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HHAF Blog

Choosing the Right Dog for You 

January 30, 2013

Taking the time to research and think about the right dog for you will give you the best chance of adding joy rather than stress to your life.  There are several steps that everyone should take prior to choosing their new friend.

1. Decide the outcome that you are you seeking. 

  • Are you looking for a running or hiking partner?
  • Do you see you and your dog participating in agility and obedience trials?
  • Is it a couch companion that you seek? A gentle heart to lay next to you while you read or watch TV.
  • Do you visualize a dog that protects you and your family and makes you feel safe at night?
  • Are you seeking a well balanced, trustworthy dog to play with your children all day long?
  • Would you like a dog that can help you do charity work such as visiting nursing homes and hospitals?
  • Do you want a dog that will make you laugh with his silly antics?
  • Do you want a companion that can travel almost everywhere with you?

Visualize a perfect day with your new dog and consider the characteristics the dog would need to possess in order to fit that picture.  If your energy and needs are in alignment with your dog’s then you will have a much better chance at creating the outcome you desire.

2. Consider the characteristics necessary to produce this outcome:

Do you  require a dog with energy and endurance to run or hike with?  There are many dogs that can be good runners. If you are a long distance runner then I would consider a Border Collie, German Shepherd, Pointer, Vizsla, Rhodesian Ridgeback, or Australian Shepherd.  If you are in a cool climate the Siberian Husky is also a great choice. If you plan to run short, faster runs then a Golden Retriever, Labrador, Jack Russel, Pitbull, Doberman, Springer Spaniel, Brittany Spaniel, Irish or English Setter, greyhound and whippet are all good choices. All of these breeds are also great hiking partners.

If you would like a dog to compete with in obedience, agility, flyable etc then you will need the energetic, intelligent type that are easily trainable and great competitors.  This happens to be my favorite type of dog.  The dogs I have found in my experience to be the most trainable have been Border collies, shelties, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Papillions, Australian Cattle dogs, and Australian Shepherds.

If you prefer the couch potato then you need a breed that does not require a large amount of exercise and is happy to just hang out with you. Here I would consider a Mastiff, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland, Chow Chow, Bulldog, Bloodhounds, Clumber Spaniel, Neopolitan Mastiff or St. Bernard. There are also what I call the “quiet gentlemen type”. The large dog that loves just sits next to you and lean on you.  These tend to be the Irish Wolfhounds, Greyhounds, Great Danes, and Borzoi.  These guys do require  bit more exercise than the typical couch potato type.

If the outcome you hope for is to feel protected and safe at night then you will need a dog with the natural instincts to protect his home and family. Examples of breeds with this characteristic are the German Shepherd, Doberman, Great Dane, Mastiff, Rottweiler, Bouvier Des Flandres, Bull Mastiff, Staffordshire Terriers and Pit Bull Terriers. All are very trainable and can be great family pets as well as protectors.

If it is a family dog that you are looking for then there are many breeds that are good with children. However, I tend to recommend the sturdy, energetic breeds mainly because children may unintentionally hurt a more delicate small breed dog.  My favorite family dogs are Beagles, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Border collies, Standard Poodles, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Collies, Westies, Bichon Frise, Fox terriers and Jack Russel terriers.

There are some dogs that I have found to be “funnier” than others.  They just seem to entertain me with their silly antics and their great personalities. The breeds that make me laugh are Pugs, French Bulldogs, Bulldogs, Boston terriers, Jack Russel Terriers, and Fox Terriers.

The type that can travel most everywhere is great for the person who is always on the go but seeks companionship. These lap dogs are breeds such as the Chihuahua, Pomeranian, Maltese, Havenese, Miniature Dachsund, English Toy Spaniel, Brussels Griffon, Minature Pinscher and Yorkie.

3. Now consider your lifestyle and environment.

If you work long hours then consider the couch potato.  If you live in a city apartment you may want to consider the lap dog that can be trained for wee wee pads. The lap dog is also good for the traveler. If you choose the energetic type you will need time for long walks and playtime. A backyard is necessary for many breeds especially those that tend to roam (or take off at high speeds) such as the Beagle, Border Terrier, Irish Setter, Jack Russel terrier, and Siberian Husky.  If you have the type of house that is pristine and you would die if there was hair on the carpets then choose a dog that doesn’t shed.  If you are a renter consider the limitations often placed on dogs such as certain breeds and sizes.

So, that was the fun part. Now onto the boring responsible part.. The most important section.

4. You must be sure that you can provide your new dog with the care he will need throughout his lifetime.  Here are a few of those requirements:

  •  Veterinary care- The average middle sized dog costs approximately $300 in preventative care per year. This does not include sick visits or traumatic injuries. The average cost for pet insurance is $250/year.  It is also important to consider the difference in cost in a small dog compared to a giant breed dog.  For example, a two week treatment of one type antibiotic for a small breed would be $30 versus $150 for a giant breed dog.
  •  Training-All dogs need training however, some require more than others.  Consider the amount of time that you are able and willing to devote to training your new dog. If training isn’t your thing then you may want to choose a breed that does not require a lot of effort and expertise.  Examples of dogs that do not require much training are shelties, Border Collies, Corgis, Boston Terriers, Golden Retrievers, and Poodles.  Examples of dogs that require structured training, in my opinion, are German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Weimeraners, Pointers, Dalmations, Labrador Retrievers, Pit Bull Terriers, Irish Setters, and Belgian Malinois. I believe that every dog has the potential to be a well-behaved, well-balanced companion but some breed types require more training to reach this level.
  •  Grooming/Haircoat- This is not something that most think about when adopting a dog however I do feel it is important.  Things to consider are; shedding, allergies, climate and grooming needs.  If you require a dog that is less allergenic then breeds with less dander and shedding are recommended such as Poodles, Portugese Water Dogs, Bichon Frise, Javanese, and many of the terrier breeds such as Airdales, Wheaton Terriers, Schnauzers and westies.   Keep in mind that these breeds require professional grooming every 6-8 weeks.
  •  Nutrition- This is an area that I love to talk about but I will keep it short for now. I promise to blog about nutrition in the near future.  There are many diets to choose from and it does get costly.  Consider this when you decide the Great Dane is your perfect match because he could eat you out of house and home.. Other- toys, treats, collar, leash, crate, dog beds, etc…

General expense- The average yearly cost of a medium sized dog breed is $1,100.

5. O.k… Now you know what type of dog you would like and you are sure you can provide care for that type of dog. Let’s research to find the breeds that fit your outcome.  

Although I have mentioned a few breeds that fit each type it is just the tip of the iceberg. There are 175 AKC recognized breeds.  Here are some ways to research the breeds that interest you;

  • Go to a dog show and observe the few breeds that you feel may fit your life. Notice their energy level and how they respond to their handlers.  Then strike up a conversation with those sitting around the dog show ring. I don’t recommend speaking to the handlers because they are often too busy to stop and chat.  But the breeders are often sitting ringside and can be a great resource. You can also look up reputable breeders on the AKC.org website and magazines such as Dog World and Dog Fancy. However, keep in mind that every breeder loves their own breed and may not be the most objective resource.
  •  Attend an obedience trial.  Look at the breeds that are most common in the obedience ring. They tend to be the most trainable. Speak to the obedience trainers about their dogs. Obedience trainers are less likely to stick to just one breed and tend to be a more objective resource. Agility trials are also a good place to do this.
  • Read books and magazines dedicated to each particular breed.
  • Visit your local shelter and ask their advice.  Most of these people have been around dogs for a very long time and have valuable experience to share with you.
  • Speak to a veterinarian.  As veterinarians we handle many different types of dogs on a daily basis and can offer valuable insight.

So, that’s my view on finding the right dog to bring joy and happiness into your life. All of the breeds I mentioned also apply to mixed breeds.  My personal recommendation would be to adopt your next dog from a shelter or breed rescue.  I personally have nothing against breeders and do not judge anyone whom chooses to buy a purebred dog from a reputable breeder.  However, if given the choice, I would take the opportunity to save life.. It’s good Karma 🙂