Which breed of dog is best for me?
So your family have decided to get a dog, but how do you know which breed of dog is best for you?
Dogs purchased on a whim or based purely on appearance are often not a good fit for your family. The dog can quickly become disruptive simply because you have unrealistic expectations of them. Without understanding a dog’s breeding, you cannot use the dog’s natural preferences to train them to live happily with your family.
For example, people often complain about a herding breed nipping and barking while the kids play football, a guarding breed not letting visitors in the house, or a scent hound pulling and sniffing while on walks. These are all examples of families not understanding their dog’s natural tendencies and providing an appropriate outlets for them.
By understanding your dog’s natural tendencies, you can identify what motivates them. Instead of thinking the dog is stubborn, ignorant or spiteful, you can use their breed specific motivations to train a great family pet.
Here are some tips on choosing the right breed of dog for you.
Be clear about what you want from a dog.
Do you want a quiet companion to watch TV with you, an active dog to play with the kids, a dog to jog, ride or paddle alongside you or a sporting dog that you can participate in dog sports such as Agility, Flyball, Obedience or scentwork? Based on the activities you want to do with a dog, you can narrow down suitable breeds based on what they were originally bred to do.
Be honest about how much time you have to spend with the dog each day.
Consider the time required to exercise, feed, groom (if applicable), clean up after (think poo patrol in the yard, cleaning the dog’s bedding, food and water bowls etc) and train the dog every day. Typically, most pet dog owners need to allocate between 60 – 90 minutes each day to meet their dog’s basic needs. If you are keen on participating in dog sports, this time allocation increases.
Also consider when you have this time available. If you are leaving a dog at home for up to 10 hours each day while you are at work, you need to exercise and stimulate the dog BEFORE you go to work, so they will settle while you are at work and not bark, dig, chew and escape.
Consider your household and housing situation.
If you live in an apartment, then a quieter, lower energy breed may suit you better than a breed that is prone to barking and needs more mental stimulation. If you have small children, then you need to consider the size and energy level of the dog you select. If you have a highset house with stairs, consider the physical structure of some breeds of dogs and the impact of using stairs.
Also consider your vehicle type and size. For safety, dogs must be restrained in a vehicle, so consider where the dog will travel with and without all the family in the car. If you have a vehicle into which the dog will have to jump, consider the physical structure of dog breeds and the impact of getting into and out of the car.
Familiarise yourself with the characteristics of the different breed groups.
Each breed group will have instincts or tendencies depending on the type of work they were bred to perform.
- Hounds include Beagles, Greyhounds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Whippets. Hounds have highly attuned sight or scent senses, so you will have to work hard to keep their attention on you when outdoors. They are working dogs so need to be stimulated daily.
- Gundogs include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, spaniels, pointers and setters. These breeds are willing workers, they are often high energy and easily distracted by sights and smells. They require daily stimulation to keep them out of trouble.
- Herding / shepherd breeds include Border Collies, Cattle Dogs, Kelpies, German Shepherds, and Corgis. These breeds were bred to move or guard livestock, so they generally have a drive to “work” which means that a quiet walk around the block once a week won’t suffice for exercise or mental stimulation.
- Terriers include Staffordshire Terrier, Fox Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers and West Highland White Terriers. These dogs were often used to clear vermin so they are highly attuned to movement which they will chase (i.e. toads, children or the washing). Some also like to dig and as a working breeds, they need daily stimulation.
- Sledding or snow dogs, like Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. These breeds were bred to work as a team pulling goods. These breeds need plenty of daily exercise with mental stimulation and a strong family structure so they can live happily.
Meet as many dogs of your preferred breed grouping, as possible.
Meeting dogs of each breed will let you gauge the breed’s temperament generally, understand any health issues, and view the appearance of the breed (i.e. size of males and females, weight of coat including shedding cycles, if applicable). Good places to meet dogs of your preferred breed grouping is at dog shows and Obedience, Agility, Herding, and Lure Coursing events.
For details of these events in your area refer to Dogs Queensland at Dogs Queensland This site will also provide a listing of registered Kennel Club breeders who will be more than happy to talk with you about their breed and let you meet their dogs.
Also see Dogzonline for breeder listings throughout Australia and New Zealand.
Teamwork Dogs provides group dog training classes for dogs aged from 10 weeks through to adults. We want to help you train your perfect family dog.
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