Have you ever complimented someone’s Bichon Frize only to be told they were actually a Bolognese? How embarrassing! The thing is, many dog breeds get confused all the time. This makes sense, considering tons of dogs have been developed by combining existing breeds into something new. Additionally, many breeds come in a wide variety of colors and coats, causing them to pass for different dogs (for example, Golden Retrievers range from bright white to deep red). Grooming can also totally change a dog’s appearance. So stop blaming yourself! Check out these breeds that people confuse all the time, but aren’t the same.
How to identify dog breeds
There are hundreds of dog breeds officially recognized worldwide. The American Kennel Club recognizes 200 dog breeds to date. The best way to identify them is to check their breed standard and parent club. But, if you don’t have time to go over the possible breed standards for every puppy you see, here are some clues to help you figure out what you’re looking for:
Note that it may take a few introductions to really understand what breed you are dealing with, as personalities are an important aspect of purebred dogs. Speaking of which, this list focuses on the purebred versions of each breed. Encountering a dog that looks like one type of dog but has a unique characteristic (like a German Spitz-style tail on an Australian Shepherd, which usually doesn’t have a tail) means multiple breeds are in play.
1. Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes
Height: 20 – 24 inches
Lester: 30 – 60 pounds
Personality: social, loyal
Activity level: High
Coat: Double, white with black, brown, gray or red
Life expectancy: 12-14 years old
Huskies and Malamutes look eerily similar as they both evolved in regions with harsh winter climates. However, one was not bred from the other – they are separate breeds! The main differences are that Malamutes are larger, heavier dogs with spitz-style tails (curly tails). Huskies are smaller in size and usually have brushed (straight) tails. It’s also worth noting that Huskies can have blue eyes (or one blue eye and one brown eye), while Malamutes only have brown eyes. Both sled dogs excel in running and are social, but the AKC says Huskies crave speed and Malamutes are better at hauling heavy loads.
2. American Eskimo Dogs (Standard) and Samoyeds
American Eskimo Dog (standard)
A standard-sized American Eskimo dog looks a lot like a Samoyed. The main difference here will be the coat and the size. Samoyeds are taller than Eskies (the smallest they can be is about as tall as an Eskie will get) and their coats are longer thanks to a dense inner layer of fur. Both breeds were used for work, although Samoyeds are classified as working dogs and the Eskies are in the non-sporting group. Eskies can have more playful and goofy personalities (they have a history as circus performers), while Samoyeds can be slightly more serious. Regardless, both of these breeds are loving pets that are ideal for families.
3. Bearded Collies and Old English Sheepdogs
old english sheepdog
The key question here is, “How fluffy is this dog?” If the answer is “Rather fluffy”, you’re dealing with an Old English Sheepdog. Bearded Collies probably have just as much coat, but they are flatter and straighter and feel silkier to the touch. Although similar in size, Old English Sheepdogs are bulkier and can weigh almost twice as much. Both breeds evolved in the rugged terrain of Scotland and Britain as herding dogs, making them intelligent and energetic pets.
4. Bichon Frises and Bolognese
Now we’re entering tiny, fluffy white dog territory. It’s easy to confuse these buggers because they’re all sweet companions with similar coat styles and personalities. To tell Bichon Frises and Bolognese apart, check their size and coat style. It’s easier if dog parents let their puppies’ coats grow out. Bichons have puffy double coats (these are the round, white balls you see at dog shows). Bolognese coats are much more wavy, almost frizzy, but soft to the touch. While Bichons are heavier than Bolognese, both have tails that curl over their backs and semi-floppy ears. If the pup in question has been shrunk down to a few inches, look at its personality for more clues. Bichons tend to be much more outgoing, playful, and energetic.
5. Coton de Tulears and Maltese
Two other little white dogs! The Coton de Tulear and the Maltese have a similar coat when they grow up, although the Maltese tends to be silkier and straighter. Coton de Tulear coats – when long – are slightly wavy and puffy. Of the small pups we’ve covered so far, Maltese are definitely the smallest. They are companion dogs that can be a bit more reserved around new people. Notice their little black nose and black eyes! Both breeds are known to be affectionate and trainable dogs.
6. Beagles and harriers
Beagles and Harriers are smaller than american foxhound (which can weigh up to 75 pounds), but it’s easy to confuse the three breeds because of their coat color. Beagles are best known for their short, smooth black, white, and tan coats. You can also find them in shades of tan, red, lemon, and blue. Harriers, in addition to being almost twice as large as beagles, have less coat variation. Both are dogs with strong hunting and prey instincts that aren’t afraid to alert you to intruders.
7. Lakeland Terriers and Welsh Terriers
Terriers are known for their confidence and rambling personalities, and Lakeland and Welsh Terriers are no exception. These incredibly similar dogs have all the characteristics of traditional terriers, including unlimited energy. The differences are minimal. Lakes are smaller and come in a wider variety of coat colors, including blue, black, tan, red, and wheat. Welsh Terriers are almost always black and tan. These two were both raised in england and they are thought to be descendants of the Old English Black and Tan Terriers, just like the Airedale Terrier (a much larger dog). A noticeable difference in personality is that the Welsh Terrier can learn commands better; his story is about hunting badgers and foxes. Lakeland Terriers were also bred to hunt foxes as part of their sheep herding routine, so they tend to be a bit more free-spirited.
If you see a small terrier with a white, black and tan wire-like coat, chances are you’re looking at a Wire Fox Terrier! They are about the same size as Lakelands and Welsh and still have white in their coat.
8. Norfolk Terriers and Norwich Terriers
Much the same? These dogs are basically twins. Bred to hunt rats and rodents, Norwich and Norfolk terriers were actually considered the same breed. The AKC finally accepted each as a unique dog in 1979. One of the only ways to tell them apart is by their ears. Norfolk ears droop and Norwich ears point up.
9. Scottish Deerhounds and Irish Wolfhounds
Scottish hunting dogs
As some of the largest and most regal dogs in the canine kingdom, these dogs have many similarities. First of all, their names tell us a lot about them. Scottish Deerhounds have roamed the highlands of Scotland for thousands of years, killing wild red deer. Irish Wolfhounds are equally ancient and were reliable and courageous wolf hunters. They tend to be slightly larger than Scottish Deerhounds, although females of both breeds are smaller than males. To tell them apart, look at the colors of their coat. Irish Wolfhounds have lighter shades like cream, silver, and white.
10. Shetland Sheepdogs and Collies
The biggest difference between Shetland Sheepdogs and Collies is size. If you come across a dog over 16 inches and it looks like a Collie, it’s probably a Collie. Shetland Sheepdogs, although they may have the same coloring and length, fluffy coats like collies, are much smaller dogs. They may also be more excited to see you. Collies, on the other hand, are large, muscular canines that can have a long, rough coat or a short, smooth coat. Both can be multiple colors, such as black, white, tan, blue merle, and sable (which is a combination of brown and black).
11. Whippets and Italian Greyhounds
Like Shelties and Collies, these two will be easier to tell apart if you see them side by side. Whippets grow larger than Italian Greyhounds, which rarely exceed 14 pounds and prefer to be carried rather than walked. Both, however, are dogs that like to run (and can run fast). Italian Greyhounds can bark more than Whippets, and Whippets tend to prefer more outdoor play time than Italian Greyhounds. Either way, you are signing up for a passionate companion who will love you dearly.