What Canine Companion For Me?

In my dealings with people and their dogs, I see a bit of conflict at times between family members of the human persuasion versus their canine counterparts. Sometimes these conflicts are real and of major concern, but a good portion of these conflicts could have been avoided if only the breed they chose was researched before purchasing that cute puppy.

I have seen families with several children choose a breed of dog that is very independent of people and they wonder why the dog is not interested in them. Or a very active person choose a dog that would rather hang out on the couch. Or, on the other end of that spectrum, a sedentary person with a breed of dog that needs large amounts of physical and mental stimulation. Once a decision has been made to bring a dog into your life, it should be done, first of all, as a commitment for the life of the dog, which in some cases, depending on the breed you choose, could be 12+ years. No matter what breed you choose, the dog will need a safe environment, medical attention, proper nourishment, exercise, grooming and training.

Now, on to the breed choice. There are numerous considerations when choosing a breed. Once a breed is chosen, within that breed there are more considerations, such as male or female, alpha or omega with the litter (temperament testing can help with that), the new dog's purpose, such as hunting companion, obedience trial dog or just someone to hang out with. There are many dog registries to look into when selecting a breed, but the one I will speak of here is the American Kennel Club because that one is most familiar to people. Before I start talking dog groups and breeds within the groups, the characteristics of each breed of dog should also be considered when selecting an All-American breed. The mixes of breeds within that individual dog will play a part in the dog's disposition. The AKC has divided dogs into seven groups. They are:

  • Sporting
  • Working
  • Toy
  • Herding
  • Terrier
  • Hound
  • Non-Sporting

Within these groups are listings of individual breeds. The groups are set up according to what the dog was bred and used for. As an example, the herding group and breeds within were bred to work livestock, be it moving herds or guarding them, so these particular breeds should be given jobs to simulate what their purpose is. Groups should be researched to see if a dog in that group will meet the requirements you are looking for. Once a group is picked, the next step is to research the individual breeds with the group to see which one would best meet your standards. Factors include:
  • Size
  • Coat Length and Texture
  • Male or Female
  • Training Ease
  • Feeding, Grooming, and Exercise Requirements
  • Whether the Breed is Very Vocal or Quiet

One of the best ways to research a breed is to network with individuals and kennels that handle your choice and, if possible, visit the dog. Next, read about the breed you are considering and weigh the pros and cons because every breed has them. All puppies are cute, so it pays to do your homework and make the decision with your head and heart, and not just your heart. The considerations mentioned are a must because, time and time again, people call to say that their dog barks too much, or chews too much. I believe that one of the main reasons dogs are abandoned or turned over to a shelter, be it purebred or a mixed breed, is not so much the dog being a problem dog, but because that particular breed did not fit into the lifestyle of the family giving up the dog - although, in some cases, poor breeding of any breed can create major problems. There is such a wide selection of breeds available that if research is done beforehand, a dog can become a very valuable addition to any family.

One last tip I would like to leave with you is never, ever give a puppy or dog as a gift because what you may perceive as the perfect breed may not fit into the gift recipient's lifestyle. Give a monetary gift towards the purchase if you know the gift receiver is researching breeds.

Acknowledgement: by Betsy Hamkens, Positive Motivational Obedience and Agility Instruction, Mandan, ND.