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Which Breed of Dog Should I Chose?

Updated on April 21, 2016

Which Breed is Best?

There are a bamboozling number of dog breeds to choose from and the answer to the question "which breed of dog should I choose? is going to be different for everyone. To discover 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 of breeds with a linking characteristic plus a group for random breeds which don't fit elsewhere. This is often called the utility group.

To give even more options, there are breeds which 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 are usually a cross between two known breeds. In the UK this includes lurchers - usually a cross between a sight hound and a collie or bull breed and the increasingly popular labradoodle - labrador cross poodle and chi chi - Chinese crested cross chihuahua.

A Mongrel - Akita Mother, Father Unknown
A Mongrel - Akita Mother, Father Unknown | Source

Then 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 which fit that niche.

The scope of this article is to consider what factors need to be taken in to 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.

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 2 hours a day then a breed with stamina such as the beagle could be ideal. If 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 then 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 then 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.

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 then an absolute.

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! | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bloodhounds - hound groupGreyhound
Bloodhounds - hound group
Bloodhounds - hound group | Source
Greyhound
Greyhound | Source

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Border Collie - pastoral or herding groupBelgian shepherd dog (Groenendael variety)Smooth collieOld English sheepdog after its coat has been shaved off.Belgian shepherd dog - Laeknois variety
Border Collie - pastoral or herding group
Border Collie - pastoral or herding group | Source
Belgian shepherd dog (Groenendael variety)
Belgian shepherd dog (Groenendael variety) | Source
Smooth collie
Smooth collie | Source
Old English sheepdog after its coat has been shaved off.
Old English sheepdog after its coat has been shaved off. | Source
Belgian shepherd dog - Laeknois variety
Belgian shepherd dog - Laeknois variety | Source

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rottweiler - Working GroupDogue de Bordeaux wearing a head collarAlaskan malamuteHusky puppy
Rottweiler - Working Group
Rottweiler - Working Group | Source
Dogue de Bordeaux wearing a head collar
Dogue de Bordeaux wearing a head collar | Source
Alaskan malamute
Alaskan malamute | Source
Husky puppy
Husky puppy | Source

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Labrador Retriever - Gun Dog Group Irish SetterGerman short haired pointer puppiesGolden retriever Cocker spaniels
Labrador Retriever - Gun Dog Group
Labrador Retriever - Gun Dog Group | Source
Irish Setter
Irish Setter | Source
German short haired pointer puppies
German short haired pointer puppies | Source
Golden retriever
Golden retriever | Source
Cocker spaniels
Cocker spaniels | Source

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Chi Chi Puppies at Three Weeks Old (chihuahua x Chinese crested - a Toy Group MixShort coated chihuahuas
Chi Chi Puppies at Three Weeks Old (chihuahua x Chinese crested - a Toy Group Mix
Chi Chi Puppies at Three Weeks Old (chihuahua x Chinese crested - a Toy Group Mix | Source
Short coated chihuahuas
Short coated chihuahuas | Source

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.

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Jack Russell Terrier - terrier group (although strictly speaking the Parson Jack Russell is the official group member)Staffordshire bull terrier
Jack Russell Terrier - terrier group (although strictly speaking the Parson Jack Russell is the official group member)
Jack Russell Terrier - terrier group (although strictly speaking the Parson Jack Russell is the official group member) | Source
Staffordshire bull terrier
Staffordshire bull terrier | Source

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.

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Miniature Schnauzer - Utility GroupAkitasJapanese Spitz
Miniature Schnauzer - Utility Group
Miniature Schnauzer - Utility Group | Source
Akitas
Akitas | Source
Japanese Spitz
Japanese Spitz | Source

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 Group
Breed Examples
General Characteristics
Originally 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

Group
Breed Examples
General Characteristics
Originally 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 What 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, 2 lurchers, 2 terriers, 2 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!

Nettle, Bruno Labrador and Bob, my current Dog Family
Nettle, Bruno Labrador and Bob, my current Dog Family | Source

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    • lobobrandon profile image

      Brandon Lobo 5 years ago

      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.

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      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.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      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!

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 5 years ago

      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.

    • jantamaya profile image

      Maria Janta-Cooper 4 years ago from UK

      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.

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      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.

    • jantamaya profile image

      Maria Janta-Cooper 4 years ago from UK

      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.

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