For many people, a house is not a home without a canine family member to share in their day to day activities. If you’re looking for a dog to join your household, it’s easy to be swayed by that cute bundle of fluff with the soft brown eyes but doesn’t be impulsive. Dogs live for an average of 12 years so it’s essential that you do your research and choose the right breed for you. A poor match between dog and owner will cause stress and anxiety and could result in the dog being given up for adoption. There are a number of factors that you should consider before buying your pup.
Mixed vs Purebred
It has often been said that mixed breeds are healthier than purebreds because of “hybrid vigor”. This theory suggests that cross-bred dogs have a greater variety of genes than their purebred counterparts which reduces the chances of them having a genetic disease. The University Of California Veterinary School has studied the incidence of genetic diseases in a number of dog breeds and mixed breeds and found that there is no such thing as hybrid vigor. Crossbred pups, or mutts, were just as likely to develop genetic illnesses as purebreds.
If you’re interested in entering your dog in conformation shows, or you want to be sure you have a good example of a specific breed, you’ll need to purchase a purebred dog with pedigree papers from a registered breeder. Responsible breeders perform health testing on their dogs before they are mated to try and reduce the risk of genetic diseases. For example, breeders of German Shepherds x-ray their dogs’ hips and elbows to check for signs of dysplasia. Border Collie breeders conduct DNA testing on their dogs to check for hereditary eye disease and neurological conditions. For reasons like these, purebred dogs are more expensive than crossbred dogs. Mixed breeds are less costly to purchase, they can be just as healthy as a purebred dog, and if you buy from a rescue group, their routine veterinary work has already been done. However, you may not know what breeds make up your pup and thus it can be hard to predict their adult size, appearance and temperament.
You do need to take into consideration the members of your family when choosing a breed of dog. A family with very small children or older relatives would do well with a medium sized relatively calm dog such as a Beagle or Whippet. These dogs aren’t too excitable and are less likely to knock a toddler over. On the other hand, the tiny toy breeds such as Chihuahuas and Pomeranians may be at risk of injury from an enthusiastic and affectionate child so will need careful supervision. Older children will enjoy a romp and play with a friendly and playful Labrador; these dogs have lovely temperaments and are ideal companions for active families but may be too boisterous for elderly grandparents. For these people, a quiet and gentle Corgi could be an ideal choice.
Some people suffer from allergies and being close to an animal can cause sneezing, runny eyes and even skin rashes. These people can still enjoy a canine companion because some breeds are more hypoallergenic than others. The Schnauzer and Maltese are two breeds that are considered to be less likely to cause reactions in sensitive people. A hairless breed such as the Chinese Crested Dog may also be a good option. It’s important to remember that allergic people are not just reacting to the dog’s hair but also to the skin cells and dander that are constantly shed. This means that even hypoallergenic dogs can cause problems: it would be a good idea to spend some time with the breed of your choice to see if you have an allergic reaction to them before you permanently add them to your family.
That cute little puppy isn’t going to stay small forever so you need to consider a breed’s adult size when thinking about the type of dog you’d like. If you live in an apartment, a Great Dane or St Bernard will constantly bump into things in your home and knock things off your coffee table. There won’t be much room for them to move around. Think about a cheerful little Shih Tzu, Toy Poodle or Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. These breeds are very companionable, don’t take up much space and will enjoy going out for a walk with you every day. On the other hand, if you have a good sized house with a large back yard, you can choose a dog of any size including the giant breeds.
Some dog breeds are more active and need more exercise than others. The herding breeds and the gundogs are bred to work and aren’t happy with a sedentary lifestyle. If you like to jog or walk regularly then the Belgian Shepherd, German Shorthaired Pointer or Hungarian Vizsla would love to accompany on your daily run. These dogs aren’t suitable if your idea of a good day is curling up on the couch with a good book. If they don’t get enough exercise, they can become bored and destructive – this can lead to digging, barking and chewing. Some people think that an active dog really needs a big back yard to run around in but this isn’t true. These dogs don’t always exercise themselves so they need time spent exercising them rather than space. For the quieter dog owner, a Greyhound, Bassett Hound, French Bulldog or English Mastiff are good choices because they enjoy a daily stroll but they don’t need much more exercise than that.
It’s just as important to take into consideration a dog’s mental activity level. Some breeds may not need a lot of physical exercises but because they are very intelligent: they benefit from having something to do with their brain. The West Highland White Terrier, Shetland Sheepdog, and Papillon are small dogs that may not require long walks but they do need mental stimulation such as obedience or trick training. The Border Collie and the Australian Cattle dog have a high demand for both physical and mental exercise. These dogs thrive on agility training or sheep herding which lets them run and makes them think. They need a large investment of time and effort from their owner to keep them happy.
Dogs can have long fur, short fur, wiry coats, dreadlocks and everything in between. Each coat type needs a different level of care. Before you choose a dog, work out how much time you can spend on grooming them. If you love the look and feel of a long coat and have time to brush it and keep it free from tangles, then you may like the beautiful Afghan Hound or the Rough Collie. These dogs have stunning coats but do need frequent thorough brushing. Some breeds including the Airedale Terrier and Schnauzer have a wiry coat that will need to be stripped to remove the dead hair and allow a new wiry coat to grow in. This can be done by a groomer or you can learn to do it yourself. Poodles, Bichon Frise, and Cocker Spaniels are often clipped to keep their coats tidy; again a groomer can do this for you. If the idea of spending time on your dog’s hair fills you with dread, there are a number of breeds with low maintenance coats – consider the Dalmatian or Boxer if you like a larger breed, or the Chihuahua, Boston Terrier or Italian Greyhound if you prefer a small dog.
Another thing to take into consideration when considering a breed is how much hair they shed. Some dogs lose large tufts of hair at certain times of the year – two perfect examples are the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute. You’ll find yourself vacuuming up hair every day when they’re shedding their coat. If that doesn’t appeal, then a breed that doesn’t lose as much hair will suit you better. The short coated Rhodesian Ridgeback or Fox Terrier may be good choices, or if you prefer your dog to have some hair, then consider the cute Bedlington Terrier or Portuguese Water Dog.
The initial purchase price is the least of the expenses associated with dog ownership. Whether you choose an expensive purebred dog or a rescue mixed breed, there will be ongoing costs throughout their life. Larger dogs will eat more and their regular worming and flea treatments are dosed on body weight so they too will cost more. Routine procedures such as neutering and unexpected treatment for illness and injury will also be more expensive for bigger dogs when compared to smaller breeds. Those dogs that need frequent grooming will cost more in the long term than a short coated dog that just needs an occasional bath. Think about your family budget and how much money you can set aside for pet care then choose a breed of an appropriate size with a coat type you can afford to look after.
While there are always individual dogs within breeds that can develop health concerns during their lives, there are some breeds where most dogs will have medical problems. One example is the British Bulldog. These are lovely dogs with a cheerful personality. They can, however, suffer from breathing difficulties, eye disease, skin disorders and are at risk of hyperthermia, or heat stress. They don’t often give birth without assistance and many need cesarean section deliveries. Pugs, Pekingese, and French Bulldogs can have similar issues. It’s essential that any person who is considering welcoming one of these breeds into their home is fully aware of these health issues and is prepared for the increased veterinary care and expense that their dog will need.
After you have given consideration to each of these factors, you will be able to make a list of exactly what features you want in a dog. You can then look at individual breeds that meet these characteristics and be able to choose a dog that will fit your family’s lifestyle for the next 12 years or more. For example, if you like to go on long hikes but don’t want to spend time grooming your dog and don’t have a lot of space, a smooth coated Jack Russell Terrier would be ideal. If you have a large yard and prefer a big soft coated dog but don’t enjoy walking too far, then a Bernese Mountain Dog may be happy with one or two play sessions a day and a short walk.
When I was choosing my dog, I was looking for a medium sized to large dog with a short coat. They would need to be very active as I wanted them to be my running companion. Because they would have to be able to cope with a lot of exercises, it was important to me that they were physically sound so I was looking for a purebred with appropriate health checks in place. I also liked the intelligence and loyalty of the working, herding or gundog breeds. My dog is an Australian Working Kelpie, a purebred medium-sized herding dog with a short black and tan coat. He’s athletic, intelligent and loyal and he has been my best friend for over nine years.
If you work through these factors, you may find that the breed that you have had your heart set on isn’t going to be a good fit for you. It won’t be easy but resist the temptation to choose that breed unless you’re prepared to make adjustments in your life to accommodate their needs. You may have to learn how to groom them, get up earlier in the morning to take them for a long walk or set aside some extra money each month for their parasite treatments but it will mean they’ll be happier and healthier, both physically and mentally. It is indeed a lot of work choosing the right dog for your household but it’s an important investment in your future happiness and that of your four-legged family member.