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How to Identify Non-Sporting Dog Breeds

The only thing the dogs in the non-sporting group have in common is that they don’t have enough in common with the breeds of any other group. This category is a leftover from the original two breeding categories recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) — Sporting dogs and Non-Sporting dogs.

The Non-Sporting category contains dogs such as the Bichon Frise, bred to be pampered but bigger than toys. A bird dog, the Finnish Spitz, is prized in his native land for his ability to bark his fool head off. (Go figure. At least he’s cute, resembling a red fox.)

The Poodle, a multipurpose breed that today is primarily a companion, has worked as a retriever, truffle hunter, and circus performer. Then you have two bulldog breeds that have been without work for so long — bull-baiting long gone out of fashion — they don’t count as working dogs any more. And although his official AKC history mentions nothing of it, dog experts say the Chow Chow was prized as much for his meat as for any other feature in his native China.

You can say one thing for sure about this group: Some top-notch companions are in it. Primary among them in terms of numbers is the Poodle, a highly intelligent dog who has been the butt of more jokes than any other breed. Fortunately the Poodle enjoys laughter as well as any other dog, and if he knows he’s the one being laughed at, he doesn’t let on.

Coats run the gamut in this group, from the profuse shedding of the Chow Chow and Keeshond to the easy-care glamour of the dog who wears a tuxedo to even the most casual of occasions, the Boston Terrier. Sizes run the gamut as well:

  • Tiny breeds (less than 15 pounds): Tibetan Spaniel, Schipperke.

  • Small- to medium-sized breeds (15 to 50 pounds): American Eskimo Dog, Bichon Frise, Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Shar-Pei, Finnish Spitz, French Bulldog, Keeshond, Lhasa Apso, Miniature Poodle, Shiba Inu, Tibetan Terrier.

  • Large breeds (50 to 80 pounds): Chow Chow, Dalmatian, Standard Poodle.

This group seems to have more than its share of congenital problems, some caused by irresponsible breeding, others a result of breeding for a body shape that, while distinctive, isn’t really conducive to the normal patterns of canine life.

Many Dalmatians are deaf; Bulldogs are prone to heatstroke and breathing difficulties; and a half-dozen congenital problems frequently show up in Poodles. The sometimes difficult Chow Chow has a reputation as the breed veterinarians like to work with least. As with all groups, the larger breeds here are candidates for hip dysplasia.

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