Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
What Kind of Dog Is Best for Me?
With the large number of dog breeds that have been developed in the last 100 years, it seems there is a dog out there for everyone! But do you know how to select the breed of dog that is best for you?
There are a few important considerations you need to look into when selecting a new dog, so please take the time to choose carefully. There are breeds that do not shed much and do not bark much, lazy dogs that can be left alone during the day, active dogs, dogs that are great with kids, dogs that make good watchdogs, and some others that are just good at being a companion.
A dog is not like a new purchase that you can just dump or return if you change your mind. With proper health care, your dog is going to be a part of your life for the next ten or fifteen years! So, what kind of dog should you get?
Are Big Dog Breeds Better Than Small Dog Breeds?
If you live in an apartment or rent a house, you may be faced with restrictions and your landlord may require that you only have a dog under a certain weight. Does that mean you cannot find a great dog?
You can find a great dog no matter what the size of the breed. The main reason that many small dogs have such a bad reputation is that they are not properly trained. If you do get a small dog, treat him just like you would a larger breed from the get-go. Take him to obedience classes and make sure that he is properly socialized. A big dog is in no way better than a small dog and vice versa.
Which Dog Breed Is the Best?
There is no such thing as a “best breed." Certain dogs were developed for special purposes. Although they make acceptable pets, breeds that were developed for personal protection, like the Doberman, will probably be happiest if they have a job to do. Others, like the Maltese, do fine with a soft couch and a comfy bed.
Some breeds are better for some lifestyles, and some are not well suited to various lifestyles or environments and will be unhappy in their new home. A Border Collie, for instance, has a lot of energy and is not the type of dog that should be locked up all day long in an apartment. Similarly, a Pug shouldn’t be owned by an “Ironman” who wants to take his dog on 20-mile hikes in the mountains.
Do plenty of research. Start out with books that discuss all of the breeds you might be interested in and if you think you have found out what type of dog you want, research even further. The breed books written about the individual breeds are usually terribly biased, so it would be a good idea to talk to just a few people that own the particular breed you are interested in.
I have owned large dogs like Pit Bulls, Siberian Huskies, and Rottweilers, small dogs like the Maltese and the Pomeranian, as well as a Lhasa, a Shepherd, and several dogs of questionable ancestry and medium size. I have also had the joy of working with dogs of many different breeds in veterinary practice and training classes. As you can see, I have no breed preference. Siberian Huskies were perfect at one point in my life, my Maltese was great when I lived in Chicago, but at the moment, I have a pit bull cross from a backyard breeder. They were all great.
Is It Cool to Have a Rare Dog?
As long as you are not getting a dog just for show, it is fine to have a rare breed. Keep in mind that the requirements for care are not any different, and only get one of these dogs if he meets all of your other needs.
Questions You Should Ask Yourself When Considering a Dog
- Do you work long hours? If you are away from home 8 hours every day you need to consider that. Very few dog breeds can handle that sort of isolation.
- Do you have allergies to dogs? If a member of your family is allergic to dogs, that needs to be your most important consideration when getting a dog.
- Do you have kids? Some dogs look at children as a separate species of humanity since they look different, act different, and certainly sound different compared to adults. If you have children in the house, it is important that you find a dog breed that is good with kids.
- Does dog hair gross you out? If you want a dog breed that will not shed much, there are several good choices available.
- Do you dislike a dog that barks a lot? If noise is an issue, you'll want to choose a quiet breed.
- Do you have cats? If so, you will want a breed that gets along with cats.
Should I Get a Purebred Dog?
Having a purebred dog can be important, and not just because of your new ability to show him off to your neighbors! When you get a purebred, you know what your dog is going to look like and how big he will be when he is older, and maybe more about his personality.
Unfortunately, all purebreds are descendants of show dogs and are selected for their looks in the show ring. Many of them have traits that make them less than healthy, and other purebreds all trace their ancestry back to a few dogs that carried a genetic disease. There are numerous examples, like hip dysplasia in German Shepherds, bleeding disease in Dobermans, back problems in Dachshunds, eye problems in Pugs, etc..
Getting a mixed breed dog does not mean that your dog will have no health problems. If you get a Lab/Rottie cross, and both parents had bad hips, you may find that your crossbred develops hip dysplasia early. I have seen numerous "designer dogs" that had serious problems despite being mixed.
This decision on whether or not to have a crossbred puppy is really up to you, and no dog should be looked down upon because he does not have “papers."
Where Should I Search for My New Dog?
- Pet Shops: If you get your dog from a pet shop, he comes from a backyard breeder or a puppy mill, and the puppy has probably not had any socialization and may have been raised in a cage where he has been playing in his stool. If you start out with a dog like that you are going to have problems. Housebreaking a pet shop puppy is going to be more difficult or even impossible, and your new dog may never be socialized normally.
- Animal Shelters: Some shelter puppies and adults are excellent. He may be a great dog that has just outgrown his puppy cuteness and the owners have grown bored with him, he may be a dog from a puppy mill that will be difficult to train, or he may be a dog with a serious behavioral problem that will require extensive therapy. Shelters keep a lot of dogs from being euthanized by providing them with new homes, though, so you have to look into your heart and decide if you are willing to save a dog´s life.
- Petfinder.com: If you have a specific type of dog available, be sure to check the listing of dogs available on Petfinder. The site can tell you if there are dogs available in a local shelter or even somewhere you may never have checked, like a shelter only a few states away.
- Breed Rescue: These groups are set up to help specific breeds, so if you know what you want, go to your search engine and type in the dog you want, the word rescue, and your location. The dogs available might be young, might be old, or might be in need of training. Contact the rescue to learn more.
- Backyard Breeder: Many people use this as a derogatory term, so perhaps they should be called home-based breeders. A home-based breeder is someone who has a nice dog, wants to breed her, and is probably raising a litter or two of puppies so that he can earn a little extra cash. Most of these puppies are well socialized since there are no facilities for isolation, however, many breeders are in the business for the money and it is unlikely that they have spent anything on genetic testing for diseases, x-rays to check for signs of hip dysplasia, and the sort. Backyard breeders usually advertise in newspapers, on Craigslist, sell their puppies in parking lots, etc.. Like any other source, you have to choose carefully. The dog may be fine or may have numerous problems.
- Breeder: It is really better to buy a dog from a responsible breeder that has spent plenty of time with the puppies and evaluated the personalities before sending the puppies on to their new homes. Take the time to research the breeder on the internet, meet the parents and look over the location, and discuss all genetic screening that was done before breeding. If you are not happy with the way the adults are treated you should not be buying a puppy there. Look for another breeder, find a breed rescue, or try the local animal shelter or Petfinder.com.
Selecting the Best Dog Ever
When selecting a new dog, most people think about the dog's size and other physical characteristics. Does the dog shed? Does the dog bark much? Is the dog too rambunctious for an apartment?
Actually, finding a dog that suits your personality is the most important part of getting a new dog. Make sure her personality fits yours. If you are quiet and spend most of the day sitting at your computer and writing articles on the internet, you need a quiet dog who will be satisfied with the attention you give and then sit around quietly. If you are into taking long hikes and want a companion for camping, find a dog that fits that style of life. Are you a runner? A rancher that needs a dog to run the cattle? No matter which dog you choose, she will need to be walked and groomed, but look at every dog you can and find one that is right for you; remember, there is a dog out there for all sorts of people.
Even getting a specific breed does not guarantee you will be free from problems. There are horror stories about aggressive Golden Retrievers, lazy Border Collies, hyperactive Maltese, and Siberian Husky guard dogs. The only thing you can do is pick the right type of dog and then make sure that she has been evaluated properly and will fit your lifestyle.
Several of my dogs did not technically fit my lifestyle based on their breeds, but the particular dogs I selected turned out to be perfect companions! Yours can be too.
cjjRogers on June 22, 2017:
You are very correct - there are so many beautiful dogs needing a loving home.
There are rescues for purebred dogs also. I did join and get accepted to 2 GSD rescue places. Unfortunately finding a rescue; good with other dogs + cats + kids + people + small animals etc proved to be a challenge.
I now have a 5month old pup whose owners after only 2 weeks found they could not cope (he was 12wks when I got him). I think too many people do not realise the time and attention which goes into raising a pup.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 30, 2012:
Thanks those are my Siberian Huskies, back in the day!
wetnosedogs from Alabama on June 30, 2012:
All my dogs are from the humane society. I guess our personalities fit, I can be quiet one day(like my laid back chow mixes), then another day it's all an adventure(like my lab mix). We work around each other and it seems to fit well.
I love the picture of the dogs playing.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on May 24, 2012:
Thanks for the input. I really hope people read your advice since there are a lot of great dogs to be found in shelters, and im my experience they are usually a lot healthier
Brittany from Buffalo, NY on May 24, 2012:
It's not necessarily better to buy a dog from a breeder. Selective breeding and inbreeding still put purebred dogs at risk for health problems. Plus there are many irresponsible breeders out there today. Please consider adopting your dog from a shelter. I have two mixed breed dogs (German Shepherd/Husky and Beagle/German Shepherd) and they are the most well-behaved, easily trained dogs I've owned. Just because a shelter dog is older doesn't mean he will be less trainable or less a part of your family. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks—it's a matter of love, patience, and wanting to develop a healthy relationship with your pet.
Choose a dog whose personality matches your own. While you may think a purebred GSD is your ideal dog, just remember that you may end up with an overly-aggressive GSD, or one who is too independent. Not all purebreds are perfect. Don't hesitate to visit the dogs at your local shelter: you never know who you'll find.