Explaining the Seven AKC Dog Breed Groups: Working Group Dogs

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated April 17, 2024

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A working group rottweiler dog standing on a rock.

There are almost 200 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). It makes sense that the AKC would organize these breeds into seven distinct groups. These groups include Sporting, Hound, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, Herding and Working dogs. Working Group dogs are the largest and most powerful group — they were bred specifically to assist man with a specific purpose. Whether that’s pulling a sled, guarding property or water rescues, these dogs love to perform their specific functions. Maybe you’re a new or established breeder considering breeding a Working Group dog. Or perhaps you’re in the market for a new dog and are drawn to these powerful and devoted breeds. In both circumstances, it’s important to know the ins and outs of the group. Working Group breeds require an owner that’s consistent, in control and of course, provides lots of attention and love. While some of these breeds have a reputation that precedes them, in the right circumstances they all make for wonderful family dogs.

Working Group Dogs at a Glance

Working dogs are not for everyone. These dogs are extremely powerful and instinctually territorial. This combination means the owner has to be extremely vigilant, beginning obedience training and socialization from a very young age. Unfortunately, some breeds have a bad reputation due to irresponsible owners. If you’re considering breeding a Working Dog, it’s crucial that you understand the ins and outs of the breed you’re working with. Even more importantly, you should be extremely discerning about to whom you’ll sell your puppies. Responsible Working Group breeders make sure new owners are appropriate for the breed, asking lots of questions to get an idea of the potential owner’s responsibility level. You’re putting in due diligence not just for your own business reputation, but for the integrity and reputation of the breed itself. Dogs in the Working Group were bred for specific purposes and as such, are extremely powerful, alert and intelligent.

Popular Breeds in the Working Group


Rottweilers are a large, powerful breed that, due to media portrayal, have a bit of a misunderstood reputation. While they’re very strong and territorial, they’re not malevolently aggressive. They simply need proper training and socialization by a responsible owner. Considered one of the oldest dog breeds, Rottweilers originated in the German city of Rottweil but trace their roots back to ancient Roman times. Muscular and controlling, these dogs were bred to herd livestock and pull carts of meat to the market. While they’re still used for herding, they now mainly serve as guard dogs and for search and rescue missions. Rottweilers were recognized as a breed by the AKC in 1931. In 2021 they were the eighth most popular breed in the United States.

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  • Rottweilers are courageous and can be territorial — which is why they’re considered great guard dogs.
  • Because of these territorial instincts and the sheer power of this dog, owners must invest significantly in training and socialization courses.
  • These dogs are very affectionate with family members; they’re known for acting more like a lap dog than a working breed!

Responsible Breeders Test Rottweilers For:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Eye diseases
  • Heart conditions
  • Eye issues
  • JLPP DNA Test

Cancer occasionally occurs in Rottweilers. Vets recommend a careful vaccination regime that boosts their immune system. For more information read the Rottweiler breed club health official statement.

Rottweiler Grooming Tips

  • Rottweilers have a medium-length outer coat that lies flat.
  • They require weekly brushing and shed moderately throughout the year.
  • Twice a year they shed more profusely. This typically occurs in the spring and fall.
  • Bath your Rottweiler regularly.

Rottweiler Exercise and Training Needs

  • Rottweilers are trotters and love to go for walks. They also enjoy swimming.
  • You should give your Rottweiler exercise on a daily basis.
  • Start training a Rottweiler puppy right away.
  • He should attend courses on puppy socialization and basic training.
  • Your leadership is very important in raising a well-mannered Rottie.
  • Rottweilers should live inside the home — they don’t do well when isolated from humans.
  • Don’t roughhouse with a Rottweiler because it could trigger an aggressive response.


The boxer is a mastiff-type breed that is great for families — it’s no surprise they’re so popular in the United States. They’re great around children due to their patience, playfulness and protective nature. Boxers are very affectionate and have an upbeat, energetic personality that loves to be around people and other dogs. Boxers were the 14th most popular breed in 2021. The AKC first recognized the boxer breed in 1904.

  • The name boxer comes from the dog’s tendency to stand on their hind legs and “box” with their paws.
  • These dogs are extremely loyal to their family but distrustful of strangers.
  • Boxers are generally very friendly dogs.

Responsible Breeders Test Boxers For:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Heart conditions such as aortic stenosis and cardiomyopathy
  • AS/SAS cardio
  • Thyroid deficiency
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Certain cancers
  • ARVC DNA test

Because boxers don’t do well in extreme heat or cold, it’s best to allow her to live inside. For more information read the official American Boxer Club health statement.

Boxer Grooming Tips

  • Boxers have a short, shiny coat that doesn’t require a great deal of grooming.
  • A quick brushing once or twice a week is sufficient.
  • She’ll only need a bath occasionally.
  • However, they’re notoriously drooly dogs.
  • This breed has traditionally been subject to the controversial practice of tail docking and ear cropping. For show dogs, the AKC strongly discourages non-docked tails but cropping ears is permitted.

Boxer Exercise and Training Needs

  • Boxers have a lot of energy, so you’ll need to give her exercise daily and should have a diet high in quality calories.
  • When exercising, your boxer should remain leashed.
  • Don’t allow your boxer to run loose — not because they’ll run away, but because they’re such enthusiastic jumpers and could injure someone nearby.

Doberman Pinscher

While most people think of the Doberman pinscher as a fearless guard dog, they also make loyal, affectionate family members. Dobermans were developed for aggression and ferociousness in Germany, but modern breeding has tempered those traits. Today these dogs are extremely loyal, highly trainable and very intelligent. In 2021, Doberman pinschers were the 16th most popular dogs in the United States. The AKC first recognized the breed in 1908.

  • Dobermans are great with familiar humans and dogs but can exhibit aggressive behavior towards unfamiliar faces.
  • It’s important for new Doberman owners to begin socialization and training courses from day one.

Responsible Breeders Test Doberman Pinschers For:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Enlarged heart
  • DNA Test for Von Willebrand’s Disease (a blood clotting disorder)
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Albinism
  • Hypothyroidism

Doberman’s are particularly prone to bloat, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). GDV is a digestive condition which can be life-threatening. If you breed or adopt a Doberman, you should educate yourself on the signs of bloat and how to treat it. For more information read the Doberman Pinscher Club of America health statement.

Doberman Pinscher Grooming Tips

  • Doberman pinschers can be described as a “wash and wear” breed, meaning they have a short coat that needs little brushing and doesn’t mat.
  • However, the AKC recommends a quick daily brushing keeps the coat shiny and healthy.
  • Your Doberman doesn’t need to be bathed regularly.
  • Wipe out his ears every few days using a paper towel with a little baby oil — this is of particular importance if his ears are uncropped.

Doberman Pinscher Exercise and Training Needs

  • Doberman pinschers are energetic and athletic, so they need lots of exercise.
  • He should be taken on long walks and allowed to play in a large, fenced yard.
  • Because of their intelligence and athletic ability, Dobermans do well participating in canine sports.

A close-up side view of a speckled working group great dane with a blue leash outdoors.

Great Dane

The Great Dane is one of the most easily-identified breeds of the dog world. With a towering height of 28”-30” and weighing in at as much as 175 pounds, these are big dogs. At that size and level of strength, this is a breed that’s not right for every dog owner or living situation. The Great Dane was first recognized as a breed by the AKC in 1887. In 2021 the breed was the 21st most popular in the United States.

  • While they are a huge breed, Great Danes are generally very sweet and patient — often called gentle giants.
  • Despite their seemingly gentle nature, they were bred to be vigilant guardians and won’t hesitate to protect their property or master.
  • Great Danes are very social so interactions with people and other animals are important.

Responsible Breeders Test Great Danes For:

  • Eye and cardiac diseases
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Autoimmune thyroiditis
  • Hip dysplasia

Like Doberman pinschers and other Working Group dogs, bloat is a major health concern for Great Danes. In fact, GDV is the number one killer of Great Danes. If you’re breeding or buying a Dane, educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of the condition. One way to counter the effects of bloat is through a surgery called prophylactic gastropexy or preventative tack. This procedure won’t completely prevent bloat but will significantly lessen the more serious effects of the condition. For more information read The Great Dane Club of America health statement.

Great Dane Grooming Tips

  • Great Danes aren’t big shedders. But considering the size of the dog, even a small amount of shedding will result in a lot of hairs on your furniture, clothes and in your car.
  • Brush her weekly with a medium-bristle brush to minimize shedding.
  • Bathing an animal the size of a Great Dane is no easy task; luckily she’ll only need an occasional bath.

Great Dane Exercise and Training Needs

  • Great Danes should be given walks a few times a day.
  • Avoid running or strenuous hikes until the dog is two years old to prevent joint damage.
  • Try to separate mealtime and strenuous exercise to prevent bloat.
  • While Great Danes are typically gentle dogs, their size makes obedience training a must.
  • They respond well to firm, consistent training.
  • Expose the dog to a wide variety of people, places and experiences — apply the Rule of 12.

Siberian Husky

With their piercing eyes and soft, fluffy coat, it’s no surprise that the Siberian Husky is one of the most popular Working Group dogs. Not only are these wolf-like dogs strikingly beautiful, they’re also very affectionate and good natured, making them great family dogs.

  • Huskies were famously bred to pull sleds in cold, snowy locations, which means they have excellent endurance.
  • Pulling sleds is a pack activity and that instinct still holds strong in the breed. Siberians love to be around other dogs and are a great addition to your family unit.

The AKC first recognized the Siberian Husky breed in 1930. Huskies were the 19th most popular breed in the United States in 2021.

Responsible Breeders Test Siberian Huskies For:

  • Annual ophthalmology exams to check for juvenile cataracts
  • Hip dysplasia

For more information read the Siberian Husky Club of America health statement.

Siberian Husky Grooming Tips

  • Despite their long, fluffy coat, Siberian Huskies only need a few baths a year.
  • Brush his coat on a weekly basis.
  • Huskies shed their undercoat twice a year; “rake out” the old coat.

Siberian Husky Exercise and Training Needs

  • Huskies need a lot of exercise for their mental and physical health.
  • Like many Working Breed dogs, Huskies do best when they have a function to perform.
  • Because Siberians were bred to run and pull sleds, you must be very careful to leash him at all times.
  • Despite the need for exercise, Huskies are very adaptable and can thrive in a more urban setting like an apartment.

Under the Radar Working Dog Breeds

Is a Working Dog Right for Your Family?

Despite the size of Working Group dogs and their reputation for aggression, many breeds make great family dogs when properly trained and socialized. Their loyalty makes them great companions and devoted family members. However, raising a dog in this group requires a great deal of discipline and training from day one. This devotion and protective nature can go wrong if a dog isn’t well trained and socialized with other people and dogs. Therefore, inexperienced or busy dog owners should consider a breed that isn’t so training intensive. Another factor to consider is your home. Do you live in a small two bedroom apartment in the city? While there are exceptions, most Working Group breeds may not be satisfied with such tight quarters. These dogs do best when they’re able to get lots of exercise and perform a function. Because Working Group dogs are so large and require a high level of exercise, you may struggle to keep up. If that’s the case, consider hiring a dog walker through Wag!

Transporting Working Group Dogs

Some Working Group dogs are brachycephalic, meaning they have shortened snouts. Due to health concerns, this category of dogs have been banned from flying commercially. That can present some difficulty if you need to transport your boxer hundreds or thousands of miles. Working Group dogs are also very large and cannot fly in the cabin. Instead, they’ll have to be stored in the cargo hold during the flight, which adds an element of uncertainty to your trip. Will the temperatures be adequate? How will she handle the stress of being alone in the cargo hold? CitizenShipper connects pet owners with vetted ground pet transporters. This is a practical solution to moving a brachycephalic dog long distances. If you’re a breeder of short-snouted dogs or are considering buying one from an out-of-state breeder, use CitizenShipper – it’s the safest and most personal pet transport option.