The best way to approach finding the perfect dog breed for you and your family is to take a realistic look at what you expect of a dog and what kinds of things you can live with. Once you have determined some characteristics that are important to you, you can narrow down your choices from there. With dozens of breeds to choose from, you’re bound to find the perfect one for you.
Consider the makeup of your family. Toy dogs such as Chihuahuas and toy poodles are not good choices if your family includes children under the age of 7, since little dogs are fragile and can easily be hurt by rough handling. These dogs may also be more likely to nip at or bite small children out of fear, but they often prove to be the perfect breeds for a senior citizen who could be hurt by a rowdy larger dog.
Decide if you expect your dog to act as a watchdog or protection dog. Smaller breeds make good alarm dogs and will let you know if anyone is around, but they aren’t very intimidating. Larger breeds are more likely to deter a criminal, and breeds such as the German shepherd, Doberman pinscher and Rottweiler all have a reputation that is likely to send troublemakers elsewhere.
Evaluate how much grooming you are willing to do. If you love dogs with long, flowing hair and don’t mind the constant brushing, breeds such as the Afghan hound or Yorkshire terrier may be ideal. Some breeds, including poodles and cocker spaniels, need frequent trips to the groomer for clipping or their hair can become matted and out of control. Double-coated breeds like huskies and German shepherds need a lot of brushing during shedding season, but not so much at other times, while short-coated breeds like Labrador retrievers and Dalmatians need very little brushing, though they still will shed quite a bit.
Determine if anyone in your home has pet allergies. Certain dogs, such as poodles, seem to bother allergy suffers less than other breeds and may be worth considering in this situation. Spend some time with a poodle before deciding to get one, to see if allergies will be a problem or not.
Figure out how much exercise a dog will be able to get in your home, since some dogs will need to go for a brisk walk every day, while other breeds can get all the exercise they need in their own backyards or even in an apartment. Choose an active breed such as a Border collie or Dalmatian if you want your dog as a companion and you walk or jog a lot, but don’t choose a high activity breed if you lead a sedentary lifestyle and have no space for an active pet to romp. A shih tzu or a Boston terrier is a good choice for apartment or condo living, while a home with a fenced yard is ideal for a golden retriever or a bulldog.
Take the dog’s overall temperament into account. In addition to his activity requirements, consider whether you want a dog that needs entertainment or is fine on his own for long periods of time, one that is friendly to everybody or only to his family, and whether you want a dog that is easy to train or one that can be stubborn about it.
While choosing a dog by the breed characteristics can help you to have a good idea as to how the dog will look and act as an adult, dogs are individuals and yours may not be exactly like all the others of his breed. Use breed characteristics as a guideline, but be prepared for the possibility of some individual differences.
If you are choosing a dog from a shelter or rescue organization, you may not know what breed he is. In this situation it can be a good idea to get a dog that is already full-grown, so that you can see how big he will be and how he will act.
- puppy image by Sergey Yakovenko from Fotolia.com