There are many breeds of dogs and cats out there. And there is an unlimited number of mixes of these breeds-sometimes we don’t know what mix of breeds a dog is-just a guess. If you are looking for a new four legged family member, whether from a breeder or adoption group, there are several things you need to think about first:
**How active is your family and lifestyle? Some dogs have lots of energy, some not much at all, and some fall in the middle! Typically your working breeds such as herding breeds, hunting dogs, and other dogs bred to have a job are going to be very high energy. This means when it is raining and cold, they are going to need exercise. These dogs if they are not given a job to do, will find their own. And that often means they become destructive, because they are bored. On the flip side, there are dogs that would prefer to hang out on the couch and lounge. Breeds such as mastiffs and many of your smaller companion breeds (Shih Tzu’s, Maltese, etc) don’t need large amounts of exercise and mental stimulation. And then there are many breeds that fall in between. Greyhounds typically need one good sprint and then are happy to lounge. Of course there are exceptions to every breed. Do you want a dog that will run five miles a day with you-probably shouldn’t get a mastiff. Do you want a dog that’s happy with two short walks a day-probably shouldn’t get a border collie!
**How much time do you want to invest in training your new pet? Are you ready to take a puppy outside every hour, get up in the middle of the night, and clean up accidents? Or would you prefer a dog that is closer to being house trained? Everyone loves a puppy-they are so cute-but sometimes our lifestyles are better suited with an adult dog. While some adult dogs may need more training, often there are adult dogs available for adoption that already have the basics down. Do you want a puppy for performance events such as agility, obedience, and more-then you are likely looking for a breed with more drive, such as a shepherd, collie, Golden Retriever, etc. If you want a dog that is happy watching movies on the couch with you, you likely don’t want a working breed. As these guys are more apt to be eating your couch without proper training, exercise, and mental stimulation.
**Do you want a dog that is your shadow or do you want a more independent dog? I have Belgian Tervurens-I cannot go to the bathroom by myself anymore! My shadows have to come with me anytime I go somewhere. On the flip side, I had a Beagle many years ago-unless I had food, she could care less what I was doing. Hounds tend to be more independent, as do many of your Northern breeds. Herding breeds often think they are an extension of you! Which type of dog do you want? Which personality fits better with your household?
**How do feel about hair? Shedding? Vacuuming? Grooming? Are you ok with a dog that sheds and requires you to vacuum a lot? If so you probably won’t mind a lab, Golden Retriever, shepherd, or similar dog. Are you happy taking your dog to the groomers every 4-6 weeks but hate vacuuming, look for a Poodle, Maltese, Havanese, Shih Tzu, etc. But remember every dog needs regular grooming even if it just nail trims.
**What health issues are you prepared to handle? Every breed has health issues but these can vary a lot based on breed. Our smaller dogs are more prone to dental issues-are you prepared for yearly dental cleanings? Our larger breeds often have more joint/lameness issues. Are you ready for a possible knee surgery? Can you handle a 75 pound dog that needs assistance getting in and out to use the bathroom?
If you are looking for a new companion but not certain which breed or type of dog might best suit your lifestyle talk to your veterinarian or local dog training. And don’t forget about mixed breed dogs. You may not know their true breeds but can often guess based on temperament and looks. We can give our insight from seeing and working with lots of dogs every day!
Boo Donoho, DVM
Southern Animal Hospital