Whether you want a guard dog, a working dog or a family pet, it’s a decision you shouldn’t rush into unless you know exactly what to expect. Many dogs end up in shelters because their owners made a choice to buy or adopt one without doing the necessary research.
So what kind of questions should you ask yourself before getting a new dog?
1. What do you need the dog for?
Is it a working dog, a companion, a hunting partner or a playmate for the kids? The answer to this question will determine the breeds you would be looking into.
For example, if you are looking for a guard dog you might want to look into Bullmastiffs, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers or any other breed known for being fearless and protective.
If you are looking for a watchdog, a dog that would alert you of strangers without being trained to attack; you might want to research smaller breeds known for being aloof toward strangers without posing a significant danger like a Chihuahua or a Pekingese.
If you are looking for a hunting companion, there are dog breeds known for their hunting or retrieving abilities. Labrador and Golden Retriever, Coonhound, Bloodhound, Catahoula Cur and English Beagle are all good examples of a breed that would adapt well to hunting. Your choice of breed would also depend on your hunting habits.
For a family dog, there is a whole list of breeds each of which has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, Border Collies might be fun to play Frisbee with, but being a herding dog they tend to nip at the heels of smaller children if they failed to “herd” them and felt like the child is “straying away”. Deep research about the temperament of each breed you are considering would save you a lot of trouble later.
2. What are your living conditions?
Do you live in an apartment? Do you have a yard? Do you live at a farm? Do you work late?
If you live in a small apartment, a dog that is particularly active or values its freedom to roam and play around a bigger area would feel miserable living with you. You would need to prepare special accommodations and frequent trips to the doggy park. You might also face the problem of a destructive dog, either out of boredom or accidentally knocking your things off. Smaller and less active dogs tend to do better in apartments.
If you have a very busy schedule you might want to reconsider getting a dog, as all dog breeds need care and attention. If you are prepared to make some time for your dog, then there are dogs that need less exercise where a short walk is enough. Here are some good examples of low energy dogs that thrive in apartments: Pekingese, Greyhound, French and regular Bulldog and Pug.
3. Do you live in close proximity to neighbors who might be bothered by barking?
This is a point many people tend to overlook, and many unfortunate dog “accidents” result from bad neighbors who just want to shut up your dog. Before you torture yourself and your dog with anti-bark collars and doohickeys that often stop having any effect as soon as your dog gets used to them, consider getting one of the breeds that are known to bark less. Basenji is such a breed; they are even nicknamed “the barkless dog” due to their inability to bark! This does not mean it doesn’t make any noise, all dogs do. The Basenji makes howling and “singing” voices but not often. Be warned though, it’s a fairly active breed that needs a lot of exercise.
4. Are you prepared to clean drool puddles or sweep the floor every day?
All dogs make messes, be it intentionally like tipping something over to reach a toy, accidentally like stepping in mud and dragging it into the house or naturally by shedding and drooling.
If you get a small puppy or a dog that isn’t house trained yet, be prepared to clean up accidents until your dog is well trained, which can take as long as 2-3 months in some cases. Be prepared to clean vomit when your mischievous friend decides to swallow something that doesn’t agree with a dog’s stomach. Be ready to keep picking up toys and odd finds every day.
Many dogs have an undercoat. Dogs with heavy undercoat shed daily and it gets much worse twice a year. If you miss on sweeping the floor or if you have carpets, you will have hair rolling all over the place like tumbleweed or stubbornly sticking to your carpet.
If shedding and hair is a concern, or if you have allergies, you need to exclude heavy undercoat breeds from your options. Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and huskies for example tend to shed excessively. Some breeds only shed seasonally and even that is minimal because they don’t have an undercoat. Portuguese Water Dog, Poodle and Shih Tzu are all examples of breeds that shed very little.
Some dog breeds, depending on the lines in the dog, tend to drool and slobber. The problem is made worse when you are wearing shoes and accidentally step into a drool puddle, painting your floor with dirt spot wherever you walk. Bulldogs and Mastiffs for example have a tendency to drool.
5. Are you a light sleeper?
If you are planning to have your dog sleep in your bedroom, be warned! Some dog breeds are known to snore! It might not sound like a big deal, but for people who have sleeping problems it could make things much worse. Pekinese, Pugs and Boston Terriers are some of the breeds known to be prone to snoring.
6. Do you have the time and energy to groom your dog?
While you could get away with an occasional brushing for some breeds, there are breeds that require weekly or even daily attention when it comes to grooming.
Some dogs with long tangle prone hair might need daily brushing and detangling, and some have hair that forms mats easily. Other breeds shed often, as mentioned earlier, and need daily brushing to minimize the problem.
If you are not prepared to shell out time (and sometimes money) for dog grooming, make sure not to get a dog that needs high maintenance grooming such as an Afghan Hound or a Shih Tzu. You might also want to avoid heavy shedding breeds like the Siberian Husky.
7. This list is in no way exclusive!
Can you afford it financially? Can your breed of choice handle rough child play? Do you have other pets? Do you tend to have many visitors? Can your breed of choice handle the weather conditions in your city? How much time are you willing to put into training your new dog? What are the main health concerns in your breed of choice? There are many other considerations to take into account, so research thoroughly and think carefully before you bring home a potential shelter dweller.