Choosing the Right Dog
"I think I am interested in a German Shepherd. Or, maybe a pug. I also like the look of a Schnauzer, or perhaps a Boxer mix. What do you think?"
Choosing the right breed of dog for you and your family will affect every aspect of your life; so to say it is 'important' is really an understatement. When looking into getting a new dog for your household, whether it be from a rescue or from a breeder, knowing your goals and the breed characteristics of the dog you are interested in can be the difference between enjoying your dog, tolerating your dog, or down right dreading coming home to your dog!
We recommend considering the following before jumping into deciding on a breed:
- What do you envision when you think about dog ownership? What does a 'good dog' look like to you in your mind? Are you curled up by the fire? Does the dog lay in the yard among the children? Do you want to take the dog to work with you acting as the official office greeter? Do you want to take it on backcountry snowboarding trips, or are walks around the neighborhood more your speed? Are you a social butterfly and therefore need your dog to appreciate people encounters as much as you do? Each breed of dog has Breed Characteristics. These are genetic traits that cannot be trained away. Mastiffs are were bred to GUARD STUFF. Mastiffs are not a good breed choice for the office greeter position; they are more likely to prevent your patrons from entering your flower shop. Herding breeds are meant to move livestock, and while there are many Australian Shepherds who have never seen ewe, they still have the genetic desire to herd, and the energy level to keep going, and going, and going..... Be sure to research the breed traits of all of the breeds that attract you. Look for the good and the bad. Of course there are going to be outliers; Mastiffs that are incredibly social, and that neighbor that has a lazy Border Collie. Look for the rule, and not the exception.
- How much time do you want to spend on training your dog? Are you interested in a competitive dog sport prospect? Working dogs like Border Collies, German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds and the like won't make a wonderful pet for your small child without some serious management and training. On the flip side, if your fantasy is to play Mondioring, an IPO prospect, Competitive Obedience, or standing on the podium at the next FCI World Team Agility Invitational, you will want that sort of pushy drive and "go" attitude.
- Do you like grooming, and/or will you take your dog for frequent grooming appointments? Goldendoodles are incredibly popular right now, but people really underestimate their coat needs! Allowing a dog to get matted to the skin because you want to save your money on grooming costs is not healthy, or fair to the dog.
- How active are you? BE HONEST about your own activity level. If you don't already wake up before the sun rises to ascend 14rs now, you probably won't be doing it in the near future. If you are more of a weekend warrior, don't choose a breed that was meant to run the Iditarod. If you are a backpacking enthusiast, we don't recommend an English Bulldog as a hiking buddy. Are you looking for a couch potato and snuggle bug, or a high-octane, Frisbee-catching, ball-chasing, running partner?
- What health and behavioral concerns are found in your preferred breed? French Bulldogs are notorious for having major health problems. Yorkshire Terriers can be incredibly difficult to potty train. Blue heelers (wait for it....) can be prone to biting at peoples heels and ankles.
- Is an adult dog or a puppy a better choice for your situation? If you work long hours and cannot take your puppy out for frequent potty breaks, maybe an older puppy or young adult is better for you. Have small children? Puppies are bitey, need direct supervision, and love to steal kids toys! Can you realistically monitor your puppy during their critical imprinting and potty training time? If not, consider a board & train... or an older dog. For competitive dog sports, getting a puppy is common so you can start foundation training right off the bat... but often you can find young adults that have already started training as well!
- Do you want a breed because of its temperament, or because of the way it looks? Huskies are adorable, but their high energy and desire to roam leave many pet owners in over their heads. Choosing a dog based on the way it looks is a great way to ensure years of difficulty moving forward.
- When choosing a breeder, be prepared to WAIT A LONG TIME FOR YOUR PUPPY. Good breeders don't have puppies readily available year-round. Good breeders breed dogs selectively, with goals in mind, and often have a litter sold before it's born. A good breeder will ask you questions about all of the above concerns, and pick a puppy for you with the personality that fits you best. Good breeders don't let families pick their own puppy. Good breeders health-test the parents, and will be honest with you about the parents temperaments and attributes.
- Are you adopting a puppy from a shelter or rescue? Awesome! When looking at mixed breed dogs, try to remember that the dog with the right temperament and personality is the right size and color. Watch the dogs interact with people and the other dogs. Are they timid, and hiding, or are they bouncing off of people like parkour objects? Will they ignore all of the other people and dogs if there is a toy present? Are they gonzo for food? Are they vocal? If you are looking for a nice family pet, pick the 'middle of the road' puppy, not the puppy who won't drop the ball, is barking incesently, or the one who is bouncing off of people.
We recommend doing your research, hanging out with many dogs of that breed, and visiting dog clubs before committing to a dog. Remember, you are looking to spend over a decade with this new family member! If you need help finding the right dog, just ask us! We will help you.