Hooray! If you’ve decided to take the plunge and join the dog-family ranks, you’re in good company. Again, more households today have dogs than kids!
While there may not be a “perfect” dog, the secret to any happy, healthy relationship begins with a compatible match. Knowing a dog’s breed characteristics will go a long way toward finding one suited to your personality and lifestyle.
Know the Breed
Generally speaking, breed history helps predict energy level and temperament. AKC breeds fall into seven groups based on purpose for which they were bred – herding, sporting, hound, terrier, working, toy and non-sporting.
Herding, Sporting and Hound Groups. If you’re looking for an energetic exercise buddy or competitive athlete, a canine from the herding, sporting or hound group may be your dream dog.
Herders tend to be busy-body workaholics that can become bored and destructive without a “job” to do. As their name suggests, shepherds, sheepdogs, collies and corgis, were bred to herd and guard livestock. They are athletic, versatile, eager to train, extremely loyal and somewhat temperamental.
Sporting breeds – spaniels, setters, retrievers, pointers and poodles – are enthusiastic, outdoor-loving “bird dogs.” They tend to be social, affable, highly-trainable and mild-mannered, making them consistently among the most popular family pets and therapy dogs.
Sight and scent Hounds include some of the fastest, loudest and most determined breeds: Afghan, Basset, Bloodhound, Beagle, Greyhound, Wolfhound, Dachshund and Whippet. They are fun, friendly dogs, but their hunting instincts and working drive can make urban living a challenge without proper exercise. (Ever heard a beagle bay at 5 a.m.?)
Working and Terrier Groups. Despite their large size, working breeds are often laid-back, loyal lovers of their people and good with children. The career history of these “big lugs” – Bernese Mountain Dogs, Boxers, Bullmastiff, Dobermans, Great Danes, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland, Rottweiler, St. Bernards – includes carting, guarding, rescuing, protecting or other service work.
Terriers are medium-sized dogs with giant-sized personalities – Airedale, Bedlington, Border, Cairn, Jack Russell, Schnauzer, Scottish, Soft-coated Wheaton, Welsh, Westie and Wire Fox. Given a feisty, independent and tenacious nature derived from ferreting out earthen vermin – they may not be the most tolerant of unfamiliar little people or small critters.
Toy and Non-Sporting Groups. On the other end of the energy spectrum, if a mellow couch-cuddler sounds more appealing, a “companion breed” from the toy or non-sporting groups may be for you. Bred primarily for pets, these “lap dogs” are generally smaller and gentle in nature – Chihuahua, Maltese, Papillon, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Pug, Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise, Lhasa Apso, Shar-Pei and Shiba Inu. They are loyal and affectionate; often high on grooming requirements and low on exercise needs.
Much like playing the dating game, many online resources exist to help match your personality, family and lifestyle with a 4-legged companion. After all, you’re talking about a lifelong commitment! For starters, try Animal Planet's breed selector quiz.
And, whether you prefer a puppy or adult, pure or mixed breed, several local shelters and breed-specific rescues in the area have plenty of wonderful dogs to choose from. The Animal Rescue League, Animal Lifeline and AHeinz57 are just a few.
In the end … Do your doggie due diligence before picking a pooch. When you choose wisely, everyone wins!