How to Choose the Right Breed for You
So you have made the decision to get a dog. Perhaps you had a bad experience once before with a dog who you thought was cute or friendly, but then when you got him home he turned out to be a holy terror, and the whole thing turned into a nightmare. Even if you have never had such a bad experience, the fact remains that choosing a pet is a life-changing decision, and it is one that takes a lot of thought and research. Different breeds of dogs have different needs, behaviors and characteristics. Indeed each and every person in your home also has different needs, behaviors and characteristics, and you need to choose a breed with which you and your family can all be comfortable and compatible.
The most important thing to consider before selecting a breed of dog is to realize that there is a lot to consider. The easiest mistake someone acquiring a dog can make is to not take into account something that should have been taken into account before bringing your new family member home. Below, then, are some of the factors you should consider before making a decision about what kind of dog you are going to adopt.
CostHere is a statement that may shock you – generally speaking, large dogs eat more than smaller dogs. Yes, I know, you didn’t see that one coming did you? Nevertheless, it is true, and it is something that you can’t ignore just because you prefer the look of a larger dog. You need to investigate any breed you are considering carefully to find out just how much he or she needs to eat and then you need to go to your store to price the dog food there so you can know just exactly how much that dog is going to cost you to feed for a week or a month. You can’t afford to be sentimental here, because unless you are a billionaire, you literally can’t afford to be sentimental.
Energy LevelWe mean your energy level, actually, more than the dog’s. You must decide just how much activity are you up for, because some dogs need a lot of exercise in order to stay healthy and happy. Of course if you are a runner or jogger, this may be exactly what you want. However if you prefer quiet times at home, then a dog that needs to run like the wind would not be the ideal choice. Some dogs that make great athletic companions include:
- The Afghan Hound
- Golden Retriever
- Irish Setter
- Siberian Husky
- Alaskan Malamute
- German Shepherd
Good with Children?
For the most part all dogs are good with children. Nevertheless some breeds are better than others, and some of the best of the best include:
- Golden or Labrador Retriever
- Cocker Spaniel
- German Shepherd
Bad Personal HabitsIn this case we mean the dog instead of you: does he shed, drool or bark incessantly? Maybe biological functions like these don’t much bother you. But if drooling, for example, disgusts you, then a Bulldog or a Saint Bernard is probably not the best choice. If you are a bit persnickety about dog hairs on your clothing or furniture, then you might want to avoid Pomeranians, Chow Chows, Alaskan Malamutes, German Shepherds or Pekingese. Or perhaps barking in general sets your teeth on edge, in which case you might want to go with a quieter dog such as a Border Collie, Beagle, Siberian Husky or Old English Sheepdog.
Location, Location, Location
For apartment dwellers, small dogs might seem like the obvious choice, since their legs are so short they can easily get enough exercise just running around in even the quaintest little studio. However, many small dogs tend to bark a lot, which may not make you too popular with the neighbors. Larger dogs that are less active such as the couch potatoes mentioned earlier can also make excellent apartment dogs and even a higher-energy animal can be happy if you have a nice big park nearby.
If you are out in the country with some open space, you might want to consider a working dog. These breeds are generally hardier and stronger in constitution, which might help them if they will be outdoors roaming and occasionally coming across a wild animal or the neighbor’s (mean) dog.
Some excellent country dogs include:
- Great Danes
- Siberian Huskies
- Saint Bernards
- German Shepherds
- Golden Retrievers
TrainingDo you want them to roll over, play dead or catch Frisbees? Maybe you even want them to be in some kind of show or contest, or you need them to perform some kind of specific working task. If you really want a dog that can be well-trained, there are certain breeds that respond well and enjoy performing and feeling useful.
Some of the most easily trained dogs are:
- The German Shepherd
- Australian Shepherd
- Border Collie
- Golden or Labrador Retriever
- Cocker or English Spaniel
- Doberman Pinscher
- And of course the Collie (“What’s that Lassie; you say Timmy has fallen down the well again?”)
RoleMost want dogs as pets,but perhaps what you are looking for is a guard dog or watch dog. Guard dogs should be highly trainable and physically strong (i.e. the Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Mastiff), but smaller dogs can function perfectly well as watchdogs if they are alert and vocal in the presence of strangers.
Time to Make Your ChoiceIt might be a good idea to make a chart, with the characteristics you want in a dog across the top, and different breeds of dog listed vertically on the side. Finding information about dog breeds is easy - just look for websites that cover dog-related topics and you will find pictures and descriptions readily available. After constructing the chart, go down the list putting check marks in each category where a dog breed matches your desired characteristics. When you are all done, you should have a pretty good idea which dog breeds would be the best for you based on which dogs have received the most positive marks.
Of course, when you go to visit your local shelter, Humane Society chapter or other reputable source to find the breed or breeds you are looking for, you will still have to find the particular dog you want. That is going to be strictly a matter of personal chemistry, no matter what it might say on any chart.