How to Choose the Right Breed for You
As dog trainers, we get to see a lot of teams. Some are spectacular!
A human and dog team that fit each other like a glove. These matches are like poetry. Mutual respect for each other is obvious in this relationship. The dog wants to learn from the handler and the handler is eager to learn from the dog.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. We often see breed mismatches. These dogs are often the product of a lack of research or sadly, a misconception that I call, “the Disney model.” German Shepherd dogs are not all born like Rin Tin Tin. Jack Russell Terriers are not all charming like “My Dog Skip.” Sadly, Hollywood is terrible for leading people astray and they often do a disservice to dog breeds. No dog comes out of the box as a charming and well mannered canine citizen. The thousands of hours of work and training that go into these dogs over a lifetime cannot be truly appreciated until you do it for yourself!
Everyone has a different lifestyle, it’s crucial that the breed you choose is a good fit for yours. Your happiness and the dog’s will both depend on it. This begs the question: What is the right dog for your lifestyle? Let’s start off with some of the common mistakes we see.
Choose a Breed With the Right Level of Energy for You
When deciding on a breed, it’s important that you are realistic and honest about your lifestyle. If you are a couch potato who loves nothing more than to channel surf through most of your weekend, a Border Collie would be a disaster in your household. Any dog with energy to burn, will not be happy in this scenario. Energetic dogs need daily interaction with both mental and physical stimulation to be happy. The energetic dog cooped up with a couch potato will quickly become frustrated and likely destructive. Often, people think smart dogs don’t need training when reality is quite the opposite. Smart dogs will create their own fun if they are under stimulated. Usually, they and their owners have a different idea of what fun is. Fun to the dog may be chasing the cat or tearing apart the couch. Probably not fun for the owner! The good news is that busy, smart dogs are fun and rewarding when matched with the right owner.
Choose a Breed With the Right Temperament for You?
Another mismatch we often see is the passive owner and the “tough” dog. If you are a big softie, who is easily walked on, or quick to excuse away bad behaviour instead of dealing with it, a Rottweiler or German Shepherd dog is NOT the right breed for you. Often, people get these dogs thinking that they will be great as protection dogs without realizing how much work and consistency it takes to make a good citizen out of a dog with a high prey drive and instinct to protect. When a protection dog is left to their own devices to determine when, where and who to protect, a disaster could be just around the corner. The issue with these dogs is not teaching them to protect – that instinct usually runs deep in guard dog type breeds. The issue is making sure these dogs don’t “bite first and ask questions later.” It’s imperative with a dog of this nature that they are taught not to act out on their own. Owners must be diligent about controlling their dog’s protective drive so that they don’t end up biting a person they deem threatening who isn’t. This dog must be under the control of a responsible and capable person at all times.
How Do I Choose the Right Breed for Me?
So, how do you pick the right breed? Research… and then research again… And when think you’ve made your decision… research some more. You can’t possibly over think this! It’s a decision that you have to live with for (hopefully) 10 – 15 years. Visit dog shows, breeders, training schools. Talk to owners, breed clubs, vets. Find out what you’re getting into. A good jumping off point would be visiting a site like the CKC’s (Canadian Kennel Club) Puppy List. There you can read a brief synopsis on breed temperament, activity level, grooming requirements, etc. From there, get out to dog shows or visit some breeders. Meet several examples of the breeds you are interested in and continue to shorten your list until you find the perfect breed to match your lifestyle.
You won’t regret putting in the extra work to find the right dog breed for your household. In the end, a well researched breed choice will be a joy to live with, for both you and the dog!