So, you have decided that you are ready to add a dog or puppy to your life! Congratulations! A canine companion is a commitment for the life of the dog and will work the best if you carefully consider breed, size, age, hair coat, exercise needs and more.
A great web page to review is: caninejournal.com/picking-the-right-dog-breed
Otherwise, to get started, here are some things to consider to make the best choice:
Age – puppies are fun, but lots of work. Make sure you clearly understand the training needs of a puppy before you decide to get one. An adult dog can have many advantages over a puppy as you can better see what their temperament and energy level is, and depending on the age, some or most training may already be done. An adult dog may be more mellow and less likely to chew up furniture and may already be housebroken.
Size – be honest about what size dog will best fit your needs. Can you handle a large dog? Will it be likely to knock down elderly relatives or children? Food and medicine costs will also be greater for a big dog versus a small dog so this should also be considered. If you are looking for a dog to sit on your lap or be easily carried, this is a factor as well.
Energy level/exercise needs – Look into what the breed has been bred to do. Breeds bred for hunting (German shorthair, Viszla, English Springer spaniel, etc..) are often high energy (this is needed for a day of hunting) and may not be suited for laying around on the couch all day. Dogs that are herding breeds or do well in agility (Australian cattle dogs, Border collies, etc..) will need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. These dogs need to have a job to do or they can get bored and destructive from frustration. There can be variations in a certain breed. For instance, some Labradors are bred specifically for hunting & high energy while others can tend to have a more laid back, mellow disposition. A smaller dog does not necessarily mean it will not have high energy and the need for a lot of exercise. There are too many different breeds with different energy levels to list here, so make sure to thoroughly research any breeds you are considering to get the best match. Remember, there will be variations from dog to dog within the same breed. Try to meet the parents if getting a puppy to see what they are like, or consider an adult dog so you have a better idea of what you are getting.
Hair coat – All dogs shed, and none are completely hypo allergenic. With that being said, some breeds will shed more than others and some may flare up allergies more than another. Grooming needs will vary as well – longer hair will need more brushing and care, while some breeds require regular trips to the groomer. Be realistic about your ability and commitment to taking care of your dog’s hair coat. A long haired dog who frequents wooded areas or fields will be more prone to burrs, tangles and the need for grooming or removal of matts.
Personality – This one is important. Research general personality traits of different breeds. Some breeds are better than others with children or other pets. Some are more aloof and cautious of strangers. Some breeds may be more stubborn and difficult to train, while others may be more vocal than others. If you can’t bear the thought of a vocal dog, a beagle or hound dog may not be your best choice. Huskies are also known to be vocal dogs while a basenji, bulldog or greyhound will often be more on the quiet side. Do you prefer a more independent breed or one that prefers to be around you all the time? Independent breeds include Maltese, Chow chow, and Alaskan Malamutes. More people friendly, social dogs include Poodles, Labradors, Golden Retrievers & Boston terriers (these lists are not in any way all inclusive!)
Other considerations – Other things to think about and research may include: compatibility with children or other pets, trainability, sex and temperature needs (Hairless or short hair versus cold weather breeds like Alaskan Malamute) and common health problems of that breed.
Mixed breeds – Mixed breeds can be a great choice! Just remember that it may be a bit more difficult to predict some of the things above, especially when getting a puppy. Many mixed breeds are not just 2 breeds (a Labrador and a Boxer for instance) but a conglomerate of many different breeds (the parents were both mixes, their parents were both mixes, etc..) which means size, temperament and other factors may be somewhat of a wild guess.
No matter what breed of dog you get you are likely to fall in love. However, you are more likely to have problems and frustrations if the energy level and other factors do not fit your lifestyle, capabilities and needs. Many dogs end up in shelters and rescue for this reason. The cute puppy became too big, barked or howled too much, shed too much, wasn’t good with the children or other pets, or became destructive and unruly because it didn’t receive the training, exercise or mental stimulation it needed.
Taking some time to research and make the smartest choice to fit your lifestyle can make all the difference!