Choosing the Right Breed of Dog For You: Consider Temperament, Activity Level and Health Before Deciding

January 19, 2019
As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

Choosing a new dog is a big decision that needs to be carefully thought out so the dog is compatible with your own temperament and lifestyle. Here are some useful tips.

If you have never owned a dog before, go with a breed that is very trainable, non-aggressive and easy to get along with.

Certain breeds are definitely not for inexperienced dog people. They are great dogs in the right hands, but too dominant and strong-willed for a first-time owner. Some examples include the Komondor, Rottweiler, Akita, Cane Corso, American Staffordshire Terrier, Briard, Kuvasz, Black Russian Terrier and Alaskan Malamute.

First-time owners would do better with a breed like a Newfoundland, Sussex Spaniel, Brittany Spaniel, retired Greyhound, Beagle, English Setter, Poodle, one of the toy or non-sporting breeds or one of the small or medium terriers. However, some terriers are not ideal candidates for first-timers, as they can be bossy and very assertive.

Golden and Labrador Retrievers and English Springer Spaniels are good, too, but some are high energy, so a first-time owner should look for one from a line of calmer dogs.

How Active are You?

Retrievers, pointers, most spaniels, many hounds and working breeds and virtually all of the herding breeds are ideal for people who like to jog, hike or cycle with their dogs. Small breeds can be very active, but may tire or have trouble keeping up simply because of their short legs. Flat-faced breeds are not good candidates for prolonged exercise because their breathing is restricted.

If you are more interested in playing with your dog in the park or yard or going for walks, consider one of the toy breeds, terriers, non-sporting breeds or a small hound or spaniel. Some large breeds are genuine couch potatoes.

How Smart are You?

All dogs are smart, but some are almost over the top. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are three breeds in particular that, while easy-going and good-natured, are often too smart for first-timers. They are very active, very clever and can become obsessed with work, whether it’s retrieving a tennis ball or herding anyone and anything that moves.

These dogs need to be challenged mentally and physically and don’t make good couch potatoes. But if you can keep them busy, and if you are ready for mental gymnastics to stay one step ahead of the dog, one of these breeds could be perfect for your family.

What About Grooming and Health?

Short-haired dogs are easier to keep clean and don’t need constant brushing, but they shed short hairs all year long. Dogs with heavier coats shed once or twice a year and need weekly brushing (daily while shedding). They also needs to be checked constantly for tangles, matted fur and foreign objects like twigs and burrs. Poodles and Portuguese Water Dogs also must be clipped regularly.

Long-haired dogs like Afghans, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, Samoyeds and Rough Collies are not supposed to be clipped. If you can’t dedicate yourself to proper coat care, do yourself and the dog a favour and buy a short-haired breed instead.

Some breeds have a high incidence of specific inherited diseases such as hip problems, blindness or epilepsy. Take that into consideration when choosing a breed. A sick dog can cost you a lot of money over the years.

Big or Small?

Some big dogs are pretty laid back, so don’t automatically assume a big dog is more work. But big ones do cost more to feed, need more space and are harder to transport.

Consider your lifestyle before deciding what size is best for you. If you have young children, don’t get a toy breed, since they can be injured by rough play. But they are wonderful for older children.

Less Common Breeds

Want something different? A breed not as well known to the general public might be right for you.

A few to consider: Schipperke, Keeshond, Papillon, Tibetan Spaniel, Japanese Chin, Clumber Spaniel, English Cocker Spaniel, Vizsla, Swedish Vallhund, Scottish Deerhound, Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, Ibizan Hound, Saluki, Brussels Griffon, Havanese, Eurasier, French Bulldog, Smooth Collie and Shiba Inu.

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