How to Choose a Dog Breed that Suits You

The decision of adopting or buying a new puppy comes with the common “dilemma” of choosing a breed that will suit our lifestyle, family and living situation. With hundreds of dog breeds available from breeders or even animal shelters, new pet owners can sometime be overwhelmed and confused. Welcoming a furry friend comes with many benefits for both the person and the dog but responsibilities and costs are also part of the “package”. Keep reading to get a better idea of how you can pick the most suitable type of dog that will become your best friend.

Dog Breeds - Fun Facts

There are more than 400 recognised pure dog breeds which typically refer to modern breeds with a documented pedigree and even registered with a national kennel club. When talking about different breeds we may also refer to cross-breeds (also known as designer dogs), mixed breeds (or mutts) which do not belong to any recognised breed, and natural breeds also known as dog landraces which are more diverse than members of a standardized breed and do not belong to any registry nor breed standards.  

The owners of dogs belonging to the same breed and who have an interest in breeding can form a national kennel club which will create the breed standards, maintain a breed registry (or studbook) and issue the rules for conformation dog shows. The breed standards will typically include exterior features of the appearance and behaviour that are considered the most important in said breed, as well as features and behavioural traits that are seen as unacceptable. 

Registered Dog Breeds

If your heart is set on a specific breed you’ll want to ensure it is in fact registered under one or more national kennel clubs so that when you are ready to choose your new puppy there will be no doubt of its background and adherence to breed standards. 

Dogs that meet a breed standard may be accepted into one or more of the major registries (kennel clubs) of dog breeds including the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (covering 84 countries), The Kennel Club (UK), the American Kennel Club, the Australian National Kennel Council and other national registries.

Pooches belonging to the same breed will generally have fairly uniform physical features developed under controlled conditions by humans who select the animals based on traits such as size, coat colour, structure and behavior.

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Why do you want a Dog?

The most important thing to consider when preparing to welcome a dog is the reason behind our decision. In other words, we should always ask ourselves “Why do I want a pet?”. Being able to answer this question will strongly determine the type of dog we should be looking for in order to provide it with a healthy and happy life with us.

There are a myriad of reasons that will bring someone to welcome another living being into their life: companionship, protection, work, entertainment or simply appearance. Humans have been domesticating dogs for thousands of years and different breeds have been selected based on the purpose assigned to them. This means that a specific breed will have a set of physical and behavioural features that facilitates its role as our "best friend". 

For example, Beagles are a type of hound (scent hound, specifically) developed for their acute sense of smell in hunting hares and detecting illegal substances. German Shepherds were instead bred as working dogs that originally helped herding sheep and then proved their intelligence was suitable for many other roles next to humans.

Be absolutely clear on why you are wanting to add a furry friend to your family and don't rush the decision.

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Health

As a potential pet owner who is aware of the responsibility of caring for a dog there is a vital factor that should affect your decision and that is the health of your future pooch. It is a known fact that pure breed dogs have more health problems than mutts: they require more veterinary visits and tend to have a shorter lifespan. 

Some dog breeds are selected because of specific physical traits that in fact have become their Achilles heel. For example, breeds with flat faces and short noses (such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, etc) will be subject to breathing issues, eye conditions and other health problems that should be thoroughly considered by prospective owners.

If you're thinking about buying a dog belonging to a breed that is famous for its inclination to specific health issues, think carefully before making a lighthearted decision. A pet is not a toy that can be returned when it breaks and your responsibility to take care of it for the next 7-10 years will involve ongoing vet expenses, worries and constant attention.

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Temperament

A dog’s temperament can be defined as the general attitude it has towards other animals, people and the environment. Although all puppies are born with a certain temperament it is important to remember that each one will have a unique personality that will affect the overall breed temperament.

If you’re looking at a registered breed make sure the general temperament is suitable with your own personality, lifestyle and expectations. National kennel clubs will describe the expected behaviour of that particular type of dog within the breed standards.

When it is time to adopt or buy a pooch from a shelter or registered breeder, being able to observe its temperament as well as knowing its family background are essential steps to follow before going ahead with the process. Most animal shelters will also perform a temperament test before handing out puppies to their new family.

Be sure to research the different dog breeds by reading books and talking to experienced breeders so that you can make a decision based on your needs and experience as a dog owner. New pet owners, for example may want to start with a friendly breed rather than one that has a history of anxiety.

Appearance and Exercise Requirements

The next thing on your list when looking for the perfect dog should be its appearance. With hundreds of variations on size, coat colour, face type and coat texture you are bound to find the pooch that looks exactly as you’d like. 

Some people prefer larger breeds while others are looking for a “lap-dog” that they can carry around everywhere. There are pet owners who don’t mind having a trail of hair in the house because their pooch sheds abundantly while others are a little more sensitive to untidy living environments and would rather save on grooming expenses. Then again, you may be wishing for a medium size pooch but your apartment could be too small to be considered suitable for your new furry friend.

Choose a breed that matches a size you can handle both inside and outside the house, and seriously consider your lifestyle: a toy breed, for example won’t need much exercise during the day and would best suit someone that doesn’t entertain an overly active life. If you pick a more athletic kind of dog, such as the Collie you’ll need to take into account its need to walk, run, play and train with different challenging tasks. Forcing similar breeds to spend their days in the house alone would be taking the role of dog owner lightly without fully understanding the commitment and responsibility.  

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Living Conditions

Your living conditions should be a crucial factor in your choice of a suitable breed. Don’t stop at considering the available space: is your home big enough to welcome a furry friend? Try to extend your decision to include anyone living with you as well as the safety of your pet.

For example, some dog breeds don’t cope well with loud noises as they may increase their level of anxiety or alertness. So if you live on the ground floor apartment of a busy street you may be dealing with barking and howling as your pooch tries to get your attention or protect its territory. Conversely, you may want a dog to guard your isolated home which means you should concentrate on breeds that are naturally reactive and responsive to outside noises. You may have young children who could be a little too dynamic and loud for a quiet puppy that doesn’t respond well to sudden movements so look at breeds that are known for being great with kids.

Unfortunately, a large portion of the population is allergic to dog hair so you may have to research "hypoallergenic breeds" that shed little or not at all.

Some type of dogs have a stronger inclination to follow a scent or another moving animal which they see as a prey: if you your backyard has easy access to the surrounding countryside for example, you’ll need to ensure the fence is sturdy and secure enough in order to contain your pooch when it is outdoors.

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Time and Safety

As a future dog owner you must be ready to provide your furry friend with a safe environment both inside and outside your home, and ensure its arrival won’t be detrimental to the safety and wellbeing of any other family member.

A puppy, regardless of its breed will need your time and affection for the entirety of its life so think carefully about the responsibility and joy your new best friend will bring into your life as it will need the same level of commitment in return.

Author Marino
Author: Marino Tilatti
Member of PetsForAll Editorial Stuff
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