There’s a reason why dogs are called “man’s best friend.” They have guarded our homes, helped manage our livestock, and provided us with unwavering friendship for thousands of years. Of course, getting a dog isn’t for everyone, but if you’re thinking about getting one for yourself, you’re in luck. There are hundreds of dog breeds to choose from. They come in countless shapes, sizes, and temperaments, and have been bred for everything from aristocratic companionship, to sled-pulling.
If you choose to get a purebred dog, make sure you’re getting your money’s worth by picking an animal that fits your lifestyle and your environment. Before you take the leap, consider these factors:
1. You and your household’s needs and personalities
if you’re the type of person who wants your dog to snap to attention when you give a command, you probably won’t have much patience for willful, obstinate breeds, like most terriers. If you’re gregarious, you probably won’t want a dog that is standoffish or aggressive towards strangers. The clever, energetic golden retriever is known to be the friendliest breed of the bunch, but others, like the Springer spaniel and the French bulldog aren’t bad choices either. A large household with small children can be a bit too much for a shy breed like the Italian greyhound, but these gentle pooches are good for older individuals and folks who want some peace and quiet. If you want an energetic, playful dog you’d be surprised at how fun and sweet a doberman can be, especially if he’s well-trained and properly socialized. If allergies are a problem, poodles and poodle-crossbreed “designer dogs,” like labradoodles and cockapoos are good choices. If you don’t want a poodle, hairless breeds like the Chinese crested or the Mexican hairless are likewise hypoallergenic, just make sure that their temperaments won’t clash with yours.
2. Where you live
some dogs are suited for warmer climates, and some can thrive in subzero temperatures. It goes without saying that a snow dog, like the Siberian husky, probably won’t appreciate the soaring temperatures of desert or tropical areas. In places with particularly cold, harsh winters, a slender, short-haired animal is likely to spend most of its time shivering next to a space-heater. If you live in a tiny apartment in the heart of a bustling urban metropolis, a small dog who doesn’t take up as much space as a huge one will. On the other hand, a tiny dog can literally get lost in a place with a lot of wide open spaces. In addition to these considerations, some places have laws prohibiting or regulating specific dog breeds, so you’ll need to factor that into your dog-choice as well. It certainly won’t do to bond with and bring home a pit bull pup, only to find out that you can’t keep him because owning one is illegal in your state.
3. The dog’s exercise requirements
it goes without saying that all dogs need playtime and regular exercise. Certain breeds, like border collies, require plenty of exercise and entertainment to keep them from getting bored and engaging in destructive behaviors. More sedate dog breeds might need far less exercise. In fact, some short-nosed breeds, like pugs and bulldogs, can actually suffer from overheating and breathing problems if they get overexerted. If you’re the athletic type who wants a four-legged running partner for your hour-long twice-daily runs, you’ll need a dog who can keep up. Conversely, if you’re the sort who considers walking to the mailbox a workout, a similarly sedentary pooch won’t become hyperactive and need to work off much excess energy if today’s walk only takes the two of you down the street. Size can sometimes play a big factor when figuring out how much exercise a dog needs. After all, many Chihuahuas have crazy amounts of energy, but this breed is so small, that a couple of blocks will probably feel like several miles for one. In contrast, a Great Dane is a gentle, laid-back giant, but even if it’s a relatively low energy dog, it’s still big enough to cover a lot of ground in just a few strides.
4. The dog’s grooming needs
all dogs need to be groomed. This includes regular bathing, tooth-cleaning, nail-trims, and brushing. However, certain breeds may need more grooming than others. Long-haired breeds need to be brushed more frequently, because their coats can become matted and pick up a lot of dirt and debris. Lop-eared dogs like basset hounds need their ears cleaned more frequently because they are more prone to ear infections and ear parasites. Wrinkly breeds will need the skin between their wrinkles cleaned regularly, to keep them from getting skin infections. Some breeds don’t shed at all, some shed a great deal, and some only shed seasonally. Find out how much resources and elbow grease you’re willing to put in to keep your pooch properly groomed before you pick one out.
5. The dog’s veterinary requirements
Some breeds are hardier than others, and some can be rather fragile. Certain breeds are congenitally more susceptible to certain ailments than others. Bigger dogs, like German shepherds, for example, are more prone to hip dysplasia. Long-bodied dogs, like dachshunds and corgis are vulnerable to back problems. Dalmatians have a tendency to go deaf. If you get a puppy, you’ll probably have to make sure that he is properly vaccinated. If you decide to adopt an older dog or a rescue animal, you may end up with one that has an existing health issue or injury. In general, mixed breed dogs are hardier than their purebred fellows, but whatever animal you choose to take home, you need to make sure that its medical needs are adequately met.
To avoid behavioral problems and additional vet bills, only purchase purebred or designer dogs from breeders who treat their animals humanely and responsibly. Most pet shop puppies are poorly treated and come from puppy mills where irresponsible breeding practices create weak or sickly dogs, so buying one from these establishments is not recommended at all. Certain breeds are far more expensive than others, but you’d be surprised at how many purebred dogs end up in pounds and animal shelters. Rescue or shelter animals might not always be the healthiest or most well-adjusted specimens, but if you’re confident that you can address your potential pooch’s needs as they arise, adopting one can be very rewarding. When you do, not only will you be getting a furry friend for free, but you’ll be saving a life as well.
Whatever choice you make, be sure to do your research beforehand. There are several websites with “dog breed selection” quizzes and descriptions of different breeds. Each breed has its own goodie-bag of strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and adaptations, and if you’re willing to put in a bit of extra time and effort, you can definitely find the right breed to fit your lifestyle.
Don’t be afraid to keep an open mind though. A dog is far more than just its breed description. Getting the perfect dog for you and your family can ultimately come down to the animal itself. A mutt of undefined ancestry can be just as suitable for you as a show-quality purebred dog. See how you and your family interact with the animal before adopting one. You might be surprised at how well a dog will take to certain environments and individuals.