Did that German Shepherd you had as a youngster act much different than the one you have now? You have had your eye on that energetic Shorthaired Pointer, but you live in an apartment? You want a dog to go hiking and adventure with, but have concerns with a large sized dog? Have you ever had to relinquish a dog for any reason?
What do all these questions have in common? They are all about making sure you have the correct dog for your lifestyle.
You would not want to coop up a large German Shepherd in a tiny apartment, or ask a 5 pound chihuahua to go for a hike along the Appalachian Trail. Maybe that Border Collie you had growing up on the farm was the best dog ever, but now you live in a town home but still long for that companion you had.
When you purchase, adopt, rescue, add a canine friend to your family, YOUR needs mean just as much as the dog’s needs. If you have a busy life and need a low maintenance friend, a large sized Goldendoodle may not be the route to go. They need a lot of grooming, exercise, space, and have higher financial responsibility. If you are looking to add new tasks to fill your time, or a companion for activities, there are many different types of dogs to fill each particular void.
When looking at what kind of dog best suits your life, there are a lot of items to consider.
1) Energy Level
Sporting and Herding breeds are bred to have increased energy, because they were intended to work long and hard. Sporting dogs are meant to run long distances for hours at a time. Herding dogs are meant to move livestock together as a group over far pastures. These characteristics make it difficult for dogs to live in small spaces, with minimal exercise. Not to say it is impossible, but it takes planning and work. Daily walks at minimum and mental enrichment is necessary to keep these dogs in small spaces.
2) Physical Characteristics
To mention the obvious, every breed is physically different than others. Great Danes can be over 120 pounds, Doodles have curly coats that need daily brushing, Bulldogs have skin folds that need cleaned, all these characteristics come with extra needs. These needs may result in higher monetary costs, some may result in hours from your already busy schedule.
3) Behavioral Characteristics
Herding breeds are designed to move stubborn livestock by wit and force. Working breeds are designed to be weary or reactive of strangers. Terriers are bred to think for themselves underground catching rodents. These characteristics tend to show up when we (as owners, trainers) try to change unwanted behaviors. When our Jack Russel Terrier runs off after a squirrel, or our Australian Shepherd chases the cars driving past, or our Rottweiler barks at a person approaching. These characteristics can be hardwired into these various breed type groups, and finding alternatives can be tedious.
4) What time do YOU have?
Are you a busy person (like a lot of us) and just want a dog to fit into your life? Are you up for some work and a project? Yes, there can be middle ground! A Husky can require a lot of brushing in the summer to keep them cool. Australian Cattle dogs require mental stimulation; do you have time for training classes? Do you have time to clean those Bulldog skin folds I mentioned earlier?
5) Financial Aspect
That 120 pound Great Dane from earlier, can be expensive when it comes to food cost and medications when compared to a Chihuahua. That Doodle that needs brushed daily, will probably need professional grooming on a regular basis. Grooming can be expensive. Some breeds are at higher risk for needing additional veterinary care, that is more costly also. Bulldogs are susceptible to skin problems, those are additional vet costs.
These items are just a few common topics to think about. Some breeds like to check multiple boxes in these discussions, like that Great Dane. Danes are very large animals, they tend to cost more on routine care, they are prone to anatomical diseases/illnesses (arthritis, Gastric Dilation Volvulus, heart disease, ect), they can be weary of strangers and need extra training. Does that fit into your life picture?
There are reasons that certain breeds are more common, those breeds typically fit well in most families. Even with those breeds there can be different characteristics and personalities that set them apart from others. Labs bred for hunting can have more energy requirements than labs bred for pet homes or show homes.
Now, I know purebred dogs are not everyone’s cup of tea. These topics and ideas do transfer over to shelter pets and rescue pets. Many breeds have specific rescue groups that have dogs up for adoption. Even the “Heinz 57” mutt at the shelter will have specific characteristics. When looking for a new pet: What are you going to have to put into the pet to make it part of the family? Monetary cost, living space, physical upkeep, behavioral characteristics...
Now that I have your head spinning with information, you are probably wondering “How do I choose now?” or you are regretting reading this blog because you are on information overload. There is a place to go for help! Ask your veterinary team, ask a trainer, ask a breeder of the breed you are looking at.
I do offer this service at Alexandria Animal Hospital. You can also research online, but be aware you can find just as many wrong answers online as you can find correct. Be sure you are looking at a reputable site. The American Kennel Club and ASPCA can be valuable resources! For that one-on-one personal care, ask your veterinary team!