With so many to types of dogs to choose from, we empathize with anyone who’s having a hard time choosing a dog breed. That’s why we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the characteristics of as many breeds as you can. Exclusive research of just a few breeds isn’t sufficient – especially when there’s a significant chance that you might find your perfect dog within a breed that you hadn’t even considered.
Choosing a Dog Breed By Size
Prefer a small dog? Large dog? Medium sized dog? Specific breeds are known for producing different sizes and it’s extremely beneficial to select a size that accommodates your living space. Not only is the size-to-environment relationship a matter of convenience, it could also be a matter of safety. A small dog, for example, can get lost in a mansion and a large dog will constantly try to break free from a small apartment.
Some questions you may want to think about when considering size:
- Do I have ample room to accommodate a large dog’s or medium sized dog’s need to exercise? It’s simply unreasonable to expect a yard that’s no larger than a patio to satisfy a large or medium-sized dog’s need for exercise. Many large and medium-sized dogs can run up to a mile a day and if you’re not willing to take the dog on mile-long runs or walks, your yard must provide enough room so that the dog can run this length on its own.
- Will my backyard provide enough room for a sanitary waste area? Simply put, the larger the dog, the larger the poop. A lot of large poop will fill up a small yard rather quickly and create a hazardous environment for the dog and your family (including your neighbors as well) – whereas a smaller dog will minimize that hazard. If you insist on housing a large dog, be prepared to remove its waste several times a day.
- If I select a tiny dog, will everyone in the household take special care not to step on it or trip over it? A tiny dog can be especially vulnerable to careless missteps. Everyone in the household must always be on the lookout for the seemingly invisible family member. Just one misstep could fracture or even break a tiny dog’s bones.
- Do I honestly have the strength to control a large dog on a leash? Some of the larger breeds accompany a strength that few of us are prepared for. Be sure that you have enough strength to prevent a strong dog from pulling you into a direction that you don’t want to go. If you’re confident about your strength, choose a smaller, less strong canine.
- Is my yard’s fence strong enough to resist the strength of an over-sized dog? Even though you may have a tall fence, a persistent, strong, and large dog can break right through an old wooden one. Make sure your fence can resist the pushes of even the most mammoth canines. Or opt for a smaller dog that couldn’t bulldoze a tiny rocking chair if it wanted to.
- Is my yard’s fence secure enough to resist the tunneling behavior of a small dog? A dog doesn’t have to be large or strong to escape the boundaries of a fence. Some dogs – in particular, small dogs – will dig a tunnel right under the thing! If your fence isn’t securely set below the ground’s surface, select a breed that doesn’t dig or tunnel at all.
- If I pick a teacup breed, do I have adequate funds to cover potential health problems? Extremely small breeds are especially prone to illnesses that could be quite expensive to treat. And these are of course illnesses that just don’t inflict dogs of normal or larger sizes.
- Can I afford the food requirements of a large dog? A small dog can (believe it or not) survive with only half a cup of dog food a day! But a large dog may need 5 – 10 times that.
- Aren’t both small and large dogs short-lived? It’s a fact that medium-sized dogs tend to live longer than small dogs and large dogs, so if longevity is a concern, keep that in mind. Large dogs have the shortest lifespans.
- Is a smaller version of my preferred breed available? One of the most interesting aspects of dogs is that almost every breed offers a dog in a different size. So although you’re attracted to a large poodle, for example, you can find a medium or small sized alternative.
Choosing a Breed By Grooming Needs
Some of the most beautiful types of dogs you’ll ever see require some of the most laborious care you’ll ever encounter! From shampooing and brushing to clipping and shaping, those gorgeous four-legged babes you see prancing around could require care that’s comparable to a supermodel’s hair. So unless you have the time and energy to dedicate towards daily grooming, short-haired breeds are the ones for you.
Some questions you may want to think about when considering grooming needs:
- What kind of grooming requirements does the dog of my interest need? The longer, thicker, or more textured a dog’s coat, the more grooming it requires. Keep this in mind when you’re perusing your options.
- Will I have the time to groom the dog every day? Some dogs need daily grooming while others need weekly or even bi-weekly grooming. Consider your schedule when looking at dogs with high grooming needs.
- Do I have enough room to groom a large or medium-sized dog? Not many people think about the space requirements of grooming a dog at home. If you live in a tiny apartment, it will be next to impossible to bathe, dry, and trim an oversized dog! So consider your grooming space when you’re choosing a dog. The kitchen sink makes an appropriately sized tub for a small dog while the bathroom tub works just fine for a medium-sized dog.
- How much will the dog’s grooming accessories cost? A short-haired dog will need only the minimal amount of grooming accessories and therefore reduce grooming costs. Imagine how much you’ll have to spend on shampoo, conditioner, combs, brushes, pest control, and trimmers for a Sheep Dog!
- Which breeds are low-maintenance? Every short-haired dog is a low-maintenance dog and is a great choice for people who can’t commit to a rigid, daily grooming schedule.
- How can I minimize allergic reactions? Some dogs shed less and produce less dander than others. If you suffer from allergies, look for a dog with low shedding, or seek out a dog that has been specifically bred to reduce allergic reactions.
- Will I have to follow grooming conventions? Grooming requirements increase if you intend to show your dog in contests. If you don’t plan on it, they decrease… up to a point, that is. You’ll still have to maintain a regular grooming schedule for the sake of health. If you do plan to show your dog, however, expect a daily commitment and higher expenses unless you’re willing to settle for a low-maintenance show dog.
- What if I don’t have the skills to groom a dog’s intricate cut? Here, the low-maintenance dog comes into play yet again. Unless you’re willing to take a few grooming classes and learn how to create those fancy coat cuts, choose a dog that looks just as beautiful with a less fanciful trim.
- What if I don’t feel comfortable grooming a dog? Whether you choose a high-maintenance or low-maintenance canine, you can always outsource grooming to a professional. Which leads to the next question…
- Can I afford professional grooming? Again, the more work involved, the more expensive a dog’s grooming will be. You must take this into consideration if you insist on adopting a curly haired dog or long-haired dog. Obviously, a professional will charge more for a fancy cut on a Yorkie for example, but less for a simple on a Beagle. Consider your budget when making a decision.
Choosing a Breed By Temperance
Many breeds are known for their temperament, and if you have children or live in a well-populated area, the ability to easily control a dog could be a final determinant. What’s particularly interesting about temperament is that it varies across size and strength. Some of the world’s tiniest dogs, for example, have the most ferocious tendencies while some of the larger dogs are simple sweethearts. Not knowing this information beforehand could create some rather uncomfortable or even dangerous situations.
Some questions you may want to think about when considering temperance:
- I have kids. Will this dog tolerant them? Some breeds are much more tolerant of children than others so make this your number one consideration if you have small children. Our article about the best dogs for children introduces you to a nice list of kid-tolerant canines.
- I have other pets. Will this dog fit in with the rest of the pack? What can we say here except the obvious: some breeds are more tolerant of animals than others, so make this an important consideration as well if you have other pets in the home.
- Is this dog easy to socialize? All of the aggressive behaviors that dogs exhibit can be curbed with stringent training. The question is how much training it will take. Some dogs don’t require as much training as others and this could be a tremendous influence on your decision. A Pit Bull Terrier, for example, is a terrible choice for owners who aren’t willing to put in the time to socialize it before introducing it into a busy public arena.
- What are the natural instincts of this dog? A large number of breeds are naturally predisposed toward chasing small animals, cars, or anything else that’s small and fast. If you haven’t the security and patience to curb it, seek a dog that’s inclined toward other less harmful behaviors (as annoying as they may be).
- What circumstances will I need to avoid? Every breed comes with a set of warnings so to speak, and you can prevent a lot of problems by researching those warnings beforehand. An example circumstance that you may want to prevent is a busy household. Some breeds are extremely sensitive and don’t function well in a household that’s constantly bombarded with visitors. Another circumstance you may want to avoid is parties – especially if you’re interested in adopting a herding dog!
Choosing a Breed Of Intelligence
Dare we say that some breeds are naturally smarter than others? As offensive as that may sound, what we really mean to say is that some breeds are easier to train than others. Short attention spans and independence are two main characteristics of what we deem “slow learners,” so professional trainers or owners short on time and patience will want breeds that learn quickly. Be aware, however, that although a breed may lack acute intelligence, it could be friendlier, more active, easier to groom, or more appropriate for any number of other reasons.
Some questions you may want to think about when considering intelligence:
- What kind of owner does this dog need? If you’re interested in an intelligent dog, you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time toward satisfying its curiosity. A bored intelligent dog will turn destructive if its mind isn’t consistently challenged.
- How much time am I really willing to dedicate to training? As we’ve mentioned, an intelligent dog requires a lot of human interaction. If you won’t have a lot of time to play games with your dog or teach it many tricks, you might want to look at a breed that’s satisfied with guarding the premises or playing with the kids.
- How will my schedule influence my choice? If we take a look at what intelligent dogs do when they’re bored or lonely, we discover that they entertain themselves with destructive behaviors. If you insist on adopting an intelligent dog without having enough time to guide it, you may have to face torn curtains, chewed shoes, and ripped pillows every time the dog feels neglected. Your busy schedule and an intelligent dog do not make good bedfellows.
- Will the dog be a good candidate for showings? The best thing you can do for an intelligent dog has entered it into agility, obedience, or conformation shows. These activities give an intelligent dog something to work toward and accomplish as long as you contribute to its training.
Choosing a Breed By Activity
If you take a look at what we’ve decided to ‘call’ different breeds, you’ll notice that they’re names are rather descriptive. Many of these names, in fact, describe a dog’s function or activity. Gun dogs and scent hounds, for example, describe dogs that are predisposed toward hunting activity while guardian dogs and companion dogs are more prone towards developing and cultivating human-canine relationships.
Some questions you may want to think about when considering activity:
- What kind of owner does this dog need? Active dogs need active owners. They need owners who are more than willing to run with them, ski with them, swim with them and just have a good active and fun time. Couch potatoes need not apply for this type of dog! An active dog that lacks the opportunity to burn off its energy is a dog that’s prone to health problems and depression.
- What kinds of things can I do with this dog? See our article about popular dog sports for some wonderful active sports this type of dog will crave. If you’re not the sporty type, you can still satisfy an active dog with the suggestions we provide in our article about fun dog activities.
- Does my environment match the activity needs of the dog I’m interested in? The environment in which an active dog life is just as important as the activity it’s exposed to. In fact, the more interaction that your environment provides, the less work you have to contribute. A great environment for some active dogs, for example, is a farm. Farm animals and the curiosities of nature will keep an active dog busy for hours on end.
Choosing a Mixed Breed
While perusing your options, be aware that our world is filled with breed variants. What you see isn’t always what you get, and this could be cause for concern if you’re seeking a specific trait. Designer dogs and simple mutts can display any number of characteristics unique to the breeds that they come from, so it behooves you to research the history of any dog that catches your interest.
ALL dogs regardless of purity are capable of being loved and adequately trained. Some dogs may demand more work and patience from you than others, but with sufficient effort, the end result is always the same: Kind, loving companionship.