Recently our Behavior Consultant, Rachel, traveled to an Ohio rescue and adopted an 11-week-old puppy. She is hoping that this pup is a good prospect for being a working demo and helper dog for clients, but she has quite a chore ahead in getting him there. Trying to figure out what breeds may be good at this task was difficult and she decided on a mixed breed dog. He is supposedly a Bernese Mountain Dog, Australian Shepherd and Border Collie mix, though there may be other breeds in there too. She is awaiting DNA results. There is always a bit of a risk in obtaining a young pup if you’ve never met the parent dogs, so she knows there is a possibility that he may not be good at this job. If not – she is prepared for that and will love him as the family member he already is. Choosing the right breed of dog is a decision that should not be taken lightly. It goes beyond simply selecting a cute and cuddly companion. The breed of dog you choose can have a significant impact on various aspects of your life. From your lifestyle and living situation to your family dynamics and personal preferences, understanding the importance of choosing the right breed of dog is crucial. Many of the cases we see are dogs engaging in natural behaviors common for their breed and yet people are frustrated and do not seem to understand why their Collie seems more like a landshark than like Lassie.
One of the primary reasons why choosing the right breed of dog is important is to ensure compatibility with your lifestyle. Different breeds have different energy levels, exercise requirements, and temperaments. Rachel’s dog, Tiangou, is a Pekingese with a fantastic disposition and is completely neutral in public. He’s very mannerly, but he required little to get there; he was a natural. He is a fantastically laid-back dog with little exercise requirements. But there is also a lot he may not be able to do because of his breed like certain sports, dock diving, etc. If you lead an active lifestyle and enjoy outdoor activities, a high-energy breed like a Border Collie, Aussie or Labrador Retriever may be an ideal choice – but even each one of those has traits that may become apparent. Border Collies and Aussies are known to herd and nip at legs and want to control movement, Labradors love to put things in their mouth and love water and if nothing is available, will opt to mouth you or swim in mud! If you have a more laid-back lifestyle, a breed like a Pug or a Pekingese that requires less exercise may be a better fit for you, but they too have their own traits. While breed traits can become apparent in any dog, it must be noted that the parental traits will absolutely outweigh any breed traits. Meeting the parent dogs is a valuable tool in knowing how the pup may be as they grow. You can get a ton of information from your dog’s parents and get a feel for what you will be looking at as your dog matures.
Consideration of the size and space requirements of a particular breed is crucial. Small breeds like Chihuahuas or Shih Tzus may be more suitable for apartment living, whereas larger breeds like Saint Bernards and Great Pyrenees require a bit more space – including outdoor space – to move around comfortably. It is important to choose a breed that can not only thrive within the confines of your living environment, but that you can also provide proper species-specific enrichment for. Be sure to meet all needs, physically and mentally, to ensure both you and your furry friend are happy and comfortable.
If you have children or other pets at home, you may want to consider a breed that is known for its compatibility and tolerance with them. While some breeds may be great with children or other pets, there are others that are not so much. Herding breeds often try to herd children, which can cause some distress in the home. More primitive breeds may have less tolerance for other pets in the home. Understanding the breed's temperament and compatibility with your existing family members is vital to create a harmonious household. Again, it is important to always consider the temperament and traits of the parent dogs, as parental traits will always be first and foremost. Everything is nature and nurture when it comes to behavior – and every moment of the day our dogs are learning!
Different breeds have varying grooming and maintenance needs. Some breeds have long, flowing coats that require daily brushing and grooming. Doodles are quite popular right now, but they actually have high maintenance coats that need to be combed out frequently or they will mat very easily – which can be very painful for them. Other dogs may have short, low-maintenance coats, like Dobermans. Additionally, certain breeds are more prone to shedding, which can be a consideration if you or a family member has allergies. Many people think that because Tiangou is a fluffy dog that he doesn’t shed, but he has a dense undercoat and happens to shed quite a lot! It is vital to choose a breed that you know you can work to maintain.
Certain breeds are predisposed to specific health conditions or genetic disorders. This is something to consider if you may have financial constraints. Mixed breeds may have less due to genetic diversity, but there is never a guarantee. By researching and selecting a breed with a lower risk of health issues, you can potentially save yourself from future medical expenses and heartache. Understanding the common health problems that afflict different breeds and choosing a breed with a good overall health history can contribute to the longevity and well-being of your dog.
Choosing the right breed of dog is a decision that should be made after careful consideration of various factors. By understanding your lifestyle, living situation, and preferences, you can select a breed that will be a perfect match for you and your family. As trainers, we often see many mismatched breed/owner relationships and sometimes the results are tragic. Expecting a dog that was selectively bred for generations to engage in a specific behavior, to suddenly be a couch potato is unrealistic. It’s not just about the pretty face or the adorable paws – there is so much more to our dogs than that! Remember that a well-informed decision will not only ensure a harmonious relationship but also contribute to the overall happiness and well-being of both you, your family and your dog.