It might seem I’m a little repetitive on this topic, but I can’t emphasise enough how important getting the right match of dog for you is. Many of the problems I see in clinic start with this mismatch. The start of a great relationship with a dog starts by choosing the right dog for you, so today I want to help guide you when you’re next making that choice.
There are 400-500 different breeds of dogs, and among them, there are thousands of lines of breeds that all have different idiosyncrasies. It comes down to combining your needs and wants of a dog with the attributes of various breeds to get the ideal match. The better suited you and your dog are, the more fun and happier your time together will be!
Here are some things to consider when deciding what breed of dog will suit you:
- Exercise level – All dogs need exercise, but this varies greatly from breed to breed, so it is important to match the dog’s level with your own. You don’t want to deprive your dog of something as important as exercise, or it may manifest into other issues later on. Plus, a well-exercised dog is a relaxed dog that’s less likely to cause chaos! Different breeds are bred for different purposes like work, guard and companion so they vary in exercise needs too.
- Environment – Consider your family size, house size, land size, other animals on the property and are you urban or rural? Dogs need a contained environment, especially in their younger years when they are curious and prone to wandering and following their nose. Obviously, a larger area is better for a larger dog, and a small toy dog will be quite content with a smaller area.
- Temperament – Do you want a very independent and self-sufficient dog, perhaps if they’re at home while you’re at work? Or would you prefer a very affectionate and loving companion dog? Do you want a dog that will be protective and alert you when people enter your property? Or do you have a busy household with lots of comings and goings, that will make it best for you to have a quieter dog that doesn’t make much of a stir? Do you want a dog that isn’t likely to want to chase other animals on your property, or do you need a dog with some hunting drive?
- Trainability – Do you want to spend a lot of time training your dog in agility and obedience, or would you rather a playful and cuddly dog? Do you want or need your dog to perform any specific tasks?
- Physical traits – Do you want a dog with a woollen coat for anyone in the house with allergies? Also, consider any breed-specific ailments – certain breeds are prone to various congenital, medical and psychological problems, such as cleft palate, blindness, hip dysplasia, fearfulness and deafness, to name just a few.
- Purebred or hybrid – If you are choosing a pure-bred dog, it’s important to choose an excellent breeder to ensure they don’t have the congenital defects I mentioned above. Some breeders “line breed” which can cause negative recessive traits being thrown up far more often. A good breeder will begin house training and socialisation, be able to give you good nutritional advice and tell you more about the breed and its qualities.
Alternatively, choose a hybrid (cross-breed) where you will benefit from hybrid vigor. The advantage of hybrids is that you often get the best of both breeds, and out-crossing like this improves general health, provides psychological benefits and can often result in higher levels of trainability (among other things) as an outcome. I personally like cross breeds.
- Age – If you can, I’d recommend getting a puppy at 7 – 8 weeks old. This is the beginning of the critical formative period and is the most important time in your dog’s development. It is the time when pups naturally leave the den and start to meet the rest of the pack. You and your family are in essence “the pack” and building that relationship during the formative period is essential to ensure a well socialised, well-rounded dog. See the Formative period video in Dog Zen.
- Rescue as an option – With so many rescue dogs in need of a loving forever home, I always recommend that you adopt a dog from your local animal rescue shelter. Often the people that work or volunteer there will also be able to help assist you in making the choice about which dog will suit you best. Just ensure you are confident and have experience with dogs if you are choosing an adult rescue dog. Otherwise if first time owner than get a rescue pup as an option.
For more information on this critical topic see the ‘Choosing the right pup or dog breed’ and ‘Choosing the right individual pup’ videos in Dog Zen.