Choosing a dog is not a simple task. Not every dog that appeals to you is one with which you can live. Every aspect of the dog is an important factor in your choice: you might admire the coat on a rough collie and feel the urge to own Lassie, but unless you have the motivation and the time to care for that rough coat, you may be opting into a nightmare. Whether it’s a purebred or a mixed breed, taking the time to choose your dog carefully will ensure that both you and your dog will be happy with your choice.
Select the breeds of dog that appeal the most to you, based on appearance, size or reputation. These breeds will create a baseline upon which you will build.
Research each of these breeds, using an encyclopedia of breeds or a dog registry website. These sources typically provide adequate basic information written in a neutral fashion. Although dog registry websites may provide breeder referrals, they are not operated in the hopes of selling you on any particular breed. Make notes on the size, activity level, coat type and function of each of your chosen breeds. You may choose to add other criteria that are important to you, as well.
Determine if you have an active, moderately-paced or sedentary lifestyle. Using your notes, immediately eliminate breeds that are opposed to that kind of lifestyle. You will not be happy if your dog is too busy or too sedate compared to your activity level.
Choose the size of dog that’s right for you. If you live in an apartment, you might be limited by a contract that states how large or how heavy a dog you can own. Your comfort level and strength should also be determining factors, however. If you would not be comfortable with a dog as small as a Chihuahua or feel that you are not strong enough to control a mastiff, then you should avoid those breeds.
Decide what you want to do with your dog. Using your notes, compare your chosen activity to the function that the dog was bred to perform. Although basset hounds can be agile and salukis can pull sleds, a border collie might be more suited to running agility courses, and a Siberian husky might be more appropriate if you want to try skijoring. Even if you don’t know what activities you would like to enjoy with your dog, examine the original purpose for which the dog was bred and use it as a factor in making your decision.
Ask yourself if you are in love with a particular breed due to the way it looks in a show coat or if you will be happy with that breed in a pet trim. If you want your dog to look like the one you see at Westminster, then determine how much time and energy you wish to devote to grooming. All dogs need a minimum amount of care. They all need their ears cleaned, their toenails trimmed and an occasional bath. However, while some people enjoy brushing their dogs on a daily basis and may even find it mentally relaxing, you may not have the time or patience to separate every hair in a Newfoundland’s coat to ensure that no lurking debris can form a mat.
Locate a dog show or other dog-related event at which you can see your chosen breeds in real life. Talk to people at the event who own, breed or exhibit the breed you have in mind. If possible, make an appointment to speak to one or more of these people at their home or kennel and, if possible, to meet the dogs they may own. Most breeders or exhibitors will be happy to spend some time educating you on their breeds, even if you choose not to buy one of their dogs for yourself.
Decide if an adult dog or a puppy is more appropriate for you. Not everyone has the time or the patience to train a puppy. If you are one of those people, then try to find a young adult dog or even a senior dog that needs a place to call his own. If you want a purebred puppy, then a breeder might be your best choice for making your purchase. If you would prefer an adult, then you may need to choose a rescue for the source of your dog. Many breed-specific rescues operate all over the country.
Don’t tell yourself that you’ll “adjust” to the idea of grooming a dog. If you do not plan to groom your dog from the start, choose a breed with a short coat that needs little grooming. De-matting a dog is not only a chore for you, but the mats you must remove can cause pain or injury to your dog.
Be honest when determining your activity level. If your activity level consists of getting up to change the channel because you can’t find the television remote, then no matter how appealing you find a border collie, you don’t need a frenetic and work-driven border collie. Conversely, if you want a dog with which you can jog several miles every day, you don’t need a Pekingese.
Remember that coats of any kind will shed. Don’t get a long-coated dog if you cannot tolerate long hairs stuck to your furniture during prime shedding season.
Even if you choose not to get a purebred dog, you can still use these guidelines to help you choose the best dog for your personality. If your dog appears to favor one breed, then use those characteristics to determine what function it might perform or how big it might get at adulthood.
Selecting a purebred dog is often easier than selecting a mixed breed for new dog owners. Purebred dogs have personality and physical traits that are more "fixed" than those possessed by mixed breeds.
- Collie dog portrait image by Janet Wall from Fotolia.com