Are you planning on getting a dog? That’s great news, and an exciting time for you and your family! The joy and unconditional love which come from adding a fun and furry member to the household will certainly enhance the lives of all your family members.
There are many variables and options to consider when it comes to choosing a dog but perhaps the single most important decision you will make will be selecting your dog’s breed. It’s a big decision, one that will impact every member of the family including your new canine companion.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
The world of dogdom offers a wondrous assortment of dog breeds. The American Kennel Club recognizes nearly 200 different dog breeds, offering an astounding array of shapes, sizes, temperaments and behaviors.
If you’re a soon-to-be dog owner, that’s both good news and bad news. It’s good, of course, because whatever you might fancy, be it teacup cute or monstrous mastiff, there is a breed out there for you. The big question remains, however, how do you navigate your way through the bewildering assortment of options to arrive at the best breed for your situation?
We recommend you start by considering what combination of the following three traits works best for you and your family.
Some breeds are nervous and skittish, some are laid-back and easy going; some are wary of strangers, others are friendly toward everyone. Determining which temperament you prefer will go a long way towards narrowing your choice of breeds. A breed that tends to be a bit more high-strung, for example, will likely make a better watchdog whilst a breed with a docile temperament may be perfect if you have young children.
When you are out looking at prospective family members be sure to ask the shelter staff or breeder about each breed’s temperament and what would best suit your lifestyle. If you are looking at getting a puppy ask to see the parents or an adult of the same breed, this will give you a much better idea of your four-legged friends temperament once they grow up.
Dog breeds come in a wide array of sizes and this can have an impact on everything from exercise to sleeping arrangements.
Do you live in apartment? Or perhaps you live in a house with a large back yard? Whilst your home can be a factor in determining the size of dog you choose you need to make sure your living situation meets all of the breeds needs. For example, just because you have lots of room doesn’t necessarily mean you should go big with your choice of breed. Remember that a really big dog will eat lots of food – and quality dog food isn’t cheap!
It’s also important to note that not all traits related to a dog’s size are intuitive. For example, choosing a smaller breed because you have less space may not be the right choice as many small breeds still need lots of room to run because they are so energetic. Ironically, the Great Dane, one of the largest dog breeds, is best suited to apartment living because they have lower exercise needs and don’t require a lot of space.
Make sure you are open about your living situation when talking with shelter staff and breeders. They will be able to advise you whether a particular breed is suitable for you and your family.
Will your dog be living indoors? Then you probably won’t want a breed that tends to be a shaggy shedder – particularly if any family members suffer from allergies. In that case you’ll a dog with hypoallergenic coat like a Poodle or Samoyed.
It’s also worth noting that whilst some breeds shed year round, others malt for only a few weeks each year. Long haired breeds, in particular require, lots of regular grooming to keep them looking their best. Before you choose a particular breed its important you know whether you have the required time each week to keep their coat well brushed and tangle free, using specific grooming products and dog brushes.
SOME ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices based upon the above traits, you’ll want to consider other breed-specific traits.
Some breeds, for example, are more prone to specific health problems. Hip Dysplasia, which may result in lameness, is more common in many larger breeds. Some breed-specific health problems can be screened, and individual animals certified to be free of the problem. It can be worth calling your local vet to discuss your short list of breed choices to see whether there are any particular health problems you should be asking about when you visit the animal shelter or breeder.
And some breeds tend to live longer than others. The average life expectancy for dogs in general is about 12 years. But breed-specific life expectancy can range from as much as 16 to 20 years to as little as 6 to 8 years. A bit of research can tell you whether a breed you’re considering tends to be longer or shorter lived.
HOW ABOUT TWO (OR MORE) IN ONE?
One other option when choosing a dog breed is the ‘none of the above’ option. Mixed-breed dog or ‘Crosses’ can offer a grab bag of breed characteristics.
With a mixed breed, you have the chance of getting an absolutely wonderful pet. But a mixed-breed puppy can be kind of like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – you don’t know for sure what you’re going to get. If you know the parentage, though, of the mixed breed puppy you’re considering, you can make certain predictions about the animal’s adult appearance and behavior based upon those of the parents.
IT’S ALL PART OF THE FUN
It will require a bit of effort on your part to determine the breed traits that will best suit you and your family. And you’ll need to do some homework to learn which dog breeds are most likely to offer those desired traits.
But though you’re faced with an absolute multitude of choices when selecting a dog, just consider the decision process to be part of the fun of pet ownership. After all, you get to choose how your loving companion for many years to come will look and act.
Welcome to the beginning of pet parenthood – a lifetime of unconditional love and warm hugs await you!