Which Dog Breed Should I Choose? - PetHelpful - By fellow animal lovers and experts
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Which Dog Breed Should I Choose?

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I have trained and worked in animal care as well as in career advising. I live in Lancashire, in the UK.

This dog is a mongrel: Akita mother, father unknown

This dog is a mongrel: Akita mother, father unknown

Which Breed Is Best?

There are a bamboozling number of dog breeds to choose from, and the answer to the question of which breed to choose is going to be different for everyone.

To learn which breeds are available to you, you will find that most countries have a list of breeds approved by their kennel club, such as the American Kennel Club. These are usually subdivided into groups that are connected by a linking characteristic. In addition, there is typically a group for random breeds that don't fit elsewhere. This is often called the utility group.

For even more options, there are breeds that are not recognised by the kennel club but are indigenous breeds. In the UK, this includes the patterdale terrier and the trail hound.

There are also types or mixes, which are usually a cross between two known breeds. In the UK this includes lurchers (usually a cross between a sighthound and a collie or bull breed) and the increasingly popular labradoodle (labrador cross poodle) and chi chi (Chinese crested cross chihuahua).

In addition, there are mongrels, which are a mix of breeds, often of partly unknown parentage.

People can get quite hung up wanting to know which breed is best overall. The answer, of course, is that no breed is best for everyone, so each individual needs to determine what they want or expect from a dog and then look for breeds that fit that niche.

The scope of this article is to consider which factors need to be taken into consideration when matching yourself to a breed, type or individual dog and then to look broadly at some breed characteristics.

My top tip would be to spend time with dog breeders and their dogs before you commit to ownership. This will help you find out the breed's quirks and attributes for yourself and then you can decide which breed of dog to choose.

Try not to expose yourself to puppies too early in your research. It can be very hard to resist their appeal even if they are a totally unsuitable breed for you!

Try not to expose yourself to puppies too early in your research. It can be very hard to resist their appeal even if they are a totally unsuitable breed for you!

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Dog Breed

Personality

This is not quantifiable, but just as you might find yourself making friends more easily with certain people, you might find that you 'click' more easily with a particular breed or like certain characteristics. For example, if you think you might feel jealous that your dog pays a lot of positive attention to anyone it meets, a husky probably isn't for you—they seem to welcome everyone delightedly!

Exercise

How much time do you want to spend exercising or actively entertaining your dog each day? If you walk two hours a day then a breed with stamina such as the beagle could be ideal. If you prefer a 40-minute walk and have somewhere secure to let a dog off lead for a burst of free running, a greyhound might be a better match.

Purpose or Activity

You may want a dog partly so that you can join in particular pursuits such as canicross, tracking or agility. Certain breeds will be far more suited to these pastimes than others; for example, many huskies prove very willing canicross partners. Within a breed you will also find that certain 'lines' or strains are known for their working ability—a working border collie can be a very different dog to a border collie which comes from a show line for example.

Expense

The initial cost is only a small part of it. Large breeds, such as the Saint Bernard, will be more expensive to feed. Certain breeds, e.g., the British Bulldog, are known for being more likely to need expensive veterinary treatment and can be pricey to insure. If you have a smaller budget check insurance costs for different breeds before you commit to purchase.

Your Home

If you live in a flat or apartment with no elevator, consider a small breed. As dogs get older they often struggle with stairs and you could do yourself a serious injury carrying a labrador up to your flat! Larger calm breeds such as greyhounds can be good choices for a smaller property at ground level because they tend to like lounging somewhere comfortable rather than getting under your feet all the time.

Grooming

Long-coated breeds, such as the rough collie, need a good daily grooming session to keep their coats in good condition, whereas a French bulldog will just need a quick brush every other day when they are moulting. Unless you have the expertise breeds like the poodle will need clipping out by a professional groomer, which is an added expense.

House Proudness

If you are extremely houseproud, perhaps a dog isn't for you after all! However, short-coated breeds, such as the Italian greyhound, shed very little and are dainty dogs less able to cause havoc in your pristine home.

Of Course, Every Dog Is an Individual

Finally, the characteristics and attributes of dog breeds is not an exact science some greyhounds show no interest in chasing small animals for instance. Some of the behaviour characteristics your dog develops will also be partly down to how you bring it up. So do take every dog as an individual using what you've learnt about its breed as a guideline rather than an absolute.

The Hound Group

There are two halves to this group: sight hounds such as the saluki and Afghan hound which were bred for speed over short distances to spot, chase and kill prey and scent hounds which were bred for stamina to follow the prey's scent over long distances before making a kill.

Sight Hounds are happy with a quick burst of activity then a long snooze and are often horrified at being asked to walk in inclement weather. Whereas the scent hounds will happily accompany you on a long walk through boggy country in the rain.

Neither type have been bred for trainability so wouldn't be a first choice if you planned to go in for obedience competitions, the scent hounds have been long bred to live in large packs so can be a good choice in a multi dog household.

The Pastoral Group

This is the most high energy group. They have been bred for trainability and stock steadiness acting either as herders e.g. bearded collie and border collie, or guards e.g. Pyrenean mountain dog, for livestock.

Many of the group are an excellent choice if you want to join in agility, fly ball or obedience competitions. However if you just like a gentle stroll for an hour, they are probably not the group for you.

The Working Group

These are also high energy breeds, but perhaps not quite as demanding as the pastoral breeds. The breeds used as sled dogs, such as huskies and malamutes, are considered harder to train to recall because they have been bred just to run. The breeds bred for guarding, such as the dogue de Bordeaux are more likely to be protective of you and your home, so you need to be confident that you can socialise them thoroughly and train them to greet guests and other walkers safely.

The Gun Dog Group

This is a very popular group with sizes ranging from a smallish medium e.g. the cocker spaniel, to large such as the English setter and German short haired pointer. Trainability and steadiness is a common trait amongst the group and they have been selected to flush and retrieve game shot by the owner, rather then kill it themselves. They are a quite high energy group, but can provide a happy medium of being able to join in with all the activity that you want whilst also being happy to mooch around the home with you.

The Toy Group

This is the group which was developed specifically for their pet qualities of enjoying human contact, being entertaining and small enough to sit on your lap. The group name is unfortunate because they are not toys to be pulled about by small children and some may be too sensitive and a bit fragile to withstand the rigours of family life. These group doesn't need miles of daily walking but will enjoy the stimulation of being trained or even doing mini agility courses.

The Terrier Group

This is a feisty group. Whilst they may not need to walk for hours a day they do like to be active and busy. They are renowned for being tenacious having evolved to tackle and kill prey which is sometimes larger then they are. Despite being small in stature, they can be a bit testy with other dogs. Socialisation with dogs and other animals is particularly vital at an early age.

The Utility Group

This is the group where any breeds which don't fit easily into one of the other groups, get put such as Akitas, Japanese Spitz and the Lhasa Apso.

This means they were originally bred for a wide variety of purposes for example, the Schipperke was used as an 'alarm' on dutch barges, being handily small sized for barge life and quite vocal whereas the British bulldog was originally bred for bull baiting.

It is particularly important to research the breeds in this group thoroughly, before deciding whether one is suitable for you, as they are so varied.

Table of UK Dog Group Characteristics

British Kennel Club GroupBreed ExamplesGeneral CharacteristicsOriginally Developed For

Pastoral

Groenendael, Border Collie, Cardigan Corgi

Mostly medium to large, very active and trainable, but easily become bored and destructive or develop undesirable behaviours.

Working with and herding livestock

Working

Russian Terrier, Rottweiler, Siberian Husky

Mostly large and active or very active,

specific jobs such as guarding and

Terrier

Border Terrier, Skye Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier

Mostly Small, active, bright, tenacious and feisty,

Catching rabbits and rodent pests, entering their sets and burrows

Gundog

Labrador Retriever, English Setter, German Short Haired Pointer

Biddable, adaptable, plenty of stamina

Flushing and retrieving game

Hound

Greyhound, Bloodhound, Basenji

Sight Hounds e.g. Greyhound enjoy short bursts of speedy activity. Scent hounds, such as the Foxhound track prey over long distances and have great stamina

Sight hounds - a fast chase and kill of prey, Scent hounds - a long chase at a steady pace following the scent of prey

Toy

Bichon Frise, Pomeranian, Italian Greyhound

Small or very small, enjoy lots of human company and home comforts

Companionship and lap warming

Utility

Dalmatian, Keeshond, Poodles

Varied sizes and dispositions

A wide variety of purposes

Table of American Kennel Club Group Characteristics

GroupBreed ExamplesGeneral CharacteristicsOriginally Devloped For

Sporting

Boykin Spaniel, Gordon Setter, Vizla

Biddable, adaptable, plenty of stamina

Flushing and Retrieving Game

Hound

Redbone Coonhound, Ibizan Hound, Beagle

Sight Hounds e.g. Irish Wolfhound, enjoy short bursts of speedy activity. Scent hounds, such as the Bluetick Coonhound, track prey over long distances and have great stamina

Pursuing and Killing Game

Terrier

American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, Norfolk Terrier

Mostly Small, active, bright, tenacious and feisty,

Flushing out and Killing Pest Species

Toy

Toy Fox Terrier, Maltese, Affenpinscher

Small or very small, enjoy lots of human company and home comforts

Companionship and Lap Warming

Working

Saint Bernard, Kuvasz, Samoyed

Mostly large and active or very active,

Specific Tasks such as Guarding and Rescue Work

Non sporting

Chow Chow, Lhasa Apso, Shiba Inu

Like the UK utility group these have a wide variety of sizes and dispositions

A wide Variety of Purposes

Herding

Briard, Puli, Old English Sheepdog

Mostly medium to large, very active and trainable, but easily become bored and destructive or develop undesirable behaviours

Herding Livestock

Miscellaneous

Boerboel, Pumi, Rat Terrier

Very varied

A Variety of Purposes. These Breeds exist in Small Numbers and aren't in the main list yet.

So, Which Breed Would I Choose?

Having had all my dogs from rescue kennels or passed down to me via other owners, I've never gone out to get a dog with a very firm idea of breed, but I do have parameters in terms of the new dog must be compatible with my other dogs and size-wise up to large, but not giant. I have had a greyhound, groenendael, two lurchers, two terriers, two German shepherd crosses, a labrador, a collie terrier mix, a collie spaniel mix and fostered several other breeds and types including an Italian Spinone. I genuinely enjoy a wide variety of characteristics and have loved all of them. If I was pushed for a favourite or best match, perhaps a German Shepherd cross would be just at the top of my list at the moment. But it's a close call!

This is my current dog family: Nettle, Bruno Labrador and Bob

This is my current dog family: Nettle, Bruno Labrador and Bob

Further Breed Information

Further Reading

  • How Can I Tell if my Dog is Playing or Fighting?
    Playing - look for relaxed postures, role reversal, wide open mouths low growls and groans Playing but time for the owner to step in - tail tucked beneath legs, increased noise intensity, one dog always bowled over with no recovery time. Fighting - t

Comments

Maria Janta-Cooper from UK on December 04, 2012:

It sounds great! Border collie, here we come! I love all border collies. I love their attentiveness and agility :-) But, I love all oter dogs too.

Nettlemere (author) from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on December 04, 2012:

jantamaya - it sounds like you're putting a lot of thought into which dog would be right for you. Perhaps you might come across an older border collie who is still active enough to enjoy a good walk, but doesn't need occupying as much as a younger or middle aged one. A good thing with collies is their lifespan is often 16 or more, so an 8-10 year old should have plenty of mileage, but be less full of beans.

Maria Janta-Cooper from UK on December 04, 2012:

Love this hub! I still don't know which dog would be best for me as I intend to get a retired dog. Retired dog it might be everything... I don't really care what it would be, I know that I can give for such a dog a good home to retire and walk him/her daily for at least an hour... I don't think so that I could get a border collie, which I would love most, because one hour walk might be not enough for such active dog :-( I think.

DoItForHer on May 19, 2012:

I'm from the US and have not heard of the groupings you've mentioned. When you mentioned lurcher I thought zombie and said, "Oh! I want one!"

*sighs* Not all of my comments are thought provoking.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on March 23, 2012:

This is amazing! I love how you've presented the breeds by group- I've never seen them organized in this manner. What a useful guide!

Nettlemere (author) from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on March 23, 2012:

Thank you lobobrandon, I'm pleased you like it as I enjoyed putting it together. If you are looking out for a dog, I hope you enjoy the process of getting to know which might suit you best.

Brandon Lobo on March 23, 2012:

Wow! this is a perfect hub, there's nothing more that you need to know as you've not left out anything. Thanks so much for the great answer to my question.