Choosing the Right Dog Breed

A dog will do his utmost to keep you laughing, and he won’t mind if you drop a few tears on his coat when you’re feeling down. He’ll play as hard as you want, for as long as you want or happily curl up at your feet when you need some serious relaxation. And a dog is so forgiving, allowing us silly humans our frequent mistakes, yet never holding them against us later. In short, a dog is just about the perfect friend.

However, he also relies on you for nearly everything – food, water, shelter, veterinary care, exercise, companionship, training, grooming and protection. “Know what you’re getting into,” says Steve Diller, a dog trainer in Elmsford, New York. “Take a serious look at what you expect from a dog, and what he will need from grooming and all the other responsibilities that are connected with owning a canine friend.”

Family Matters:
The decision to add a dog to your family needs careful though, so it will work out well for everyone. First, consider your family as it is right now. Are you single? A young couple with no kids? A couple with no kids? A couple with kids? Are your children toddlers, school – age or older? Are you looking to fill your empty nest with a four – legged companion? Do you already share your home with another dog or perhaps a cat?

Maybe you don’t have children – yet. Or a cat – yet. You might join your family in the next 10 to 15 years, because that’s a fair estimate of the time commitment you’ll be making. And consider members of your extended family or neighboring children who might come in contact with your dog. While you certainly don’t need to get a dog that’s great with kids if you don’t have any and don’t plan to, you do need to know how your dog is likely to react when confronted with the boisterous children of friends.

Each family has its own needs, personalities, medical requirements, space limitations and busy schedule. If you take a careful, honest look at these, it will help you to decide on the type of dog that will help you to decide on the type of dog that will enrich everyone’s lives, rather than make them more awkward or difficult. Is anyone in your family allergic to dog hair? Even if no one is allergic, how bothered are you by dog hair on everything from your pants to your toast? During certain periods of the year, some breeds shed profusely. Others don’t shed so much but there will be regular vacuuming of dog hair and sweeping of leaves and dirt tracked in on doggy feet. Some dogs are low maintenance, but no dog is no maintenance.

The good news is there’s a dog out there that’s a perfect match for you and whoever else you share your life with. The time you invest in finding that perfect match will be well spent. Choosing a dog whose needs don’t really suit your lifestyle and that of your family can mean heartache and that of you if the match doesn’t work out. Take the time to make sure you get it right, for the sake of both you and the dog.

Time and Timing:
A dog needs care and love and attention. You or another adult in the family will need to have enough time to walk, groom and feed him. And if he’s a pup, parenting duties will be doubled, and housebreaking will be added to the list.

While children and dogs can be inseparable, the primary responsibility for your dog’s care must rest on adult shoulders. “I’m wary when someone says they want a dog for the children to take care of,” says Louise Sanders, a Bullmastiff breeder from Largo, Florida. “No child is really responsible enough to take on the total care of a dog.”

Different dogs will need varying amounts of your time. Some need at least two long walks a day, while some can get most of their exercise inside the house. Dogs with long, double coats will require daily brushing, while dogs with short, wiry coats can get by on a lick and a promise. Different breeds housebreak at different rates, too, which will affect how much time you need for a puppy. And as adults, toy breeds will still need frequent trips outside, since they have tiny bladders and need to go out every two or three hours.

Make sure you’re in a fairly settled situation before adopting a dog. It will take a while for him to adjust to the rhythms and routines of your family. Plan to get him when you know your life will be relatively stable. If career moves are imminent, or you are going to be traveling a lot for business or pleasure, wait until things settle down adding a dog to the family. The holidays might seem like a good time to get a dog. But such decisions tend to be impulsive and might be regretted later on. There are better times to introduce a new dog to a strange new environment and lots of strange new faces that the hectic, noisy holidays season.

Consider the Costs:
Owning and caring properly for a dog takes money. Not only are there the monthly food bills, as well as heartworm and flea prevention medication, but there is the initial outlay for the things that every dog needs. You’ll need a crate bedding, toys, grooming tools and dishes.

Then there are vaccinations, vet visits, licenses and perhaps obedience training. That’s the day – to – day and year – to – year costs you’ll have.

There’s also a the amount you will have to pay to purchase your dog. You might opt for a shelter animal over a purebred from a breeder, in which case the price of your precious pooch will be minimal. But if you decide on a purebred dog, you could be looking at more than $1,000.

Will he Suit your Environment?
Most dogs, even some of the smaller breeds, require a fair amount of exercise to stay happy and healthy. There are breeds that will adapt easily to apartment living, but others will need a house in the suburbs with a yard and a garden and something more substantial than a white picket fence to stop them from wandering.

Don’t equate the size of the dog with the size of living space he requires. “Just because a Beagle is small does not mean he’s great apartment dog,” says Diller. “In fact, the opposite is true. Yet a Great Dane and some of the other working breeds don’t require all that much space.” Giant breeds, such as Newfoundland’s and Great Pyrenees, can be real couch potatoes.

Some smaller dogs, including many of the terrier types, not only like plenty of exercise and space, they are also some of the barkiest dogs – not necessarily a good thing in an apartment where your neighbor is only a thin wall away.

If all you have is a postage – stamp of lawn and you had your heart set on a dog that likes a lot of exercise, don’t give up on the idea. Instead, consider your entire neighborhood. Most likely there are parks, schoolyards and miles of side – walks that the two of you can enjoy.

Be careful, though, about getting a cold – weather – loving breed if you live in hot climate. Malamutes, Saint Bernard’s and the like have coats and thermostats set for snow and sub – zero temperatures. While they can be perfectly happy in an air – conditioned house in Arizona, they will be uncomfortable outside and at greater risk of heatstroke than some other breeds.

On the other hand, many shorthaired dogs do not like the cold. This is more easily remedied, though, by putting them in doggy sweaters or coats and making their bathroom trips “strictly business” on the coldest days.

More than just a Pretty Face:
The key to choosing your perfect match is to investigate the various breeds to find out a little bit about their personalities and behaviors – their strengths as well as their quirks. Don’t go for looks – that usually works only in the movies. Even if you’re planning on getting a mixed breed from the shelter, an understanding of the different style of the dog you have in mind.

Some people just rub you the wrong way and there are some dogs that may do the same. Dogs from certain breeds may have personality traits that you simply cant live with. Terriers, for instance dig and it’s a particularly tenacious trait that crops up even in a dog that you suspect has only a touch of terrier in his genes. You may be able to persuade your plucky little terrier mix to dig only in a specific area, but if you love your garden, don’t be too surprised or upset when he shows that he has a special interest, too.

Hounds, such as Beagles and Foxhounds, bark a lot. Again, they’re supposed to, since they were traditionally used to track game. The jowl – flapping breeds, such as the Saint Bernard and Bullmastiff, can drool excessively. And if you thought dog hair on your pants was bad, wait until your shoes get soaked with saliva. You need to know the good and the not so good, to make an informed decision. Some people would go nuts with a very active dog inside the house, while others can think of nothing better for their equally active ten – year – old child. You might think vacuuming twice a day to pick up your Chow Chow’s shed coat is good exercise, but spouse may not. Select a breed that’s right for everyone in the house.

“Picking a dog is like choosing a spouse, except you don’t get to date for a while to see if you’re compatible,’’ says Diane Bauman, a dog obedience trainer in Sussex, New Jersey.

“When people ask me what kind of dog they should – or shouldn’t – get, I sit down and find out about their personality, hobbies, what they expect of a dog, what experience they have, and how much dog hair they can tolerate,” she explains. “Their answers to these questions give me a much better idea of the breeds that will be best suited to them and their lifestyle.”

A Personal Decision:
An eight – week old pup with the cheekiest of expressions might seem like the perfect gift for a friend who’s feeling a bit low at the moment. But chances are your friend won’t think its such a great idea when she opens that gift box with the air-holes punched in the lid. After it will be her, not you, who will be doing the feeding and cleaning and caring for the next ten years or so – and she might have had other plans.

Never buy a dog for another person without their knowledge, consent and input. The decision is far too personal and important for you to make if for someone else. If you want to buy a puppy as a gift, wrap a stuffed dog and give it with the promise that you will help to locate the perfect real thing. That way, the dog will be their dog, and their choice, from the start.