How to choose the best dog breed for you? Well, there are many important factors to remember when looking at getting a new puppy or dog, whether it’s your first canine pet or an addition to the family. Getting a new dog is an experience that will bring you both joy and companionship and it’s important that you try to make the right choice for you and your family.
Firstly, you need to research the breeds that are out there. There are many places you can look where they give you all the information you’ll need to know what sort of dog you’ll be getting. Remember though, that each dog is an individual and while the research tells you that the breed is very placid and doesn’t like a lot of exercise, you could find yourself with an exception to the rule. The guidelines on the breeds are just that, guide lines. When researching you need to think about the lifestyle you currently have and how your new pet will fit into this lifestyle. There are so many breeds to choose from that there will mostly always be a breed or two to suit you. Making a hasty decision, or getting a pup for the wrong reasons can land up costing you dearly in finances as well as emotional wellbeing.
With regards to your lifestyle and your environment, ask yourself the following questions:
1) How much space is there for your pup/dog to run around in at home? This is important because if you live in an apartment, getting a Labrador will not be the best option for you, even if you can walk it every day, as a medium or large breed will find it difficult to keep itself busy during the day when you are not home. Some breeds don’t require lots of space if you are able to exercise them every day, but you should always but the wellbeing of your new pet first. Will your Great Dane be happy in a townhouse garden? Use the research and be honest about the space available. Maltese, Schnauzers, Yorkies are great dogs for smaller gardens, whereas Staffies, Jack Russells, Pointers, Bouviers and Great Danes require larger properties.
2) How much time can you spend with your new dog? It is very important to remember that a young 8 week old puppy will require more time from you than an older dog. Even though a puppy sleeps most of the day, they need to be taught house training and have companionship for a fair amount of the time. Getting an older dog means that normally you have to go to a shelter to adopt them, but it also means that a lot of the time they already have their own personalities and are able to look after themselves when you are not there.
3) What is your activity level like? The reason you ask this question is because if you are a very active person, running, cycling, etc, get a dog that has a higher level of energy. Trying to take a Bulldog on a 10Km run is both dangerous for the dog as well as cruel. Look for a breed that enjoys running, a working breed perhaps, like a Pointer. If you prefer to laze around at home and relax, then a dog that is more calm and placid is the better choice. Getting a Border Collie when you want to watch TV every day could possibly lead to boredom and behaviour problems. Breeds like Maltese, Schnauzer, Yorkies and Bouviers do not require as much exercise as the other breeds.
4) What are your current and near future family plans? If you have young children, it’s always a better option to get a dog that has a higher pain threshold than other breeds. Maltese and Spaniels tend to snap at children when they have their ears pulled as it really hurts them. Staffies and Schnauzers, for example, handle the pain much better than their more fragile counterparts. A large family means a lot of activity. Try and stay away from your more timid breeds (although timidity can be found in any dog depending on their breeding, temperament and surroundings) and look for a more solid breed.
5) What does your cash flow look like? Many breeds require specific foods and special grooming. While a Schnauzer doesn’t shed its hair, it requires regular grooming and if you cannot afford or aren’t prepared to spend the extra money, go for an easy to groom dog with a short coat, like a pointer, Staffie, Mini Pinscher that has a short coat which will only require brushing and the odd bath. Keep in mind though that most short-haired breeds shed their fur all year round.
6) Do you have other pets at home? Adopting a gun dog, like a pointer, that is bred to retrieve birds will see you having many sleepless nights if you have an aviary or pet birds at home. Hunting dogs like terriers tend not to do very well with cats as when the cats run away from them, their first instinct in to chase them. Keep in mind that your other pets already have a home and that they were there first. The new puppy or dog needs to fit in with the existing family.
7) Set ground rules before getting your pup. If you want your new companion to be an outside dog, make sure that you start from the beginning with the rules. (Keep in mind that leaving an 8 week old puppy outside all night is not the best idea). Have a space allocated to them so that they do not get used to sleeping in your room or on the bed. If you want them to stay off the furniture, then do not allow them onto the couch when they are pups. It’s very unfair and confusing for them when they have been taught and allowed to do specific things and then all of a sudden they get punished for doing them. Be consistent and more importantly, be patient. They learn fairly quickly, no matter their age and it’s important to keep in mind that they learn the good behaviours as well as the bad ones.
8) Are your prepared to take your pup/dog to training? Socialisation is essential for a new puppy. Starting as early as possible in their lives is hugely beneficial as it not only teaches them how to interact with other dogs, but teaches them what is acceptable in our lives as well as what is unacceptable. Training older takes sometimes takes a little bit longer than training an 8 week old puppy, but every dog is able to learn. Not taking your dog training can be detrimental to the overall wellbeing of your dog.
Researching your perfect breed or mix breed:
Once you have decided on the right size of dog for your family, you can now start to research the breeds/mix breeds that are out there. Look at the following information when researching a breed:
1) The size of the dog – Does the size of the dog fit your environment and the space available?
2) The exercise requirements of the breed – make sure that you get the right trype of dog for your lifestyle.
3) Grooming Requirements – You need to be aware of how much the dog sheds its coat, how often they suggest grooming the breed and what type of grooming is required. All these need to fit into your budget and time schedule.
4) Temperament of the breed as a whole – Remember that there are always exceptions to the rule. But have a look at what the general breed personality and temperament is like, this will tell you whether the dog will fit into your family.
5) Learning ability of the breed – Some dogs tend to learn faster than others and if you are looking for an easily trainable dog, choose a breed that is known for its trainability.
6) Health issues – some breeds tend to have more known health problems than others. Bulldogs for example suffer from back problems, joint problems, overheating, breathing problems, etc. German Shepherds have a common problem with hip dysplasia, as do many of the other larger breeds. It’s also important that in general, the larger the breed, the fewer years it lives. Small breeds can live for up to 18 – 20 years, so again it’s important that you are willing to have this companion in your life for so long. Great Danes tend to live to between 8 and 10 years and while there are always the dogs that live longer than the average, make sure you know what you are getting yourself into.
There will always be a breed/mix breed out there for anyone who is willing to care and love their pets but remember, patience, consistency and training are a must..