or Saluki (looks like a Greyhound with pony tails. The Whippet, which looks like a miniature Greyhound, will be farther back in line.

Of the scenthounds, expect to see the American Foxhound leading the pack, and maybe a droopy Bloodhound or unkempt Otterhound on the trail. The Beagle is always a contender, as are the various Dachshunds: smooth, long, and wire coated. And if it’s tousled and wiry and oh so cute, it just may be one of the newest AKC breeds, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno!

Breed to know: American Foxhound

3. The Working group

The group contains the macho guardians, strong draft dogs, and a few, such as the Portuguese Water Dog, that defy categorization. Look for the Porty to be amongst the finalists, but if you’re expecting him to look like Bo, you might be confused. The First Dog sports a retriever clip, but the Porty most likely to be in the finals happens to favor the traditional lion clip.

With the highest entry of any breed at the show, the Siberian Husky winner is bound to be a major contender. Also watch for the Doberman and Great Dane, and for the impressive Dogue de Bordeaux (think of a wrinkly red Mastiff). And if you see a dog who looks like he should be in Harry Potter, that’s a Neapolitan Mastiff!

Breed to Know: Portuguese Water Dog

4. The Terrier group

has vermin controllers and bully breeds. Look for the American Staffordshire Terrier out front. He’s the one that looks like a pit bull. Just, don’t call him that, or his handler may take exception. Both Wire and Smooth Fox Terriers are likely out there, and if there’s a little red dog at the end of the line, it’s probably a Norfolk Terrier.

We’d love to see the Cesky Terrier, one of the newer and rarer breeds (it looks like a gray Scottie), or the Russell Terrier (like a short-legged Jack Russell), just because they’re so cute. New to the AKC Terrier group is the Rat Terrier, an American-made breed with lots of fans!

Breed to know: Russell Terrier

5. The Toy group

Among the tiny dogs, you’ll recognize the Toy Poodle, Chihuahua, and Pekingese, but what about the Havanese? He’s the one with the tousled hair that looks in need a good brushing. And watch for the Chinese Crested—will it be a sleek hairless or a poofy powderpuff? We’re rooting for the all-American Toy Fox Terrier, though.

Breed to Know: Havanese.

6. The Non-Sporting group

A potpourri of dogs, from spiffy Poodles to wrinkly Shar-Peis. Look not only for a Poodle or two, but for a Bichon Frise (looks like a cotton ball), Tibetan Spaniel (a Pekingese at first glance, only not so extreme), and a Boston Terrier (who never takes his tux off). We’d also love to see the Xoloitzcuintli (formerly pronounced as “Mexican Hairless”), if only to watch the announcer struggle, French Bulldog (just because they’re cute) or Norwegian Lundehund (the contortionist of the dog world).

Breed to know: Tibetan Spaniel

7. The Herding group

This consists of dogs that, well, herd. You’ll recognize the German Shepherd, Rough Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, and the Queen’s dog, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. But what about the Smooth Collie or the Cardigan Welsh Corgi (the one with the tail)?

If you see a moving mop, that’s a Puli. We hope to see one of the newer to AKC breeds, the Pyrenean Shepherd (move over, Border Collies, in the brain department).

Breed to know: Puli

8. Miscellaneous

There’s no official group competition, but let’s hope there’s some coverage of the Miscellaneous breeds–the “not quite ready for prime time” breeds on their way to AKC recognition. Those at the show include the Bergamasco, a giant walking felted beast; the Berger Picard (Think star of Because of Winn-Dixie); and Cirnechi dell’Etna (like a miniature Pharaoh Hound); Coton de Tulear (just remember Coton and cotton).

Breed to Know: Berger Picard

9. Meet the new breeds

Three new to AKC breeds will make their National Dog Show debut: The Chinook in the Working group, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno in the Hound group, and the Rat Terrier in the Terrier Group.

Breed to Know: Chinook

10. The National Dog Show isn’t just about show dogs. Appearances will be made to several therapy dogs, including two from an unlikely breed.

Breed to Know: Dogue de Bordeaux

About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.

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