Choosing the Right Dog Breed for Your Family

Choosing the Right Dog Breed for Your Family

girl snuggling dogAdopting a dog is exciting for the entire family. There are hundreds of breeds with fascinating traits and histories. Also mixed breeds have charming qualities that are hard to deny. One of the most important aspects of the adoption process is choosing a dog breed that is compatible with your family and home. It not only ensures that you are a good fit for your new Pet, but will also keep you happy for life.

Dog Breed Groups
The American Kennel Club places dog breeds in groups, according to the activities for which they were bred:

• Herding group: Herding dog breeds were designed to control the movements of other animals. Outside of farm settings, they are keen on herding children. These dogs are highly intelligent and make good companions. Breeds include collies, corgis, shepherds and sheepdogs.

• Hound group: Hounds were bred for hunting purposes. They have a good sense of smell and do not tire easily. Rather than bark, some hounds make a baying noise that sounds like a howl. Hounds are diverse in their nature and strengths. Breeds include coonhounds, foxhounds, Afghan hounds, basset hounds, beagles, dachshunds, greyhounds, wolfhounds and whippets.  

• Non-sporting group: As a diverse group, breeds in this category were bred to perform different functions or have a specific appearance or personality. Non-sporting breeds include bulldogs, Eskimo dogs, chow chows, Dalmatians, poodles and xoloitzcuintli.

• Sporting group: Breeds in the sporting group are alert and active, as they were bred to assist with hunting and field activities. These likeable dogs need regular stimulating exercise. Breeds include water spaniels, retrievers, setters, pointers and weimaraners.

• Terrier group: Terriers have a distinctive personality that matches their energy levels. They were originally bred to hunt rodents. Some terrier breeds have wiry coats that require special grooming, or stripping, to maintain their classic appearance. Terriers range in size and include American Staffordshire terriers, Airedale terriers, West Highland white terriers, fox terriers, schnauzers, Scottish terriers and Jack Russell terriers.

• Toy group: Dogs in the toy group are smaller breeds that tend to be tough, energetic and playful. Examples include Pomeranians, pugs, toy poodles, King Charles spaniels and Chihuahuas.

• Working group: Dogs in the working group were bred to perform specific tasks, such as guard properties, rescue others or pull sleds. These breeds are intelligent, fast learners and loyal companions. Because the breeds are bigger, they require proper obedience training. Dogs in this group include akitas, malamutes, boxers, mastiffs, Doberman and German pinschers, great Danes, komondors, Rottweilers and Saint Bernards.


Considerations When Choosing a Dog Breed

Becoming a Pet parent is a major financial investment. Pet care costs in the first year alone can amount to hundreds or thousands of dollars. Before adopting, it is a good idea to determine if your family can afford to raise a pet.

The Size of Your Home
Larger dog breeds and those known to be more active need space to move. These breeds include greyhounds, labs, German shepherds and great Danes. The ideal environment for these dogs is a home that’s large enough to accommodate some indoor play with a yard in which the dog can exercise and explore safely.

If you live in a small high-rise apartment, you might do better with small- or medium-sized breeds. Good options include beagles, terriers, corgis or Chihuahuas.

The size of your home is also important to think about when it comes to housebreaking a dog. In a house with a secure backyard, a dog may be able to go in and out as it needs to relieve itself. The opposite is true for those in an apartment or a home on a busy street. In such instances, you will have to train your dog to wait until you’re home to go for a walk. If the dog is small enough, you may train it to use a litter box or wee pads.

Keep the area’s weather and your community’s green spaces in mind when deciding on a breed for your family. Those who live in urban settings without parks nearby may do better with a smaller or mellower breed.

Weather is another important concern. Some dogs, such as bulldogs and pugs, do not do well in warmer climates because of the respiratory problems that they may develop. Similarly, smaller shorthaired dogs may have difficulties in areas that have frigid winters.

Time Commitment
While all dogs love attention, some require it more than others. When adopting a dog, expect to take it on walks every morning and every night. In general, smaller dogs tend to be more energetic and require more exercise. While bigger dogs might seem lazier, they like a lot of attention.

In addition to daily walks, dogs also need regular grooming. If you are a busy person, brushing a shorthaired dog’s fur is much less time consuming than brushing a long coat.

Training is another necessary activity that consumes time. When adopting a puppy, expect to dedicate several hours to training each week. To save time, a good option may be to adopt an older dog instead of a puppy. Many, but not all, dogs available for adoption at animal shelters are housebroken and know basic commands.

Any dog can trigger allergies, but some are more likely to do so than others. If allergic reactions are of concern, consult a physician or allergy specialist prior to adopting. Breeds that are less likely to trigger allergy symptoms include the bichon frise, Chinese crested, Portuguese water dog, Shih Tzu, Kerry blue terrier, Irish water spaniel and poodle.

Think about the activities that you and your family want to enjoy with your dog. Labs and Chesapeake Bay retrievers are perfect if your family enjoys water sports. If you like to run, a greyhound will keep pace. Huskies and malamutes are perfect if you enjoy hitting the slopes.  

Purebreds and Mixed Breeds
Dogs are either purebreds or mixed breeds. Purebreds are a good choice if you want your dog to have a specific look, temperament or innate skill. Mixed breeds, which include labradoodles and “mutts,” have a combination of two or more breeds. When it comes to purebreds and mixed breeds, one is not better than the other, as all dogs have their own unique personalities.

Choosing a dog breed is the first step toward having a fulfilling relationship with a new, loyal companion. If you are not sure about the best breed for your family, talk to shelter workers, veterinarians or different breeders about your questions and concerns. Alternatively, Hannah provides a free matching service and will closely work with you to select the optimal breed taking into account your own special circumstances.

[Photo from Adam Hay via Creative Commons 2.0]

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