Especially for first-time dog owners, this is probably the part of the search where you’ll spend the most time. There are over 150 breeds of dogs from which to choose. Where to begin? There are lots of online quizzes you can take that will rate a dog to your lifestyle. Most of these quizzes’ ratings are tenuous at best, and some PKC members recommend paying them no mind at all. Take them if you want, and use them only as a starting block, but don’t take their results as absolute truth. A better way to start would be to make an outline of your lifestyle. Address issues such as:
- How much time do I have to spend with my dog?
This is really a question you should have already asked yourself when you were considering getting a dog in the first place. If you haven’t enough time to exercise and train your dog, please think about getting a different, lower-maintenance pet.
- How much energy do I have and how much should my dog have?
Are you a couch potato? Or are you constantly on the go? Probably somewhere in between. There are lots of dogs who often match their intensity-level to their owners’, but most don’t. Look at this quality closely. A Bassett Hound wouldn’t be a very fun (or willing) jogging partner, and a Greyhound wouldn’t be a very happy camper in a home where no one went out to run him around.
- How large of a dog do I have the strength to handle?
Dogs are strong, and if you can’t control a dog, we guarantee that dog will learn to control you. Socialization and training is a necessity for any dog and will help greatly with this issue, but that takes a while so you’d better be able to use brute strength to control your dog in the meantime.
- How large is my dwelling/yard?
A large dog that likes to run will tear up a small yard or home in no time. The writer of this page knows all about that. Furthermore, most dogs are easier to have in a fenced yard. Many large breeds generally do just fine in apartments with the requisite amount of exercise, but some may not.
- What type of vehicle do I have?
This is a real safety concern. Transporting a dog can be very unsafe when the dog is not properly restrained. Transporting dogs in open-bed pickups is highly discouraged and often forbidden in adoption contracts. Then there’s the other end of the spectrum – imagine Marmaduke in a compact car. The safest way to transport dogs, while understandably not always possible, is to have a kennel (crate) in the car in which they can stay. This provides some degree of restraint in an accident and assures you that they aren’t getting into things they shouldn’t while you’re busy driving.
- Do I have small children?
Some dogs are absolutely great with kids. Others can’t tolerate them, and that consideration cannot be understated. This is not always split along breed lines either, so be extra cautious when examining this attribute. See how the parents are with this. And never get a dog in the hopes that he will “learn to get along with” your child. Also never ever leave any dog and a child together unsupervised. Even the gentlest dog can do a child harm during play or when he’s not paying attention.
- How much shedding can I tolerate?
Some dogs shed little coat if any, while other breeds can carpet your entire house. Some people are fine with this, and a lot aren’t
- What will this dog’s function be?
Most any dog will make a great pet for the right people, but will he also be a watchdog? How about a hunting partner? Do you have livestock to be herded? Most dogs will try doing the jobs for which they’ve been bred even if you don’t want them to, so if you don’t want your cows or sheep or goats to be herded by your dog, be careful not to choose a herding dog. Sighthounds like Greyhounds will often see a rabbit or squirrel and take off after it – that’s simply what they’ve been bred to do. If you want a hiking partner, think twice about one of these breeds or you may lose your dog. The same types of considerations can be made for other hounds and sporting dogs. Working dogs are bred to pull things, guard things, or herd things. Are you ready to be alerted by your dog every time someone comes to the door? Bear in mind that these are sweeping generalizations and that individual dogs in a certain breed may not display the characteristics outlined here, but these are more of the considerations to be made.
There are most likely lots more aspects of your life into which your dog will have to mesh – spouses, allergies, other pets, neighbors’ opinions . . . the list goes on. So please give your daily life some careful thought, and put things in perspective (“I can live with a dog that sheds if it means I can have a dog that’s gentle with my kids”). Be prepared to spend a month or two at this stage. The AKC Website may be a good place to start. There, you can read the breed descriptions they’ve got, and you can find clubs dealing with your breed(s) in your area as well as national breed clubs.
Before continuing in your quest to find the right dog for you, you should have your search narrowed down to three or four breeds. Once you have them chosen, it’s time to consider the most common health concerns in those breeds; and this may help you rule out one or two more breeds