So you’ve decided to bring home a dog – wonderful! If you’re putting some thought into choosing a dog breed, even better. Choosing a dog breed carefully is more than a matter of picking the cute one that charms you.
Your personality, your schedule, the size of your home, and the other puzzle pieces in your lifestyle such as what you own, whether you have kids and other animals, etc – all of these things can be important factors in your dog’s long-term happiness and whether the two of you will be best friends for life.
Don’t forget that, aside from choosing a dog breed, there are other matters to take into account when you choose a dog, and all of them will also play a role in your life together with your dog:
- The quality of the breeder. You don’t want to give money to a breeder who operates unethically.
- Which puppy you choose. Their personality will shine through early, so observe the litter.
- Puppy socialization. How much time will you devote to giving your dog a social life?
- Obedience training, potty training, and leash training. Some dogs need more training, others will be fairly obedient with minimal training.
Taking these factors into account, along with choosing a dog breed, will help you immensely in creating a happy home for yourself and your pet.
One of the first considerations when you choose the breed of dog you’ll take home, is to prefer a dog breed that you have personal experience with. If you don’t know anybody who has the kind of dog you’re interested in, speak to your local vet, find a breeder who will let you visit with their litter without a commitment to buy, or go to an obedience school or local animal shelter and explain that you want to become familiar with a list of particular breeds.
Once you have a chance to spend a time with that breed of dog, you’ll have a better idea of how well you’ll get along with one, and whether there are other issues to take into account.
The Dog Breed Selection Questionnaire
At the bottom of this page, please also note the list of links that will help you learn about various dog breeds. First, I’ve put together a list of questions you should ask yourself when you are narrowing down your choices of breeds.
These questions will help you think ahead about what kind of breed you’re going to choose. That will help take the randomness out of your selection – otherwise, you’re likely to do what most people do when buying a dog, which is to choose whatever dog you “fall in love with” when you visit a breeder’s litter, or a pet store or shelter.
- Do you want a small, large or medium sized dog? Size isn’t the sole determining factor, but you may not want a huge dog inside a tiny apartment, or a poodle running around on your farm.
- How much shedding can you deal with? Obviously, the hygiene of your home is important for health reasons, and some dogs shed more than others.
- Do you have children? Some dogs will immediately get along great with children, while others will take more socialization training.
- How well do you want to train your dog? Any dog can be trained for basic household obedience, but not every breed is suited for the agility training circuit. So, do you want a dog that will learn the basics, or will you expect much more?
- Do you have other animals? Some dogs will not easily get along with other animals, including other dogs. In fact, a few dog breeds will specifically clash with other dogs. Other breeds will naturally tend to get along with your existing menagerie just fine.
- How much energy do you want your dog to have? Do you want your dog to constantly crave play time, or would you rather a more laid-back dog? Each dog breed comes with different energy levels, meaning they will have certain levels of energy as their norm. Keep in mind, of course, that each dog is unique.
- How much money are you willing to spend? Obviously, pure-bred dogs are more expensive, and certain breeds of dogs are extremely expensive. Don’t forget dog food, dog insurance, and puppy shots.
- Do you need a dog that is well-suited for specialized skills? Some breeds are excellent as guard dogs, seeing-eye dogs, watch dogs, and some dogs make excellent farm hands. Keep in mind, nearly any dog will alert you to a fire or an intruder.
- Are you planning on moving or changing your lifestyle over the next 15 years? For example, do you expect you might get married, have children, begin dating, change your work schedule, go to college, or move to a new home, during the dog’s lifetime? If so, you’ll want to purchase a dog that can thrive both in your present circumstances, and your future situation.
- Will you spend a lot of time away from home, in other words, away from your dog? Separation anxiety is a major concern with all dog breeds, but most breeds can be trained to cope and thrive in a home where, for example, everyone is at work during the weekdays. Other dog breeds do not handle this well at all.
- Ask yourself whether you’d expect your dog to spend his life inside, or outside, or whether you’ll expect your puppy to become an inside-outside dog. Some breeds cope badly with being stuck inside all the time.
- Think about the weather and climate of your home, vs the climate that’s native for the dog’s breed. Some dog breeds don’t do well in certain climates.
- Be aware of any unique health issues that your chosen breed of dog is prone to. Certain dogs are prone to certain health problems that might arise at any point in their life, such as hip dysplasia or skin problems. If you don’t take this into account, you may wind up paying veterinarian bills that could have been avoided.
- How well can you puppy proof your home? You need to think ahead as to whether-or-not you have a place where you can confine your puppy as needed in order to prevent them from getting in trouble or destroying your property.
- Are you going to be able to exercise your puppy often enough for the energy levels they’re likely to have? Keep in mind that some dogs are suited for a lazy lifestyle, but every dog needs exercise. Make sure you don’t choose a dog that will need a huge amount of exercise that you won’t be willing to provide.
- Are you going to be able to find the breed of dog that you want, in your local area? You don’t want to end up convincing yourself that you “must have” a specific breed of dog, only to later learn that you’ll have to drive 15 hours to pick one up.
- Are you an experienced dog owner? If this is your first dog, then you don’t want a difficult breed.
- Was your dog bred and conditioned for certain kinds of work? Certain dogs are meant to be attack dogs, shepherds, etc. These instincts will emerge as personality traits that you might need to know in advance.
- Do you or any of your family members have any allergies that might be triggered by specific breeds of dogs? If so, consider my information about hypoallergenic dog breeds.
Go through those questions, and speak to both your veterinarian and your own doctor, and read about the breeds you’re interested in. Then, you’ll be able to include or exclude certain breeds of dogs from your list before you start visiting breeders, pet stores and shelters.
Of course, you have to keep in mind that, no matter what breed you choose and how carefully you choose it, the real work begins once you bring the dog home. Your training and upbringing of this puppy is going to be the defining factor of their life. You absolutely will make or break a successful dog-owner relationship, regardless of how well (or poorly) the dog’s breed is suited for your home, by how you raise it.