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Which dog breed should you choose? Cute versus personality?

So…you have decided that you want a dog! You’ve weighed up the pros and cons and decided a dog is the right pet for you. BEFORE you go searching for the cutest dog with the biggest puppy dog eyes that steals your heart let’s talk about which dog is the right one for you!

So many people buy a dog because it is cute or they like the look of the breed only to realise later that it is a poor fit for their family and their lifestyle.

Dogs have been bred over many generations for breeds to have a certain purpose. They have been bred to have specific traits and to bring out certain instincts.

Some dog breeds have been bred to herd sheep or cattle and to have the stamina and energy to work all day. As sheep dog and cattle dog owners can attest to, these dogs have a LOT of energy and might even nip the kids to try and herd them up! A 30-minute walk isn’t going to put a dent on their energy levels!

Other dog breeds have strong prey drive and are typically not good with livestock or other household pets. Some dog breeds have been bred to be protective and hence tend not be good with new people.

Does it rule these breeds out? Absolutely not! But you do need to make sure that the breed is the right fit for you.

Making sure you have the right fit for you will reduce a lot of stress and heartache for you as an owner and it help make your dog happier! Can you imagine being a natural born athlete but not able to run and stuck in a small yard? It wouldn’t take long to feel bored. That’s how an athletic dog would feel too so can you really blame them when they start to dig or chew up your plants out of boredom?

So, what should you consider:

Size does matter!

  • What is the size of your house and backyard? If you live in a small apartment a small dog would be a better fit than a large dog that’ll knock around all your furniture just walking around.
  • What is your physical strength? Although you will train your dog you still need to able to wash and even pick it up when it’s an old dog and struggling to get into the car etc. Think about what size you can physically handle!
  • If you are getting a puppy, with purebreds it is easier to research what size the adult dog will be. If it is a mixed breed dog, which also make wonderful pets, find out how big the pup’s parents were or have a look at the size of the paws. Big paws on a pup means it’ll grow into a big dog!
  • Size matters because it will cost more to feed a large dog good quality food. Do you have money in your budget to feed your dog well and keep it healthy?

Exercise requirements

What are the exercise requirements of the breed or mixed breeds in your dog? How much time (realistically!) do you have to walk and exercise your dog? How big is your backyard?

If you are adopting an older dog from a shelter or owner, ask them how energetic it is and seriously consider whether you can meet the dog's exercise needs.

Temperament/Personality

  • What are the characteristics of the breed/mixed breeds of the dog?
  • Is it a cuddly lap dog or athletic or good with kids? How will this type of personality fit in with your household including children, current pets etc.?

Health and Grooming

  • Does the dog have any health issues that will need to be managed?
  • Does the breed have health issues that should be screened for to ensure a healthy puppy? Has the breeder run all the screening tests and genetic tests on the parents? If so, ask to see the results of the tests.
  • What are the grooming requirements of the dog? Does it require clipping or regular brushing? Are you prepared to pay for a groomer or do it yourself?

Age

  • While puppies are cute, they require a lot more work! They will need potty training, basic obedience training and go through stages such as teething where they will chew anything, they can get their paws on!
  • Consider whether a puppy is right for you at this time in your life. How much time do you have to give a puppy? Do you have sick or senior dogs that might not appreciate a young puppy biting and jumping all over them?
  • Older dogs and senior dogs can make wonderful pets too so consider whether they would be a better fit for your household right now. There are many loving older dogs in shelters just waiting for their furever home.

Trainability

  • All dogs require training however some breeds tend to be easier to train compared to others. Consider how much time you can put into training your dog? Is the breed easy to train or requires an experienced handler?

Now that you’ve answered all these questions, do your research! There is a fabulous resource on the American Kennel Club which allows you to compare breeds and have a look at all these characteristics. Check it out at  the American Kennel Club.

Have fun finding your new furry best friend! Please keep in mind that puppies grow up and are a commitment for at least a decade or more. Set yourself and your dog up for success by choosing the right breed or mixed breed for you!

Erika & KasiDr Erika Alacs is a biologist and professional dog trainer. Erika and her husband Phoenix are the developers of Brave Puppy app which is an innovative sound socialisation/training tool they developed to help their own dogs overcome their noise phobias and over-excitability.