All but two of the terriers evolved in the British Isles. The geography of the specific area (water, rocky terrain) helped to determine the exact duties of each breed, but it usually involved hunting vermin and varmints ranging from rats to badgers to otters and more. These are dogs of great determination, courage and self-confidence, with a great willingness to go to ground in search of its quarry.
Toy dogs have been around for centuries, and are bred for one purpose: to be companions for their humans. Many have been bred down from and still resemble their larger cousins. Their small size and portability make them ideal for city dwellers and those with limited space.
While the uses and appearances of the dogs in the Working Group vary, most are powerfully built and intelligent, performing various tasks for their people. These dogs are working farm and draft animals. They guard homes and livestock, serve heroically as police and military dogs, security dogs, guide and service dogs and hunters.
The invention of the gun led to the development of the sporting, or gun dogs, to aid in hunting upland game birds or waterfowl, performing at the direction of the hunter. While a number of these breeds perform more than one task, it is generally the duty of pointers and setters to point and mark game; for spaniels to flush game; and for retrievers to recover dead and wounded game.
Originally classified as sporting dogs because of their function as hunters, breeds in the Hound Group are of a great variety of size, shape and coat. Most of these breeds were developed to hunt somewhat independently for their humans, who usually followed on foot or on horseback as the hounds chased down the prey. This group informally consists of scent hounds, dogs that hunt by tracking a scent, and sight hounds, who spot their game and run it down.
The AKC originally registered dogs as either Sporting or Non-Sporting. Eventually, hounds and terriers were split from the Sporting Group, and the Toys and Working dogs were split off from Non-Sporting, with the Herding Group eventually splitting from Working. Today, the Non-Sporting Group is literally every breed that is left, resulting in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, hair, function and history.
Herding is a natural instinct in dogs that is seen in the wild. Humans have used that instinct to their advantage on farms and ranches with herding dogs who have the sole purpose of gathering and moving livestock from one place to another.