Non Sporting Dog Group

Why get a dog from the Non-Sporting Group?

This group is not really a group. It is a ‘catch-all’ so uniquely it is no use looking for general characteristics for these dogs. They are the American Kennel Club’s version of an allsorts category.

The Non-Sporting Group breeds have effectively lost their original function and are now just firmly seen as household pets. But this certainly does not mean these dogs are not sporty. Quite the contrary in the case of the Poodle and the Dalmatian.

This means we cannot point to a broad-brush of characteristics as we could with a group like the Terriers. But there are some real stars in this group who have proven consistently very popular.

We surely have the canines with the coolest coats. The Boston Terrier, or ‘American Gentleman’, in his distinctive tuxedo and the dappled Dalmatian are both very dapper dogs.

While the impossibly cute French Bulldog is the only breed to threaten the Labrador Retriever’s top spot as the most popular breed in around 30 years. The English version of Bulldog also remains popular as well as the iconic national dog of England.

These breeds are well worth a browse but you will need to read the breed specific information carefully to evaluate whether they will suit your lifestyle

Working Dog Group - A Sporty Dalmation

What is a Non-Sporting Breed?
English Bulldog
French Bulldog
The Poodle
The Dalmatian
The Boston Terrier

What is a Non-Sporting Dog breed?

Just because a dog falls into the Non Sporting Dog Group according to the AKC, does not mean it is not sporty!  The elegant poodle was very much bred as a hunting dog.  Designed to flush out and retrieve prey in the water, it is also an excellent swimmer.  The spot-dappled Dalmatian, a former coaching dog, can outrun most fellow canines over a distance.  A healthy example of this breed can cover around 30 miles per day.  The Boston Terrier is, in all but name , definitely a terrier.  Try telling these dogs that they are ‘non-sporting’

In essence this is a ‘catch-all’ group.  A collection of breeds not placed neatly into other categories.  The corresponding group in the English Kennel Club is ‘Utility’.  This is also vague.    In general the dog breeds in this category find their original role in sport or work has become secondary.  They are primarily now companion animals and family pets.

But this does not make them any less colorful, exciting or significant.  The impressive roll call in this group includes dogs who have been elevated as symbols of their nations: the Bulldog, is the national dog of England and the Poodle is the national dog of France.   Nobody can tell these dogs that they aren’t important!  You don’t represent a nation by just sitting looking cute on a sofa. They clearly have very admirable qualities to which all should aspire.

This group also includes a dog which is fast becoming the most popular dog breed in the Western World. even overtaking the Labrador.  I mean, of course, the impossibly cute French Bulldog.

The following offers some prominent examples from the Non Sporting Dog Group.  For a more detailed breakdown of these breeds and others then please visit the breed guide. A comprehensive list of breeds in the Non Sporting Dog Group is offered at the end.

Bulldog (aka Old English Bulldog) (historically aka Bull-Baiting Dog)

Non Sporting Dog Group - Bulldog on the ball
The English Bulldog – This one thought we asked for a ball dog

Background and History

We can be very  thankful that this ancient breed is no longer ‘sporting’, and its appearance in the Non Sporting Dog Group only emphasizes how this breed has now been distanced from its bloody past through successive generations of breeding in a calm, balanced temperament.  The Bulldog has been historically associated with bull-baiting since at least the thirteenth century. Thankfully this disgusting ‘sport’ was abolished in 1835. Following this the breed nearly went extinct.

But we can thank a group of enthusiasts for preserving this wonderful and iconic breed .  They employed continued selective breeding aimed to keep their endearing characteristics.  At the same time they suppressed aggressive tendencies. The result today is a much-loved breed recognized in 1873 by the English Kennel Club.  The American Kennel Club quickly followed suit in 1886.

The English Bulldog was adopted as the national breed of Britain for its celebrated for its qualities of determination, tenacity and toughness.  In the fighting arena, this small and powerful dog was indomitable.  It refused to be intimidated by any bigger adversary.  Hence the war-time British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was named  ‘The British Bulldog’.  This characterized his strong leadership during the second world war. Although his jowly looks certainly contributed to this nickname!

This ancient breed thus offers to the dog gene pool tough, respectable and dependable stock.  This is reflected in the number of breeds for which it is a founding dog.  These include the sub-grouping of dogs known as Pit Bulls (link). This covers the Staffordshire Bull Terrier (link).  Also  the American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier. 

The Bulldog is also a vital ingredient in the highly popular French Bulldog (link). It is also a founding for popular mixed breeds including the Bull-Mastiff and the Bull Terrier.

Characteristics and Temperament

Yes these dogs drool a lot, but remember that each slobber is dripping with puppy love.

The Bulldog is a loving and loyal companion and unsurprisingly has a loyal fan-base. The modern Bulldog has completely shrugged off its pugilistic past and is very relaxed and easy-going

Additionally these dogs do not need huge amounts of space.  Also they do not crave great amounts of energetic exercise.  This makes them an ideal dog for city or apartment living.

But it is very important to keep these dogs fit.  They do need a moderate amount of exercise and will need a good walk twice a day.  Bulldogs are very keen on their food so care must be taken to ensure that they do not put on weight.  A heavy dog will put extra pressure on ligaments and joints.  This can lead to protracted and painful health complications.

It is important as an owner to continual balance food and exercise.  If the weather is particularly hot it might be wise to exercise your dog less.  But then this must also be reflected in a reduced intake of food.

Bulldog enthusiasts recommend a raw food and grain-free diet.  This will keep them in good health and avoid  the risk of them piling on the pounds.

These dogs are fun-loving and are a great family dog.  This means a large part of its fitness regime can be based around frequent healthy interactive play.   This will keep your Bulldog entertained as well as fit.

These dogs are  ruggedly handsome.  Their waddling gait is very distinctive and they have broad, robust heads.  The body is compact and powerful with a short coat and a small, curling ‘corkscrew’ tail.

But be aware that this breed is brachycephalic.  This means that they have very short snouts and squashed features.  This carries with it some health considerations for the conscientious bulldog owner.

The first relates to hot weather.  The short snouts do not allow for enough panting for cooling.  It is strongly advised that you keep your dog cool (internal link).  This will include planning walks that are not too long with periods of shade.  Whenever possible, plan outings for cooler times of the day.

The Bulldog is prone generally to labored breathing.  Owners should be vigilant in ensuring that their dog is not struggling for breath.  Sadly these dogs can also suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia as well as arthritis as they age.

If you are considering allowing your Bulldog to cool in water, these dogs enjoy a paddle but struggle to swim owing again to their short snouts.  The fact that they have to tilt their heads back to breathe complicates a dog’s natural swimming motion.  The Bulldog should not swim unless aided by a lifejacket.

These dogs do suffer acutely from separation anxiety.  Training to help with this should be a priority.  This anxiety can lead to a range of problems such as attempting to escape and urinating in the home.

These dogs are naturally very friendly towards humans.  But  they can be trained to guard the home and bark an alert.

In fact training Bulldogs to a good standard is not usually an issue.  But they are known  for bouts of stubbornness.  What else could you expect from the archetype of the British Bulldog spirit?  Consistent training based around positive enforcement is key.  Additionally, these dogs are very eager to please and this will help with good outcomes in most areas of training. A healthy treat will be a vital tool in your armory here.

It is good practice to keep a Bulldog’s folds on his face clean [1].  Various ointments are available to help with this. Also be sure to clean the area around the eyes.  This will help protect your dog from infections and other skin irritations.

The Bulldog has a  short coat which can maintained by brushing every two or three day.  But do this more regularly doing hot weather to keep them cool. For other tips on keeping this heat susceptible breed cool please click here.

For more detailed information on the English Bulldog and other breeds please visit our breed guide.

Variations: American Bulldog: Old English Bulldogge

French Bulldog (aka Frenchies) (aka Clown Dog)

Non Sporting Dog Group - French Bulldog
The French Bulldog – A dog’s whisker away from overtaking the Labrador Retriever to become the most popular breed

Background and History

We started out of respect for the ancient breed of the English Bulldog.  But it is time to put its staggeringly popular offshoot in the spotlight: the French Bulldog.

This breed are direct descendants of the English Toy Bulldog, which is now extinct.  This diminutive version of the English Bulldog was  taken to France in the 19th century by lace-makers from the Midlands in England who were forced to ply their trade elsewhere by the industrial revolution.  Their tough little dogs intermingled with  French Terriers and Pugs.  The result that we see today is arguably the ultimate in the small, cute companion dog.

This early version of the French Bulldog was destined to make a triumphant return to English shores.  A Mr. Krehl imported them into England in 1894.  They were hailed as a successful attempt to breed small, healthy Bulldogs. This French canine export grew in popularity.  In 1902 enthusiasts founded the French Bulldog Club of England.

Things have gone a little mad for this fun little dog since.  Its conquest of the canine world continues unabated.  The French Bulldog is now officially the second most popular dog breed in the United States, having been ranked as 82nd in 1991 [2].  In the United Kingdom it is within a cute dog’s whisker of overtaking overtaking the Labrador Retriever (internal link).  This is even more incredible as the Lab’s reign as most popular breed has been unbroken for 30 years [3].

Character and Temperament

French Bulldogs  are notorious for having  a real cheeky sense of fun.  Hence they have been given the nickname ‘clown dog’.  It is an intelligent little dog that loves to push boundaries.  This means consistent and firm training is necessary from the outset.  Positive enforcement sweetened with the odd healthy treat goes a long way.  With this in place you cannot fail to have an adorable and well-behaved dog.

Another reason for their popularity is their small size.  Like the Bulldog, this breed is ideal for city dwellers and anyone who does not have a huge amount of space.

These dogs do not demand a huge amount of exercise.  But they should be as active as possible to maintain health.  They love interactive play.  A couple of half-hour walks a day will guarantee a happy and healthy Frenchie.  These dogs play hard, but then rest hard afterwards.  Frenchies know how to achieve a work-life balance!

French Bulldogs absolutely dote on their human owners.  An unfortunate consequence of this is their tendency to suffer intense separation anxiety.  Training to prevent or moderate this is essential.  They have playful natures and need distraction when alone.  Treat dispensers or interactive toys can provide useful stimulation. 

This breed, like the Bulldog (internal link), is brachycephalic.  Their short snouts can lead to some health complications.  This includes respiratory distress.  This condition can have a big knock-on effect and cause other ailments.  Owners must be vigilant in checking that their Frenchie is always breathing comfortably.  Any exertion or exercise must be moderated to ensure this dog does not struggle for breath.

This also means they are not good in the hot weather.  The short snouts reduce the amount of cooling available through natural panting.  Plan all around cooler times of the day with as much shade as possible.  A range of methods should be considered to keep your dog cool.

Ensure also that you keep the folds on their faces and areas around the eyes regularly cleaned [4].  This will help prevent any bacteria forming.  Thus the likelihood of skin conditions or irritation is minimized.  

For more detailed information on the French Bulldog and other breeds please visit our breed guide.

The Poodle  (aka Caniche)

Non Sporting Group - The Poodle
The Poodle – A very bright dog

Background and History

The French Bulldog may be the most popular.  But its compatriot, the Poodle, can proudly boast the plaudit of being the national dog of France.

They are descendants of the Barbet.  This older breed derives from African shepherd dogs mixed with indigenous European breeds.  The first written accounts of the Barbet date back to the 14th century.

The Poodle of today is often celebrated as a triumph of selective breeding.  It ranks as the second most intelligent dog breed behind the Collie.  This refers to Stanley Cohen’s survey of 200 dog breeds based around the successful learning and execution of commands [5].

As suggested in the introduction, the Poodle is one of the most sporty of the non-sporting group of dogs. Its original function was to flush out and retrieve water- fowl and it was considered a very athletic hunting dog.  The Poodle did everything that a Spaniel does but with the added complication of water.

The name of the breed comes from the German word ‘puddIn’ which means to splash about in the water.  The French word for this dog, Caniche is an abbreviation of I or ‘duck dog’. This referred to their quarry but it could also just as easily have implied that they took to the water as readily as the aquatic birds.  Either way, Poodles still love the water and are excellent swimmers.

The American Kennel Club  officially recognized the Poodle in 1888  .  The types of Poodle include the a range of sizes including standard, miniature and toy.  With such an abundance of intelligence and athleticism this breed’s popularity has mushroomed.  The Poodle was ranked as the 6th most popular breed in 2020 according to the AKC [6].

Character and Temperament

The Poodle is hyper-trainable and versatile.  This makes them a good all-rounder for the first time dog-owner.  Yet another reason for their continued and increasing popularity.  

These dogs are very affectionate and tactile.  They are very active and need a lot of stimulation  including interactive play.  Poodles are fantastic with children as they combine energy with a generally calm and balanced temperament.  It is extremely rare for a Poodle to be aggressive.

It must be remembered that these dogs were bred as retrievers. This means that they will need a fair amount of exercise, so expect to provide two lengthy walks each day.  Also be mindful that some Poodles can have a strong prey-drive.  So introduce recall training early.

The Poodle is  a very alert watchdog and will always sound an alarm if somebody approaches.  But they are naturally friendly and non-aggressive.  But this does not single them out as the most effective guard dogs.

Another reason for their popularity as a breed and as a founding dog in so many mixed breeds is their coat.  These dogs have a single-layered coat that does not shed.  A Poodle still needs daily brushing and regular trips to the groomers every 2 months or so.

A huge added bonus to owning a Poodle is that it is hypoallergenic.  Because their shedding is very light dander is less often released.  Dander is the name given to tiny skin fragments.  These can trigger and aggravate a range of allergies in susceptible people.  This means any member of your family with potential allergies will be less affected.  Yet another reason why this dog might be so popular for a first-time owner.

In terms of health be aware that these dogs can be prone to ear infection.  Take care to clean their ears regularly and ensure this is done as part of grooming.  Occasionally some Poodles suffer from epilepsy and seizures.

Links to other breeds

It is also a testament to the many virtues of the Poodle that they have become a prolific founding dog.  A range of ‘designer dog breeds’ are based on Poodle mixes.  These include: the Labradoodle, the Sheepadoodle, and the Cavapoo.  Also, what might be my favorite name for any breed of dog, the Peekapoo.  But there are many, many others and the list continues to grow.

For more detailed information on the Poodle and other breeds please visit our breed guide.

Dalmatian (aka ‘Coach Dogs’)  (aka ‘Firehouse Dogs’)

Non Sporting Group - The Dalmatian
The Dalmatian – A very sporty and spotty member of the Non-Sporting Group of dog breeds

Background and History

This breed is named after Dalmatia in Croatia.  It was here that they found the first pictorial records  of this distinctive breed.  This elegant, spotted dog first appears in a church painting dated around 1600 called ‘Madonna with Jesus and the Angels”.  A little less conclusively a spotted dog features even earlier in a fresco in Italy which dates to around 1360.   Spotted dogs also appear in Egyptian tombs so the Dalmatian may trace its origins back a very, very long way [6].

This breed were originally guard dogs and companions.  Although they may also have had a role in hunting both game and vermin.  The Dalmatian arrived in England in the 18th century. It was initially employed in protecting the mail coach against bandits.  Its criminal antagonists would have included the infamous highwaymen.  

But their elegant, regal coats soon made them the natural choice as ‘coach dogs’.  These dogs had the calm and balanced temperaments necessary to work with horses.  They also had tremendous athleticism and endurance which could see them run up to around 30 miles in a day.  In essence they were also seen as a status symbol.  So quite early on in their careers this dapper dog became fashionable as well as functional.

Later in the 19th century this dappled dandy of dogs became famed in the United States in a new role as fire dogs.  Dalmatians would bark an alert for bystanders to clear the way as they ran besides the carts.  As fighters tended the blaze, they would stand by and guard the carriages and the horses.  Even to this day Dalmatians are still treasured as mascots and companions to the nation’s firemen [7].

As coaches gave way to motorized vehicles the function of these dogs then became redundant.  But the American Kennel Club recognized this breed in 1888.  Now these dogs continued to be prized as vivacious and energetic pets.

There have been surges in the  popularity of the breed.   This happened following the original film ‘The 101 Dalmatians’ in 1961 and the remake in 1996.  Following this any sudden demand for a breed has been coined ‘The Dalmatian Syndrome’.  Conscientious breeders and dog welfare organizations have raised concerns that such spikes in demand encourage opportunistic and irresponsible breed practices. 

Also people surrender high number of Dalmatians soon afterwards.  Clearly impulsive owners have not prepared themselves for responsible dog-ownership.  Nor have they researched the most suitable breed for their circumstances.  This led to concern in the UK and the United States following the release of the 2021 film ‘Cruellla’ [8].

Character and Temperament

Needless to say there is rarely a dull moment with this tirelessly energetic and playful dog.  The Dalmatian is a medium-sized breed  who need lots of exercise and space.   They manage to combine this lively vigor with sublime  elegance.   Their dashing coats decorate  well-proportioned long bodies.  Spots are black or brown (the latter is sometimes called liver).  The nose and paw pads will be the same color as the spots.

Owners report that their behavior is not always ‘spotless’.  They can be aggressive towards other dogs but this is partly due to their being protective of their human companions.  This means that early socialization is an absolute priority.  Combine this with plenty of interactive play and mental stimulation.

Dalmatians are very intelligent and make wonderful companions.  They are very versatile and are excellent family dogs.  But these dogs demand absolute respect.  They can be grumpy if pulled around by smaller children so, as with all dogs, it is very important to supervise any interaction.

The Dalmatian loves being at the heart of the family.  It has a  warm and sociable nature. Thus they can struggle with separation anxiety.  Early training to prevent or mitigate this is essential.  These dogs thrive on mental stimulation.  Interactive toys, treat dispensers and Kongs provide excellent distraction for a lonely Dalmatian.

The Dalmatian’s spotted coat is easy to maintain.  It usually only requires brushing a few times a week.  They usually shed twice a year.

As these dogs have white fur they are more susceptible to sunburn and skin tumors. It is very important to protect your Dalmatian during bouts of hot weather.

Other health complications include bladder stones/crystals.  Special diets are available to help prevent this so it is worth doing some early research.  This breed can also suffer from congenital deafness. Puppies should be tested before adoption.

For more detailed information on the Dalmatian and other breeds please visit our breed guide.

Boston Terrier (aka ‘The American Gentleman’)

Non Sporting Group - The Boston Terrier
The Boston Terrier – Always Dressed To Impress

Background and History 

What not a Terrier?  What am I doing here?  Why am I not in the Terrier Group(link)?

These are questions which the ‘American Gentleman’ might legitimately ask.  Instead it joins its esteemed Bulldog (link) forebear in the Non Sporting Group of dog breeds.  Even though it can hold claim to a strong Terrier(link) background.

The Boston Terrier was regrettably used in dog-fighting.  It also performed well as a traditional Terrier (link) in the control of pests in factories.  Despite this, it is the first dog bred in America placed in the Non Sporting Group.  This might well reflect a move by the American Kennel Club at the time to distant this lovely dog from cruel sports.

It seems that this ‘American Gentleman’ happily shed its associations with sport.  It also went up in the world.  The terrier is traditionally associated with the working man.   But this breed abandoned its roots to become the darling of well-heeled Bostonian society.  As a result the Boston Terrier was registered by the American Kennel Club in 1893.    

This popular and very likeable breed was named after the Massachusetts town.  It the result of crossing the English and French Bulldog.  Some Old English Terrier blood was then thrown in the mix. The  earliest accepted example was a dog taken to Boston from Liverpool in 1875.  This was sold to a Mr. Hooper. It is possible that Hooper brought the dog himself to the USA.  Hooper was a pioneer in mixing English bulldogs with other breeds successfully.   The Boston Terrier has since become one of the most celebrated American breeds.

Character and Temperament

This dog is very clever and is fully imbued with a Terrier’s tendency towards mischief and cheekiness.   The Boston Terrier is an excellent family pet but it is a little clingy to its human owners and any owner of this dog is very likely to acquire a small bull-dog shaped shadow around the house.

No Terrier puts up with being looked down upon, even if they are of a diminutive size(link).  This is even more the case for this ‘American Gentleman’.   This Terrier acquired this name for his dapper looks.  The white breast on black is often equated with a tuxedo.  This dog might also point to his distinguished ancestry from the dear old English Bulldog to augment its aristocratic demeanor (link).

This adorable breed is unsurprisingly very popular in the United States. It is the official state dog of Massachusetts. It has also returned to its roots and is establishing a paw-hold of popularity back in the United Kingdom. 

This popularity is well-earned. This breed is very giving and loving.  They are perfect in the home, and are alert and good fun. These dogs need early socializing and this will soften the Bulldog tendency to be a little stubborn and self-willed at times.

The Bulldog heritage means the Boston Terrier  is brachycephalic.  This can lead to respiratory issues.  Owners must be vigilant to ensure that their dog’s breathing is comfortable.  Any exertion or exercise must be moderated.  Especial care must be taken during periods of hot weather.  This dog must be kept cool and safe from heat stroke.

For more detailed information on the Boston Terrier and other breeds please visit our breed guide.

Still looking for your ideal dog?

If you are not sure a breed from the Non-Sporting Dog Group is right for you, the please feel free to browse the other groups including: The Terrier Group, The Toy Group, The Hound Group, The Sporting Group, The Herding Group and The Working Group.

List of Non-Sporting Dog Group Breeds:

American Eskimo Dog

Bichon Frise

Boston Terrier

English Bulldog

Chinese Shar-Pei

Chow Chow

Coton de Tulear


Finnish Spitz

French Bulldog


Lhasa Apso


Norwegian Lundehund


SchipperkeShiba Inu

Tibetan Spaniel

Tibetan Terrier


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