One of the more common questions I hear from people considering a new dog is what breed is right for them. It is a relatively simple question and people are taken aback when they get such a complex answer. Numerous factors enter into the decision-making process and the consequences can be disastrous if the wrong personality dog comes into your life, because behavioral problems are the number one reason dogs are surrendered.
The living environment needs to be matched to what type of dog you may be bringing home. Do you live in an apartment or have a small yard? Then a high-energy dog like a Labrador retriever or border collie might not be a good fit. Dogs that do not get adequate exercise are prone to destructive behaviors like chewing and digging. A howling beagle might cause some trouble with your neighbors if you are in a duplex.
Are you up for the ongoing care some breeds may need? A bichon looks beautiful with the long flowing white hair, but that is a high-maintenance appearance. Regular bathing and grooming are important for some dogs and if you do not have the time or inclination, a lower maintenance dog might be better.
Do you have young children? Herding breeds such as collies, sheepdogs, and Shelties might not be the best choice. Young children are prone to run around in a haphazard fashion, which a herding breed sees as an opportunity to bring order to the world and instinctively may try to corral the kids with barking and nipping. We all have images of Lassie saving Tommy in the well, but the picture might be very different if Tommy was playing football with his friends in the backyard.
Most importantly, you need to match your personality with the dog you are considering. This is where some introspection and honesty is vital. A strong-willed dog will get his way and if you do not have the time or fortitude for rigorous training, you might be adopting a four-legged boss for life. Terriers are notoriously single-minded and these dogs might not mesh well with you.
The most important part of the process is to remember that this is a long-term decision and you are going to be responsible for the care of this dog for a lifetime. Bulldog puppies are adorable, but you need to be prepared to address the laundry list of health problems they will have over the years.
The adoption fee is only the beginning and it is important to keep in mind the costs that will be associated with caring for this dog as he ages; if you are not in a financial position to handle that, maybe waiting until you are is a wiser choice.
Keep in mind these are all generalizations of breeds. A dog’s individual personality can and will trump genetics and you may be able to find the perfectly calm, content, and lazy border collie.
This is where getting help before you make the decision will avoid the need to correct problems down the road.
Ask your veterinarian’s office for advice on choosing the right personality puppy. They may work with rescue organizations or could recommend reputable ones that might be able to keep an eye out for the perfect dog for you.
Questions for Dr. Gary Thompson can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 N. Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.