Choosing The Right Breed

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When deciding to bring a dog into the home, first-time owners are often overwhelmed with advice on choosing the right breed. Phrases like “easy to train” or “not a breed for first-time owners” are too generically applied. A quick Google search yields several million sites; some are definitely more helpful than others. Mostly, they ask questions about your activity, living arrangements, and family members. Plug in a few answers, and you are magically told what you ideal breed is. Unfortunately, these types of computer generated matches are not helpful at best. At worst, they may actually discourage a potential owner from adopting a dog. Too often half a dozen or so breeds have been preprogramed into the system; if you are active, then you are matched with a Border Collie; if you have kids, then a Golden Retriever is your right breed: live in an apartment, you are introduced to the Chihuahua. Instead of relying on stereotypes and generic ideas, here is some sound advice on choosing the right breed.

First, realize all dogs require varying degrees of the same basic things: quality food, veterinary care, regular exercise, mental stimulation, grooming, and obedience training; in other words, dogs require a significant commitment of both time and money for several years. Once you decide you can make such a commitment, a new owner can move onto choosing a breed, or more accurately, learning about the breeds to which he or she is already attracted.

Books like the AKC’s complete dog book are very helpful and can be found at your local library. Online communities like those found on Yahoo groups can connect owners to people with firsthand experience with particular breeds. Spending time at your local shelter, breed-specific rescue, or even dog park can be invaluable. Most important though is choosing a breed you like because the commitment will be easier and being honest with yourself. For instance, a well-trained and exercised “high-energy dog” will do better in an apartment than an untrained and unexercised “low-energy dog” will.

Finally, a short word about “mutts.” Too often people overlook those Heinz-57 pups when choosing a breed. As many owners have discovered, you don’t need a purebred dog to have a good dog.