How I Met My Dog

10 Dog Breeds and What They Were Originally Bred To Do

Portuguese Water Dog

I thought this would be a perfect place to start our list.

The Portuguese Water Dog is a fascinating breed. Almost every dog, save for the next breed on this list, was bred to aid humans, mostly in hunting for food.

It isn’t clear exactly when Portuguese Water Dogs were bred initially, but the first written evidence we have dates back to 1297. During this time Portuguese Water Dogs were seen across the coast of Portugal where fisherman prized them for a variety of reasons: companionship, as guards, and most importantly as helpful little fisher-dogs. If fishermen needed to retrieve a lost net or tackle that had gone overboard, the Porties would happily jump into the water and bring back the lost goods. They would also help herd fish into the fishermen's nets.

As you'd expect with a do-it-all dog like Portuguese Water Dog, this breed is genuinely brilliant, and also a willing learner that is eager to please his owner. The modern PWG can be traced to the exact day the first litter was born, May 1, 1937, at Algarbiorum Kennels in Portugal. America would have to wait another 30 years before seeing this historic breed.


Unlike most of the breeds on this list, the Pug was bred specifically to be a pet. Pugs originated in ancient China and were bred to be companions to the Royals. Pugs were protected and well-cared for and were viewed as status symbols in China. Eventually, they made their way to Europe in the 16th century, and later to North America where they continued to be bred as companions.


Another breed that at one time was viewed as a status symbol, the role of the dalmatian changed dramatically throughout its history.

Dalmatians were originally used as war dogs guarding the border of Dalmatia, one of the four historical regions of Croatia. When Dalmatians made their way to England they were bred to guard horses and coaches. Trotting alongside coaches the Dalmatians earned the nickname the “Spotted Coach Dog.”

In 1890 the first Dalmatian Club was formed in England and the standard for the breed became official. Modern Dalmatians are loving, loyal and notably intelligent.


Looking at a cute little puffball Pomeranian today, I was shocked to learn that they were initially bred to be sled dogs way back in the 16th century. At that time, Pomeranians were much larger than they are today.

Those who have spent time around Pomeranians will tell you that the breed acts larger than it is. This also seems to be true of most chihuahuas, so it may just be the small dog syndrome, or it may be that Pomeranians still think that they're large sled dogs.

These days, Pomeranians make the perfect lap dogs. They’re intelligent and are perfectly content spending as much time with their owners as possible—while continuously being pet of course.

German Shepherd

Wouldn’t you know it, the German Shepherd was bred to shepherd sheep. However, there’s much more to the story of how the German Shepherd came to be.

In the 1800s German sheepherders crossed many different dogs to create a breed that would be intelligent, fast, well-built and had a strong sense of smell.

Due to the widespread crossbreeding there were a variety of shepherd dogs, but in 1899 while attending a dog show, Max von Stephanitz identified a dog that we would recognize today as a German Shepherd. He believed dogs should be bred for working, and this dog embodied the intelligence, strength, and obedience he thought represented the perfect working dog. 

Max von Stephanitz was also a member of a society that tasked itself with standardizing dog breeds in Germany. After buying his new dog, von Stephanitz declared that it was the first true German Shepherd and it became official when it the society added it to their breed register. 

German Shepherds would go on to help in the war effort for Americans in World War II. They are also commonly seen working as police dogs. So, a thank you, and a congratulations are owed to Mr. Max von Stephanitz for establishing one of the most popular working breeds alive today.

Welsh Corgi

Both types of Corgis: the Pembroke, which commonly has no tail, and the Cardigan, were originally bred to herd cattle.

Cute little Corgi's being cattle herders did not make much sense to me the first time I read it, but then when you imagine those little guys running and nipping at the heels of cattle, it all clicks.


The Collie family comprises a collection of herders, including the Australian Cattle Dog, Shetland Sheepdog, and the Border Collie. It's believed that Collies originated in Northern England and Scotland, and showed an exceptional ability to herd a variety of animals including sheep, cattle, and ducks.

Great Dane

Great Danes have been around for thousands of years in various forms, across Egypt, Europe, and China. Most recently, the Great Danes that were bred in Europe were bred to hunt wild boars. Killing a wild boar means coming face to face with an incredibly dangerous animal, so only the toughest hunting dogs could take one down. The tall, powerful Great Dane was the only dog in Europe capable of boar hunting successfully and German emperors would take hundreds of Danes on a single boar hunt. 

Luckily, the modern Great Dane has been continuously bred to be a kinder and less aggressive dog now that the boar hunts are a thing of the past.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Rhodesian Ridgeback sounds just as ferocious as it was bred to be, as these dogs were originally bred to hunt lions and other large animals in South Africa.

Today’s Rhodesian Ridgebacks continue to have a strong desire to chase prey and can show more independence than other dogs. They are fiercely protective of their owners and are very affectionate to those they trust.

Saint Bernard

The history of this breed begins around the year 1050 when an Augustine monk named St. Bernard founded a hospice and monastery at what is now called Great St. Bernard Pass. Sitting at 8,000 feet above sea level, the Great St. Bernard Pass is a 49-mile route through the Western Alps.

In the late 1600s, the monks at Great St. Bernard Hospice brought in dogs which were descendants of mastiffs to be watchdogs and companions. About 100 years later the dogs began to be used to accompany travelers and were useful for clearing a path through the snow. It was then discovered what a good sense of smell these dogs had, and how useful they could be to find lost travelers that were buried in the snow.  Saint Bernards were even intelligent enough that when they discovered a lost traveler, they would lie on top of them to keep them warm until help arrived.

Over the next 150 years, Saint Bernards shined as rescue dogs, and are credited with saving the lives over 2,000 people until the last documented recovery mission in 1897.

The Bottom Line on Dog Breeds

While these dogs were all bred for specific purposes and tend to show particular characteristics, every dog is unique, and you should never judge a dog by his breed. Each dog goes through their own journey in life which shapes who they become in the future. No matter the breed, your dog is an individual with a personality uniquely his own. To find your unique canine soul mate, visit our homepage and take the survey to be matched with a rescue dog that fits your personality and lifestyle. 

Pack Dynamics

Being a good pack leader is NOT about dominating, its about guidance and structure and good parenting.

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