The Utility Dog Group is probably the least easy to define and contains the most variety. Some describe the Utility Dog Group as containing ‘the breeds that don’t fit in anywhere else’, although this is not quite true. All breeds within the Utility Group should have originally been bred for a purpose – for something useful. Most of these activities were non-sporting. Unlike the Gun Dogs or Pastoral Dogs, these dogs no longer serve a real purpose in modern day life. They are, of course, still vitally important as companion animals and still have the ability to carry out a multitude of jobs and to compete in many canine activities.

Interestingly, many of the breeds within this group are some of the oldest in the world, which may explain why they are no longer seen as ‘useful’; not having been bred specifically for today’s society.

About

Unlike in other dog groups, there is little that links one utility dog to another and they are a truly varied bunch. While the British Kennel Club includes the Utility Group within their seven dog groups, not all associations recognise this group. For example, the Akita is included within Utility Dogs by the Kennel Club but the UKC classifies them within their Northern Dogs Group. Similarly, the UKC places the Bulldog within their Companion Group rather than acknowledging any Utility designation.

While many believe that any dog that is difficult to classify is automatically put into the Utility Group, they couldn't be further the truth and, in fact, the Kennel Club have stringent criteria for breeds to become a member. All dogs within this group were once bred for a specific function. As these functions were wide-ranging, it is no surprise that the Utility Group are a ‘motley crew’ of individuals when it comes to their appearances and personalities.

Purpose

More so than in any other group, the members of the Utility Group were bred to carry out a wide range of purposes. A few examples include:

  • Bulldogs were used for bull baiting
  • Schnauzers were rat catchers
  • Chow Chows and Shiba Inus were hunters
  • Shih Tzus were lap dogs and guard dogs, warning monks of any intruders in the monastery
  • Dalmatians were used as carriage dogs (running alongside horse-drawn carriages to clear the path ahead)
  • German Spitz dogs were farmyard workers, mainly taking on the role of shepherd

Though these dogs are often labelled as ‘no longer fit for purpose’, while they cannot carry out the same work they traditionally would have, most remain hard-working and dedicated today. The Shiba Inu and Akita Inu are often kept as guard dogs. Poodles excel at obedience and are widely regarded as one of the most intelligent and adaptable breeds, being bred into many of today’s ‘designer dog breeds’.

All of the breeds within the Utility Group make wonderful companion animals, though the larger ones do need a lot of space and all benefit from firm and consistent training.

Types

It is not possible to assign different types to the Utility Group as they are all so diverse. Some will split the dogs into their country of origin, which is perhaps the most efficient way of categorising them. It is also possible to list them as ‘Spitz’ or ‘non-Spitz dogs’.

However, this type of classification can become confusing, as there are Spitz dogs that do not fit within the Utility Group, such as the Alaskan Malamute (Working Group) and the Norwegian Elkhound (Hound Group).

Spitz

A Spitz is a type of dog portrayed by their long, thick fur and pointed ears and muzzles with a tail that curls or hangs down over the dog's back. Some examples of Spitz dogs include the Chow Chow, Shar Pei, Akita Inu, Canaan Dog and Eurasier, amongst others.

Non Spitz

Those in the non-Spitz category would include the Lhasa Apso and French Bulldog.