How to Pick the Right Breed of Dog

Look past an endearing puppy face to examine breed characteristics before choosing your pet.
dog image by Peter Toth from

When your young child gazes up at you with her giant eyes and pleads for a puppy just like the one in her favorite movie, your kindest, most compassionate response might be "no." A breed of dog that doesn't fit with your family and lifestyle can cause chaos and even heartache if you're forced to part with your pet. Research your choice of dog breed carefully to ensure that you are prepared to be his forever home.

Step 1

Choose a size category. Toy or small breeds don't offer the same degree of protection that large or giant breeds do, but they also require less space. Although small dogs are easier to trip over, they are also easier for children to handle and are less likely to accidentally injure a young person holding the leash or standing in the way of a fast moving pet. Size also affects lifespan: Larger breeds on average do not live as long. According to a study co-authored by Indiana University East assistant professor Kimberly Greer, Ph.D., dogs that weigh less than 30 pounds live the longest.

Step 2

Consider the temperament of the breed. Dogs from the working group, such as shepherds, mastiffs and huskies, have been bred to work and must be engaged by experienced owners ready and willing to provide structure, training and exercise for these task- and service-oriented animals. Sporting dogs such as retrievers, setters and pointers are best matched with sporting humans who share their love of regular and vigorous exercise. The terrier group features dogs with feisty, lively temperaments who are happy to run your household unless you take charge. Choose from one of the toy breeds if you want an affectionate lap dog who is physically easy to handle during training.

Step 3

Anticipate the grooming needs of your prospective pet. Long-haired breeds prone to matted coats are often best served by professional groomers, which incurs additional grooming cost. The haunting blue eyes of a Siberian husky are accompanied by a double coat that sheds more than once a year and needs regular brushing. If you live in a cold climate, consider the value of that double coat over that of a short-haired breed such as a whippet, who needs a jacket and foot coverings to go outside in winter weather.

Step 4

Research the propensity of each breed toward suffering certain ailments to anticipate care complications and possible veterinary costs. Large and giant breed dogs, such as shepherds and Great Danes, are prone to hip dysplasia. Deafness is more common in breeds such as the American foxhound, Akita, Australian cattle dog and the beagle. Diabetes treatment is more likely to be necessary for breeds like the St. Bernard, rottweiler, Labrador retriever and flat-coated retriever. Inform yourself of the typical health complications of your chosen breed before you make your puppy purchase.

Step 5

Avoid choosing a dog for a purpose that is contrary to his natural inclinations. Siberian huskies are not good watchdogs; in fact, if you do not watch them, they are prone to follow their hunting instincts and run off. Do not select a dog who is inclined to dig, such as a smooth fox terrier, if you are looking for a pet to accompany your perfectly manicured lawn. Think twice before purchasing an enthusiastic barker such as a Yorkshire terrier, Irish setter, pug or German shepherd if you are looking for a quiet companion to fit in with your peaceful household.


About the Author

Nancy Lovering is a writer, photographer and teaching assistant. She took novel writing at Langara College and photography at British Columbia Institute of Technology. She obtained her teaching assistant certificate through Delta School District Continuing Education. She previously worked as an assistant controller while in the Certified General Accountants program, and has training in dog psychology through Custom Canine Teaching Ltd. in Vancouver, BC.

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