Explaining the AKC Dog Breed Groups: Sporting Group Dogs

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated April 23, 2024

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Golden retrievers, playing

Do you want to add a new member to your family but aren’t quite sure what breed is the best fit? One way to narrow ‌your search is to become familiar with the dog breed groups designated by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Understanding the seven dog breed groups isn’t just helpful for prospective dog buyers — breeders should know the ins and outs of breed groups too! Some reasons for knowing these groups include:

  • You have an interest in breeding another type of dog.
  • You may want to make a breed recommendation to a potential customer that’s not a good fit for the type of dog you sell.
  • You’d like to start competing in dog conformation shows or dog sporting events.

The AKC divides dog breeds into seven distinct groupings: Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding. While no two dog breeds are exactly the same, there are many common characteristics in each group. Our Dog Breed Group series will take a closer look at each group, providing some general characteristics and highlighting some of the most popular breeds. Our goal is that by reading this guide, you’ll be one step closer to finding the perfect dog for your family. First, we’ll focus on Sporting Group dogsRetrievers, Pointers, Spaniels and Setters.

Sporting Group Dogs at a Glance

Some of the most popular breeds in America — like golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers — are Sporting Group dogs. The popularity of these breeds is well-earned:

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  • Sporting Group breeds are usually great with small children.
  • These dogs are loyal and family-oriented without being overly protective or territorial.
  • Sporting dogs have tons of energy and love to play.

On the other hand, Sporting Group dogs can be very high-maintenance. You need to give most breeds exercise daily for at least an hour. Many breeds are prone to separation anxiety, so you cannot leave these Sporting Group dogs alone for long periods of time. Not every family has the time or space to meet these needs. If a Sporting dog doesn’t get enough exercise, she’ll harness that energy into undesirable behavior. Common behavioral issues seen in Sporting dogs include:

  • Aggression
  • Dominance
  • Mouthiness
  • Hyperactivity
  • High prey drive
  • Separation anxiety

Popular Breeds in the Sporting Group

The Labrador Retriever is the most popular Sporting Group dog in the US.

Labrador Retriever

We might as well start off this section with America’s most popular breed of 2021 — the Labrador retriever. Just one look at the sweet face of this breed is enough to melt your heart. Labrador retrievers were first recognized as a breed by AKC in 1917.

  • Labrador retrievers are outgoing and friendly, energetic and affectionate.
  • Labs make a great family pet. They’re gentle with children, extremely playful, friendly with new people and highly trainable.
  • Females weigh between 55 and 70 pounds and males weigh between 65 and 80 pounds.
  • Labrador Retrievers have a lifespan between 11 and 13 years.

Responsible Breeders Test Labrador Retrievers For:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • EIC DNA Test
  • Opthamologist Evaluation

For more information read the official Labrador Retriever Club health statement.

Lab Grooming Tips

  • Labs come in three colors: Black, Chocolate and Yellow.
  • They have a thick double coat that’s water repellant.
  • Labrador Retrievers shed quite a bit.

Labrador Retriever Exercise and Training Needs

  • High energy levels mean you’ll spend at least an hour a day on exercise.
  • If you don’t give him enough exercise, chances are high your Lab will engage in destructive behavior.
  • Some favorite Labrador pastimes include swimming, retrieving and canine sports.
  • Experts recommend early training and socialization because of their high energy level.
The Golden Retriever is the second most popular Sporting Group dog in the US.

Golden Retriever

Golden retrievers are among the most popular dogs in the United States — in 2021 they ranked as the number three. That’s with good reason; not only are they beautiful animals, they’re highly intelligent, devoted to their masters and of course, extremely friendly and affectionate. Golden retrievers were first recognized as a breed by AKC in 1925.

  • While they’re an energetic breed, they have middle of the road energy levels when compared with other Sporting Group dogs.
  • Goldens are very playful and because they’re so intelligent and eager to please, they’re one of the most trainable breeds in the dog world.
  • Golden retrievers have a lifespan of 10 to 12 years.
  • Females weigh between 55 and 65 pounds and males weigh between 65 and 75 pounds.

Responsible Breeders Test Golden Retrievers For:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Cardiac Test
  • Opthamologist Evaluation

For more information read the official Golden Retriever Club of America health statement.

Golden Grooming Tips

  • The biggest downside to a golden retriever? They shed a lot. You’ll need to stock up on lint rollers if you’re adopting this breed.
  • Brushing once or twice a week prevents some of the mess from shedding.
  • She’ll shed her coat completely once or twice a year.
  • During these heavy shedding periods, you may need to brush daily.
  • Golden Retrievers only need occasional baths.

Golden Retriever Exercise and Training Needs

  • Daily exercise is a requirement for golden retrievers.
  • Lack of exercise results in undesirable behavior.
  • Golden retrievers can handle long runs.
  • High-impact exercise can cause stress to her joints, so consult with a vet before engaging in these sorts of activities.
  • Experts recommend early training and socialization.
german shorthaired pointer

German Shorthaired Pointer

German shorthaired pointers (GSPs) are the ninth most popular breed of 2021. The short coat is often liver-colored with white spots, giving the breed a look that’s described as “noble” or “aristocratic.” German shorthaired pointers were first recognized as a breed by AKC in 1930.

  • However, these dogs are far from aloof — in fact, they’re very friendly.
  • German shorthaired pointers are great with children and other animals.
  • They are very eager to please.
  • German shorthaired pointers have a lifespan of 10 to 12 years.
  • Female pointers weigh between 45 and 60 pounds; males weigh between 55 and 70 pounds.

Responsible Breeders Test German Shorthaired Pointers For:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Cardiac Exam
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Cone Degeneration DNA Test

For more information read the official German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America health statement.

GSP Grooming Tips

  • Grooming a GSP is relatively easy and only requires a brushing every few days.
  • Shedding is minimal, though heavier shedding occurs during certain times of the year.
  • Their hairs are short and coarse, so they can get embedded in fabric and are difficult to remove.
  • Inspect his ears regularly to ensure they’re clean.

German Shorthaired Pointer Exercise and Training Needs

  • GSPs require frequent exercise like swimming, running and dog sports.
  • Experts recommend giving your German shorthaired pointer exercise twice a day.
  • Early training and socialization is vital for a well-behaved GSP.
  • This is an intelligent breed with a strong prey drive. A GSP needs to feel like he has a purpose or he’ll engage in destructive, undesirable behavior.
The English Springer Spaniel is the fourth most popular Sporting Group dog in the US.

English Springer Spaniel

The English springer spaniel was the 26th most popular breed of 2021. These dogs are highly affectionate and love to be with family. English springer spaniels were first recognized as a breed by AKC in 1910.

  • They’re bred to be very obedient but can also be extremely playful.
  • English springer spaniels get along well with children and other dogs, so they’re a great family pet.
  • This breed has a expectancy between 12 to 14 years.
  • Males usually weigh around 50 pounds while females weigh around 40 pounds.

Responsible Breeders Test English Springer Spaniels For:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Cardiac Exam
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Cone Degeneration DNA Test

For more information read the official English Springer Spaniels Field Trial Association health statement.

Springer Spaniel Grooming Tips

  • Weekly brushing prevents matting in the dog’s double coat.
  • Use a slicker brush or metal dog comb to remove any tangles or knots.
  • The coat will need to be clipped around the feet, head and neck, and under the tail. You can trim her hair yourself or hire a professional groomer.

English Springer Spaniel Exercise and Training Needs

  • English springer spaniels need to burn a lot of energy! Be ready for lots of long walks and endless games of fetch.
  • Springer spaniels are happiest living indoors with their family.
  • While a small house or apartment is suitable for this breed, a home with a large, fenced-in yard is ideal.
  • Training classes are suggested for this breed.
  • Springers are active explorers of their environment, so the owner must be in control during training.
  • Because your springer is so family-oriented, leaving her alone for long periods of time can result in destructive or unwanted behavior.
The Brittany is the fifth most popular Sporting Group dog in the US.


The Brittany breed was the 27th most popular breed of 2021. Commonly known as the Brittany spaniel, they aren’t actually a spaniel! Instead, they’re genetically closer to pointers. As such, the AKC reclassified them as Brittanys. They were officially recognized by the kennel club in 1934.

  • Brittanys are a bit aloof but good with children.
  • A “soft” face and high-set ears that convey zeal are prized by Brittany lovers.
  • Brittanys have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years.
  • Most Brittanys weigh between 30 and 40 pounds.

Responsible Breeders Test Brittanys For:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation

For more information read the official American Brittany Club health statement.

Brittany Grooming Tips

  • The breed’s short, wavy coat requires very little brushing or maintenance.
  • Regularly inspect the underside of the ear for infection.

Brittany Exercise and Training Needs

  • Like most Sporting breeds, they have a high energy level and require a lot of exercise and attention.
  • Brittanys are very intelligent so activities that exercise the brain are also very important.

Under the Radar Sporting Group Dog Breeds

Sporting group dogs are incredibly popular in America, but there are a few breeds that are harder to come by. Here are five lesser-known Sporting Breeds:

Is a Sporting Group Dog Right for Your Family?

Sporting dogs were bred for utility in the field. This means they’re highly trainable, obedient and eager to please their masters. Despite this background in retrieving and hunting, Sporting Group dogs are extremely affectionate. They tolerate small children and other dogs, making them very social creatures. The most important factor for buyers interested in Sporting dogs is access to open space and availability to exercise frequently. A large yard alone won’t satisfy most Sporting dogs — you need to provide lots of time for structured play. This will burn off the boundless energy, preventing some of the more destructive tendencies of these breeds. While there are exceptions, most Sporting breeds are poorly suited for apartment living. Training and socialization are recommended for this group. For some breeds, it’s an essential requirement. Poorly trained or socialized Sporting dogs will exhibit some of the behaviors we mentioned at the top of the article: aggression, hyperactivity, separation anxiety and dominance. If you need help with training or exercise, consider signing up for a Wag! Premium subscription. You’ll save money on training, exercise, health and other pet-related services.

Use CitizenShipper to Deliver Your New Family Member

You’ve done the research and evaluated your own living situation and it turns out a Sporting breed is a perfect fit for your family! The only problem? There aren’t any breeders within a reasonable driving distance from your home. Luckily, you can use a trusted pet transporter through CitizenShipper to get your fur baby delivered safe and sound. Our drivers are animal lovers who have safely delivered thousands of pets over the last 14 years. Not only that, but every driver passes a stringent background check before they get started, so you know your puppy is in good hands. CitizenShipper is also a great resource for professional breeders who are willing to ship puppies to customers. We have a great relationship with breeders all across the country, helping them connect with customers that would normally be out of reach. Whether you’re a breeder looking for a trusted transportation partner or a new pet owner working with an out-of-state breeder, CitizenShipper is your go to for pet shipping. Post a listing on CitizenShipper today and receive bids on your shipping needs within minutes!