Choosing the Right Breed
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
Whether the kids finally wore you down, or you’ve finally moved into a pet-friendly home; whether you’ve recently lost your beloved best furry friend, or you’re out on your own for the first time and want a four-legged companion, choosing the breed of dog that’s right for you is an important decision, and is not to be taken lightly.
The first thing to consider is whether you and your family are really ready for a dog. Especially if you intend to get a puppy, everyone in the home must realize that they require constant supervision, care, and attention. The only low-energy puppy is an unhealthy puppy. “But it’s not my dog!” is never an acceptable attitude. Everyone has to agree that they are up for the challenge of caring for a puppy and maintaining consistency.
Once everyone in the home is on board, there are many factors to consider that will help you pick the perfect breed. First, think about why you want a dog. Are you looking for a running partner or a lap dog; are you seeking a protector or a shopping buddy; do you need help keeping your livestock in check or do you want a friend for your children to grow up with? Every kind of dog was bred with a specific purpose, and a dog fulfilling this purpose is a happy dog. One who is looking for a loyal protector should consider a German Shepherd, a Bouvier des Flandres or an Akita Inu, these dogs make wonderful house pets and will always alert you of intruders. One looking for a cute little munchkin to tote around town would enjoy a Maltese, a Papillon, or a Pug, these dogs can be carried in a small fashionable carrier and are content to go everywhere with you. A good playmate for your children would be a Labrador Retriever, a Boston Terrier, or a Beagle, these dogs are gentle and patient, and, if properly socialized, will tolerate rough play without grumpiness. Great companions who will pull their weight on a farm include Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers, and Australian Cattle Dogs; these dogs are full of energy and love to work. If you want a workout buddy, think about a Golden Retriever, a Greyhound, or a Schipperke, you will probably wear out before they do.
Next, you have to think about energy level, exercise needs and environment. If you chose an intense and high energy dog, but prefer a sedentary lifestyle, you and your new friend will be unhappy. Do not get a high energy dog in hopes that he will force you into a workout routine. You will have whatever dog you choose for the next 8 to 18 years, depending on the breed, and if you haven’t already started running or jogging, it isn’t fair to commit to a dog who requires that kind of activity. Furthermore, if you live in an apartment, or just don’t have a yard, you should look for a dog who is lower-energy and content to just hang around. Apartment life, however, does not mean you can’t have a dog who needs a lot of exercise, if you have a dog park nearby and are up to the duty of long daily walks. If you have acres for your dog to wander, though, a high energy dog will be much happier. Dogs who would be especially content to be your couch buddy include Bulldogs, Mastiffs, and Pekingese. Keep in mind, however, that some low energy dogs are not so great to raise with children because they may grow impatient with constant commotion. Dogs who require a lot of exercise are fun for kids, but are a big commitment; some of these breeds include Siberian Huskies, German Short Haired Pointers, and English Springer Spaniels.
How much free time do you have to dedicate to the new addition to your family? This is an issue as far as energy level and ease of training. Of course, a high energy dog will require much more of your time for a couple of daily walks and lots of games of fetch and Frisbee. Some dogs are much more easily trained than others as well. Labradors, Yorkies, and Old English Sheepdogs are among the breeds who are especially eager to please and can learn tricks like “paw” in as little as ten minutes; they make wonderful first dogs. Other breeds require a huge amount of time, consistency, and commitment to housebreak and train, but if you’re up to it, make great companions. Some of these breeds include Beagles, Schipperkes, and Afghan Hounds. If you’ve never owned or trained a dog, these more independent, strong-willed breeds are significantly more challenging.
Another consideration as far as time and maintenance is grooming. Dogs like Irish Setters, Maltese, and Airedales require almost constant upkeep to maintain their beautiful coats. Short-haired breeds like Boxers, Basset Hounds, and Whippets require the occasional brush and bath, but are otherwise self-sufficient.
Do you have other pets? Some breeds have a highly developed prey drive and if you have other animals in the home, especially rodents, certain breeds will try to fetch them and present them to you as a gift. Greyhounds, terrier breeds, and retrievers are likely to display this behavior. However, any dog who is well socialized with other animals at a young age can learn to live with your other dog, cat, or even ferret or rabbit. Keep in mind that conditioning a more prey-driven breed to live with small animals is time consuming and requires dedication.
Is your dream dog a snuggle bug, or would you prefer a dog who likes to keep more to himself? Is your dog going to be by your side the majority of the time, or is he going to spend a lot of time alone? Some especially affectionate breeds who prefer to be with you as much as possible include the Newfoundland, the Otterhound, and the American Cocker Spaniel. Shar-Pei, Keeshonds, and Shiba Inu are more content with their alone time.
Are shedding or allergies an issue for you? Some people don’t mind vacuuming and having a lint roller on hand at all times, and others can’t be bothered, or have allergies which limit the amount of dander they can handle in the house. Those who can’t stand dog hair should stay away from Saint Bernards, Akitas, and Collies, and look towards Schnauzers, Basenjis, and the Chinese Crested.
What about expense? If you are on an extremely tight budget, remember that a big dog can eat like a horse. Small dogs will go through less food, and usually products for dogs such as clothing, crates, collars and beds are priced based on size. If you aren’t sure that you will be able to provide a constant supply of food, do not get a dog. But, if you are looking for a less expensive option than a Great Dane or Malamute, which can eat 5-8 cups of food every day, think about a miniature or toy breed, which will only eat up to 2 cups a day.
Remember that dogs are just like people, we inherit many physical features and aspects of our disposition from our parents, but we are all individuals too. There are aggressive Labs, energetic Bulldogs, and timid Rottweilers because every dog has a different personality, and so much of how dogs behave is a result of how they are raised, socialized, and trained. Use these ideas about choosing the right breed as a guideline, try to put out of your head picking a particular breed just because it is popular or cute, and don’t forget that proper care, training, and attention are important no matter what breed you choose.