Rapid advances have been made to uncover the mechanisms that regulate dendritic cell (DC) development, and in turn, how models of development can be employed to define dendritic cell function. Models of DC development have been used to define the unique functions of DC subsets during immune responses to distinct pathogens. More recently, models of DC function have expanded to include their homeostatic and inflammatory physiology, modes of communication with various innate and adaptive immune lineages, and specialized functions across different lymphoid organs. New models of DC development call for revisions of previously accepted paradigms with respect to the ontogeny of plasmacytoid DC (pDC) and classical DC (cDC) subsets. By far, development of the cDC1 subset is best understood, and models have now been developed that can separate deficiencies in development from deficiencies in function. Such models are lacking for pDCs and cDC2s, limiting the depth of our understanding of their unique and essential roles during immune responses. If novel immunotherapies aim to harness the functions of human DCs, understanding of DC development will be essential to develop models DC function. Here we review emerging models of DC development and function.