What dog is best for me/my family?
(on behalf of all canines
(on behalf of all canines everywhere)
Think about the long term . . .
You will have this dog for up to 20 years!
What do I expect the dog is going to do for me?
How much will it cost to own this dog?
NEVER buy a dog on the whim!
Take your time and find a breed that's right for you
Take your time and examine the incredible variety of canines large and small, shorthaired, longhaired, and wire-haired; active and sedate; loving and aloof; strong, loyal, and independent or soft, cuddly, and intuitive; sloppy and prissy; dignified and silly. There's a breed for just about everyone -- but first, people need to examine their own wants and needs and match themselves with the breed requirements and temperament.
What Breed? To choice a breed is not always as easy at it seems when a family decides to get a dog. You have to build a compatible relationship with the dog you pick to share your lives with. You have to make a thoughtful choice of a pet to fit your personality and your circumstances. An Afghan needs room to run, a Chow is a dominant dog completely unlike their teddy-bear appearance, And a Lab is a very active dog that retains puppy characteristics for two years or more.
For centuries, man has bred dogs to do particular jobs. Today, few dogs do those jobs, but they still harbor the skills and adaptations that made them successful in their original careers. Breeds require different types and amounts of care, training, food, and exercise. They have different "personalities" and drives. Some are laid back and gentle, some are dominant; some are noisy; some dig holes, climb fences, and escape through doorways to satisfy their need to run. Others are always busy and can be destructive if not given enough to do. And still others are bright, but more or less difficult to train. Some are good watchdogs and others are over-friendly.
So what puppy do I get? To increase chances of a successful match, potential puppy buyers should first establish a budget of time, money, and convenience and then research the breeds that are most likely to fit their personal situation.
Consider what type of dog you want and what you expect the dog to contribute to your life. Activity level, trainability, and grooming needs should be part of the equation. If you hike or jog and would like a companion, look at medium or large breeds that can accompany you. If you hate the thought of dog-hair all over the floor, consider a short-coated breed. If you have children and cannot spend a lot of time training or exercising a dog, look at the quieter breeds that are easy to train.
Once you have decided on a general type, you can narrow it down by considering cost, suitability for the household, and time involved in training and grooming. Purebred dogs generally cost more than mixed breeds, and they are more predictable as to size, coat type, and temperament. Whatever the original cost of the animal, money spent on maintenance depends on size, coat type, and training needs.
Big dogs generally cost more to feed, medicate, and spay or neuter, and their toys, bowls, collars, and leashes are more expensive. Grooming and boarding charges are usually higher, because large dogs take more time and space than small dogs.
Dogs with dominant personalities generally need more training sessions than mild-mannered dogs, and heavy-coated dogs, Bichons, Poodles, hard-coated terriers, and some others may need professional grooming to keep their coats in good shape. Even if dogs don't need professional grooming, they need home grooming, which requires buying specific types of combs and brushes and can take considerable time if the dog has a long coat, a double coat, or a soft coat that tangles easily.
How Do I Pick the Right Dog? First, potential puppy buyers should determine whether small, medium, large, or giant breeds fit their living space and financial budget and whether an active or laid back dog fits their lifestyle. Then all members of the family should read as much as possible about breeds that fit the bill.
Then find a local breeder. Kennel clubs, veterinarians, boarding kennels, groomer, and pet supply stores will often refer buyers to responsible local breeders. Before making a final decision on a breed, visit a couple of breeders and, if possible, a dog show or fair to see puppies and adults of the breeds you are considering and talk to several breeders (long before or a bit after they go into the ring) about the advantages and disadvantages of the breed. Behavior of dogs at a show is not necessarily a good clue to the temperament of the breed, for show dogs are usually the best a breeder has to offer and have been conditioned to behave in crowds. It is, however, better than not seeing the dogs close up and personal at all.
Be sure to visit the obedience rings as well as conformation rings; if there are no representatives of your chosen breed in the ring, it may be a clue that the breed is difficult to train. Budget money for puppy purchase, feed, veterinary attention, and training. If the breed has a long or difficult coat, add the cost of professional grooming. Purebred puppies cost anywhere from $500 for a pet of a small breed to $2000 or more for a show dog of a rare breed or a pup from exceptional bloodlines. Most purebred puppies cost $500-$1000 for pets.
Food costs increase with the size of the dog. Price several premium feeds - generic or house brand foods are the equivalent of junk food and can cause health problems related to poor nutrition. Veterinary services often cost more for large dogs than small dogs. A large crate is more expensive than a small one, and boarding and grooming services are often based on the size of the dog.
The buyer's health and physical condition is important as well. Someone with arthritis, chronic back problems, allergies, asthma, or other limiting ailments would be wise to choose a small-to-medium-sized dog needing moderate exercise to avoid the physical stress involved in maneuvering large canine bodies or providing sufficient activity for the pet. Easy care, wash and wear dogs take less time than long-coated or double-coated breeds. Breeds that need lots of exercise take more time.
Selecting the right breed takes time and effort. After all, a puppy becomes a dog that will be part of the family for a 12 to 18 years or more. A puppy should never be purchased on a whim, because it looks lonely in the pet store, or because the retailer will take plastic money. Animal shelters are full of puppies that became dogs that didn't fit their family lifestyle or were too hard to train or too expensive to keep. It's so much easier to do the homework necessary to find a compatible breed before the purchase than to subject family and dog to the heartaches that result from incompatibility.
What Breed Should I Get? Let's answer this question by group.
The AKC divides dogs into seven groups: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, and herding. The non-sporting group includes several breeds that could easily fit elsewhere; the Dalmatian and Standard Poodle have sporting dog personalities and energy level; the Chow, Finnish Spitz, and Shiba were originally hunting dogs; and the Boston Terrier is by rights a terrier.
Sporting Dogs in the sporting group include the setters, pointers, spaniels, retrievers, and a handful of others, all bred to hunt game birds. Some work in water, others on land, and still others in both. Their personality range from mild to hardheaded to tough, but all are suitable family dogs for an active household of patient owners. However, if you don't want to train your sporting breed, forget about the Weimaraner or Chesapeake Bay Retriever, for these breeds can be domineering if not taught to toe the line. If you have boisterous or overzealous children, cross the Cocker Spaniel off the list, for Cockers will not abide rough handling or teasing. If you cannot keep your dog confined in a securely fenced yard when he's not under direct supervision, choose a breed that is more willing to be a homebody. The sporting dogs were bred to hunt, and most will take advantage of every opportunity to follow their noses up hill and down dale.
The stars of the sporting group are the Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever. They enjoy the attention of well-behaved children and will usually put up with some bratty behavior. They are relatively easy to train, easy to care for, and often seem to be perpetually young. The Brittany and the English Springer Spaniel are smaller and far less popular but have the same great personality traits and sparkling manner. The setters are very high-energy dogs that are fine for active families, and the pointers are working dogs that tolerate children but are not particularly easy to train as house pets.
Hounds The hounds come in many sizes and in two basic types -- scent hounds, which follow their noses anywhere, and sight hounds, whose gaze lingers on the horizon in the search for game. Some of the scent hounds are lethargic; others are almost frenzied to get about the business of following a trail. Most are difficult to obedience train because their noses are always responding to the pungent world of odors.
The scent hounds are friendly critters accustomed to working with their handlers in the field. Sight hounds, bred to work independently of the hunter, tend to be tough to obedience train. The scent hounds are Basset; Beagle (in two sizes, up-to-13 inches, and 13-15 inches); Black and Tan Coonhound; Bloodhound; Dachshunds (three coats types -- wire, smooth, and long --- and two sizes -- standard and miniature); American and English Foxhounds; Harrier; Norwegian Elkhound; Otterhound; and Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. The Elkhound looks more like a sled dog than a hound; it was bred to hunt moose in snow-covered mountains and has the typical northern dog thick undercoat that sheds profusely.
The sighthounds are pictures of grace and elegance with their long legs, slender bodies, and long noses. They are Afghan Hound; Basenji; Borzoi (Russian Wolfhound); Greyhound; Ibizan Hound; Irish Wolfhound; Pharaoh Hound; Rhodesian Ridgeback; Saluki; Scottish Deerhound; and Whippet. Rhodesian Ridgeback is also used as guard dogs, and Greyhounds still race at tracks in several states. Many sighthounds owners participate in lure coursing, a chasing sport that mimics the hunts for which their dogs were originally bred. In lure coursing, the dogs chase a plastic bag pulled along a wire on a marked course.
Working breeds The working dogs are medium-to-giant size and are often independent and difficult to manage. Some were developed to guard palaces; homes, and livestock, occupations that require true grit. Others were draft animals, hauling carts of fish or cheese or carrying the worldly goods of nomadic tribes. Several of these breeds are jacks of many trades. The Sammy was born as a bed-warmer, sledge-hauler, and reindeer herder. The Newf. as a sea-going rescue dog as well as a cart-pulling draft dog. The Rottweiler as a cattle drover and farmer's protector. The Akita's as palace guards and big game hunters. Many of these breeds are aloof and independent with strangers. Working dogs should be accustomed to children at an early age, for a child's staring, quick and unpredictable movements, and high-pitched voice can trigger prey drive in unsocialized or poorly socialized adults of these breeds.
Of the working breeds, the Samoyed, Saint Bernard, Portuguese Water Dog, Newfoundland, and Siberian Husky have the mildest temperaments, and the Akita, Rottweiler, Boxer, Komondor, and Doberman can be the most domineering. The remaining working breeds are Alaskan Malamute, Bernese Mountain Dog, Bullmastiff; Giant Schnauzer; Great Dane; Great Pyrenees; Kuvasz; Mastiff; and Standard Schnauzer.
A working breed that is not socialized as a puppy and young adult can easily become a domineering pet prone to jumping on people and furniture, growling at children and unconfident adults, and refusing to come when called or lie down on command. With few exceptions, working breeds are not suitable for first time dog owners without a commitment to formal obedience training and a willingness to establish and maintain control from the moment the puppy walks in the door.
Many of the working breeds have thick, downy undercoats and moderately long topcoats that shed once or twice each year. The undercoats are fine and drift everywhere; the topcoats are somewhat coarse and can pierce human skin. During shedding, these dogs should be combed daily. Owners need a laissez-faire attitude about neatness as the hair gets into every nook and cranny and on every piece of clothing in the house. Those who are unprepared for the volume of hair involved will wonder just how all that fuzz fit on one dog, so be sure you don't mind ubiquitous hair if you consider one of these breeds.
The immensely popular Rottweiler, a breed that is at once maligned and praised for it's ability as a family guardian, suffers from supply-and-demand run amuck - too many ignorant breeders are producing too many poor-quality puppies that are being purchased by too many ignorant buyers. A guard dog is more than teeth and toughness; a good guard dog has a stable personality and a sense of judgment to combine with his loyalty and territorial imperative. If you decide on a Rottie, be sure to buy from a reputable breeder.
Hard To Handle Breed's Other working breeds that need a firm hand are Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Boxer, Great Pyrenees, Kuvasz, Bullmastiff, Mastiff, Giant Schnauzer, Doberman, Komondor, Siberian Husky, and Standard Schnauzer. Akita's, Malamutes, Boxers, Komondor, and the Schnauzers can be dog aggressive, and Akita's and Mals will hunt small game and cats.
Easy To Handle Breed's Working dogs that are easier to handle are Newfoundland, Portuguese Water Dog, Samoyed, Bernese Mountain Dog, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Great Dane, and Saint Bernard. Actually, folks who like the look of the Rottweiler but do not want the responsibility of owning a guardian breed should consider the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. It is similar to the Rottie in looks (big, muscular, and black and tan, but with white on the chest, neck, face, and feet) but was developed as a draft dog, not a protector, and has a milder attitude.
Many working dogs are susceptible to degenerative joint disease, particularly hip dysplasia, and should only be purchased from breeders who clear their breeding stock of this genetic abnormality.
Terriers The terriers are also hunting dogs, but their game is generally vermin, not birds and animals for the dinner table. With few exceptions, terriers developed in the British Isles to control rats, mice, foxes, and other predatory animals that raided farmer's grains and chickens, shopkeepers storage bins, and housewives' kitchen larders. The terriers come in wire, smooth, and soft coats and in short- and long-legged body types.
Terrier temperament is fiery. The smallest terriers are scrappy, ready to take on even giant sized adversaries. This attitude stood them well in vermin hunting and gives them an earnest and often boisterous attitude towards life as a pet. On the down side, some terriers are yappy and can be nippy with overactive children. They can also be quite independent and difficult to train for the weak-of-will.
The wire-haired terriers have special grooming needs. Dead hairs must be pulled out of their coats to maintain good coat color and texture. The hard-coated terriers are Airedale, Australian, Border, Cairn, Irish, Lakeland, Miniature Schnauzer, Norfolk, Norwich, Scottish, Sealyham, Skye, Welsh, West Highland White, and Wirehaired Fox.
The soft-coated terriers are the Soft-coated Wheaten and Kerry Blue. Terriers with both soft and hard hairs are the Bedlington and Dandie Dinmont. Smooth-coated terriers are the American Staffordshire, Bull, Standard Manchester, Smooth Fox, and Staffordshire Bull.
Terriers are not generally good for rowdy children, for they will give back as well (or better) than is dished out. Three terriers, the Border, Irish, and the Soft-coated Wheaten are considered to be generally good with children. The others are recommended only for families with older, well-behaved youngsters.
Hard-coated terriers are often preferred by families with allergies because they do not drop their dead hairs throughout the house. Instead, the dead hairs must be pulled out in order to keep the skin healthy and maintain the coats' rich colors and bright whites. Many terrier owners prefer to have a groomer do the job.
Most terriers are tough to train, for they have there own idea of how the world works and that idea frequently differs from the owners'. Few will back down from a confrontation with another dog.
Toy breeds Toy dogs, smaller versions of other breeds, were developed as companions to the ladies and gentlemen of the courts in various nations. In the Orient, they rode inside the great sleeves of noblemen's robes; in Europe, they rode in baskets carried by noblewomen; everywhere, they sat on laps and warmed beds in cold castles and palaces.
Diminutive size does not mean a mildness of temperament; many little dogs are as tough as their larger cousins are. As a rule (Pug excepted), they do not like small children, and their movements can be too quick for elderly family members. Many breeders of toy dogs keep their puppies until they are 10-12 weeks old instead of selling them at the more-typical eight weeks. And many will not sell to a family with young children or very active children.
Toy dogs are 'generally' easy care pets, but NOT always!!
Some (Shih Tzu, Pomeranian, Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, and Pekingese) require heavy grooming; some (Japanese Chin, Toy Poodle, and English Toy Spaniel) require moderate grooming; and other require little or no grooming. The important thing is to keep the long, fine hairs free of tangles and mats to avoid pain and skin problems for the dog and a big grooming or vet bill for you. Some need relatively more exercise than larger breeds and are frantic apartment dwellers. Most are less than 12 inches tall and weigh less than 12 pounds.
Many toy breeds are mass-produced for pet stores. Several Chihuahuas or Italian Greyhounds can be kept in a chicken cage or shopping cart, so even though their litters tend to be small, they are far easier to house than Akita's or German Shepherds.
Toy breeds purchased in pet stores are often hard to housetrain.
The toy breeds are Affenpinscher, Brussels Griffon, Chihuahua (long-haired and smooth-coated), English Toy Spaniel, Italian Greyhound, Japanese Chin, Maltese, Toy Manchester Terrier, Miniature Pinscher, Papillon, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Toy Poodle, Pug, Shih Tzu, Silky Terrier, and Yorkshire Terrier.
Several of the toy breeds are often crossbred to produce -poo dogs. These are not purebred dogs and should never be purchased as such. Many -poo dogs are fine pets, but some are yappy, hyper, or ill tempered.
Non-sporting dogs This is a diverse group of dogs ranging in size from the Bichon Frise to the 60-pound Dalmatian and including the northern-type Keeshonden and Finnish Spitz and two of the three Poodle varieties. There's no unifying theme here; in fact, several of these breeds could easily fit another group.
These dogs have come to be known as companions even though they started out with a variety of jobs in their native lands. The so-ugly-it's-adorable English Bulldog was designed to grab a bull by the snout and hang on for dear life until the animal could be killed. The Dalmatian was a Gypsy camp dog in Europe and then a coach dog in England. The Standard Poodle was a German hunting dog, the Tibetan Terrier alerted the monastery to the approach of strangers, the Shiba hunted small game in Japan, the Keeshond oversaw the start of a new political party, and the Finnish Spitz hunted large game birds.
Of the non-sporting dogs, the Dalmatian and Chow Chow are probably the most misunderstood. The Dalmatian is an active, independent, athletic dog that needs a firm hand; the Chow's adult attitude is not as soft and fuzzy as an adorable Chow puppy would lead one to believe. Unfortunately, these two breeds suffer from their popularity when people purchase them without appreciating their personalities and needs. The personalities of these dogs range from the calm of the Bulldog to the high energy of the Dalmatian and cover about everything in between. The Dalmatian has been overbred to satisfy the market created by the movies and by the popularity of black-and-white fashion design. Families looking for a Dalmatian should choose their source very carefully to avoid getting a hyperactive, fearful, aggressive, or deaf puppy.
The remaining non-sporting breeds are Boston Terrier, Bulldog, French Bulldog, Lhasa Apso, Schipperke, Tibetan Spaniel, Tibetan Terrier.
Herding dogs About a dozen years ago, the AKC separated herding dogs from the working group. These are the dogs who began their careers as livestock herders in the British Isles, on the European Continent, and in the US, the indispensable farmers' dogs that could work dawn-to-dusk to bring the sheep to the barn or to market. Several of these breeds have gone on to excel in police work, search and rescue, tracking, service the handicapped and as sentries and couriers during wartime.
Most herding dogs are active, intelligent, courageous, and determined. Many are favorites for obedience competition for their strong working bond with their owners. They are mostly medium-to-large in size, but include the smaller Shetland Sheepdog and the two Corgis. The German Shepherd, a versatile working dog, is part of this group, as is the Border Collie, the new darling of the Babe set.
The Border Collie is not a breed for everyone. It is very smart and must be kept very busy. Unless you can spend lots of time playing Frisbee or fetch, find someone with agility equipment you can use, or teach the dog to herd sheep or ducks, forget the Border Collie. This dog doesn't just need exercise, he needs meaningful exercise. A walk won't do unless he gets to fetch something, herd something, or climb over, under, around, and through something. Border Collie rescue always has several dogs whose owners did not realize these things before they bought the dog.
The other herding breeds are calmer. The German Shepherd is prone to temperament problems because of over breeding, so it is imperative to seek out a responsible breeder who deals only in dogs of good temperament. The German Shepherds from European working lines tend to have higher drives than the US dogs; these dogs also must have work to do or they can become destructive.
The Australian Cattle Dog, the Briard, and the Australian Shepherd can be hardheaded. The puli are a happy ball of fire. The rough-coated Collie is a true family companion. If grooming is not in your repertoire, try smooth-coated version of the breed. The Old English Sheepdog must be groomed often to prevent mats and is somewhat hardheaded. The three Belgian breeds are relatively easy to train; the Malinois requires little grooming, but the Tervuren and Shepherd must be brushed a couple of times a week.
Herding dogs are subject to hip dysplasia and should be purchased only from breeders who x-ray their stock. Some herding breeds suffer from over popularity and have flighty or fearful temperaments.
The herding breeds are Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Cattle Dog, Bearded Collie, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Tervuren, Bouvier des Flandres, Briard, Collie, German Shepherd Dog, Old English Sheepdog, Puli, Shetland Sheepdog, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, and Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
Popularity When a particular dog earns headlines or has a movie or television role, sales on the breed often surge. 101 Dalmatians brought an increase in the spotted dogs, and poor breeding practices produced some overactive Dalmatians with quirky temperaments. Turner and Hooch featured a Dogue de Bordeaux, a large, drooly mastiff, and everybody wanted one of these huge, slobbery dogs. Beethoven popularized St. Bernard's, and the television comedy Fraser shows off the delightful character of a little Jack Russell Terrier known as Eddie. And then there's the Border Collie family in the aluminum foil commercial, the Golden Retriever in the Oreo ad, and the Siberian Huskies that eat whatever dog food.