Those of us who love dogs often have a soft spot in our hearts for a particular breed or group of dogs. For me, it’s corgis. A coworker of mine loves all brachycephalic breeds, or dogs with the “squashed nose” look. My best friend is a papillon aficionado. The thing we all have to realize, however, is that just because we may love a certain breed or type of dog, that dog may or may not be the best fit for our lives.
Bringing a dog into our lives and homes involves a lot more than finding the one with the right look or one with whom you really hit it off. Don’t get me wrong, those things are important, but in order to have the most fulfilling experience for you and the dog, there are other things to consider as well. For example, how much time to you have to devote to exercising your dog? If you can go on daily walks or runs with your dog, or plan on doing agility or some other active event with them, then a higher energy breed would probably suit you just fine. If you live a more sedentary lifestyle, consider a “couch potato” breed like the mastiff or bulldog.
How much time and money to you have to spend keeping up on grooming? Perhaps your heart is set on a longer-furred dog like a Lhasa Apso or a poodle, but keep in mind that they, along with many other breeds of dog, require extensive (and often expensive!) grooming. Long-haired dogs like the Lhasa Apso, Yorkshire terrier, and golden retriever get matted very easily, and require at least daily brushings plus regular trims around the ears, face, paws and bathroom area. Curly-haired dogs like the poodle also require frequent grooming. Perhaps a shorter-haired, “wash and wear” dog is more to your taste. Fur length and type is also something to consider with regard to where you live. A breed bred for the snow like a husky doesn’t belong in a hot climate any more than a dog bred for hot climates like the Chihuahua belongs in the snow!
What about the age of you and your family members? Many smaller dog breeds are easily overwhelmed by active young children, while some herding breeds—like the border collie or Australian shepherd—may try to herd your children, even nipping at their heels as they would sheep or cattle. Conversely, if you are looking into a companion pet for your elderly parents, a larger breed will be difficult for them to physically control if needed, and a dog that requires a lot of grooming may be difficult for them to maintain if they have arthritis or other physical limitations.
Bear in mind how much time you’ll have to, well, entertain your dog. If you lead a busy life, a dog that requires much outside stimulation may not be your best fit. Working breeds like huskies and shepherds in particular need “jobs” or they go a little stir crazy, which could result in annoying or destructive behavior. And for training, some dogs like mastiffs, Rottweilers and Cocker spaniels can prove stubborn or difficult to motivate.
I know all of this sounds a little disheartening. You might be wondering if you should even get a dog at all. I can’t answer that for you, although if I had my way, I would see every loving, deserving home with at least one dog. I don’t want to dissuade you from looking into adopting a dog; however, I do want to see every potential dog owner do their research. A lot of sources would list almost any dog as the perfect “family dog,” but that isn’t necessarily the case. For example, I own a coffee mug that depicts and describes the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, touting it as an excellent family pet. Knowing that corgis can be stubborn, willful and are a herding breed (see above about herding breeds and young children), I would not necessarily label them as such, although there are always exceptions to every breed.
In doing your research, look at websites like DogBreedInfo.com, AKC.org and Petfinder.com, where shelters and rescues will often describe the personality of their dogs up for adoption and whether or not they will fit into a house with children, with cats, etc. Speak also with your veterinarian, with shelter and rescue workers, with trainers and even with your neighbor who has a dog breed you’re considering.
Most importantly, don’t limit yourself. You favorite dog breed may not be suitable for your lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a dog out there that is basically perfect for you. And don’t limit yourself to just one breed! Mutts are wonderful dogs too, often lacking the health problems of their more specifically-bred counterparts and often combining the best traits of both (or all) breeds they claim. Shelters across the nation are also brimful of mutts—and purebreds—needing good homes, and are often NOT in the shelter due to behavioral issues but due to other reasons, so there is no reason why a shelter dog wouldn’t make the perfect pet for your family.
Whatever you decide, choose wisely and choose well. It’s not just your livelihood and happiness at stake; it’s the dog’s too.