“Why did you choose this particular breed?” – This is a question I ask all my training clients to gauge what their expectations are for the family dog they’ve selected.
“I thought it was cute.”
“I’ve always wanted a Shepherd.”
“My 5 year old daughter chose her.”
“We did lots of research and thought it would be the best fit for our family.”
My most successful clients are the ones who answer saying they took time to make the important decision of which dog made sense in their home. They did not base the choice on appearance, emotional attachment or what their kid wanted. When I was a child I wanted a Beagle or a German Shepherd. Looking back, neither of these breeds would have thrived in my home environment as we were inexperienced dog owners at the time with no idea of just how much work those breeds would be.
Having a dog is a major life adjustment that some people don’t realize requires time, energy and training. All dogs, no matter what the breed, need training in order to be happy, balanced companions. Here’s what I think all dog owners need to know before seriously considering which breed is right for them.
These are your Shepherds, Collies, Cattle dogs, Huskies, Hounds, and Retrievers – just to name a few. These are dogs that are bred to do something specific. Whether it’s herding, hunting, pulling, or protecting, these dogs need something to DO! I consider working dogs like A-type personalities, whereby if they are not busy and earning their keep they will find a way to entertain themselves either by “redecorating” your home chewing through walls or becoming the neighbourhood bully.
This category of dog is typically selected as a pet for their extremely good looks or because they were seen in a popular film and portrayed as the ideal pet. In the latter case, what most people fail to realize, is that dog on screen is a trained actor on film who is in fact working. A dog (or in some cases more than one, like in the Air Bud franchise) that has been trained to do everything asked in that movie. That is a dog in work mode.
What’s also important to note is that sporting and hunting breeds will have prey drive and herding dogs will want to chase other dogs (or sometimes cars) to get their fix, so it’s absolutely necessary to learn how to curb and deter these behaviours. Socialization classes will be far more beneficial than dog park visits for these dogs. If you do have one of these breeds, it is crucial to socialize, train and fulfill your dogs needs. Research their skill sets and use that as a way to help drain their pent up energy and then you can relax and enjoy your working breed dog.
Homes that are ideal for working breeds are experienced handlers and active families that have time to invest in lots of training and also enjoy being outdoors exploring and are up for a challenge. These are not dogs for the faint of heart and if you don’t believe me just look at which breeds are at your local dog rescue. More often than not working breeds dominate the shelter scene, not due to their own fault but that of an inexperienced owner who had no idea what they were in for.
These are your mixed breed dogs that have been crossed to either enhance certain aspects (e.g. making certain dogs hypo-allergenic like golden doodles) or deter certain aspects (e.g. fix health issues such elongating a nose to assist breathing like in Puggles). What you need to be aware of here is that a hybrid can come out having both breeds’ characteristics. Take for instance the Labradoodle which can be both friendly and energetic like a Lab, but also highly intelligent needing lots of mental stimulation like a Poodle. In my experience, Labradoodles tend to be one of the most misunderstood hybrid dogs. Many people have no idea about the amount of work these dogs are. They require lots of exercise, socialization and training, not to mention grooming! See also the Puggle. This is a mix of a stubborn breed mixed with one of the most difficult to train, and so it’s no wonder this was a temporary fad that didn’t last long. Don’t get me wrong, these dogs can be fantastic pets but do need owners who understand both breeds used to create their mix and put in the necessary work to raise a chill companion.
Toys & Companion Breeds
Often overlooked, this group of dogs are non-sporting and happy to be a family pet with next to no drive for working. My only caution here is having a small breed with young children. Toys like Chihuahuas have a bad reputation as a biting breed, but with good reason. Due to their size they are often threatened by children’s unpredictable movements. If you do opt for a toy breed make sure children in the home are respectful of the dog and calm when interacting with it. Never is it ok for children to run at them, pick them up or force interactions like hugs or kisses. A better option for a home with young kids is a Shih Tzu, Bichon, or Maltese. With regular walks, these dogs are smart, resilient and playful. Shih Tzu’s are known for having an even temperament and being friendly with strangers. I would recommend companion breeds to inexperienced owners, families or elderly couples that are not very active, or humans with low energy. Don’t get it twisted though, these dogs do also need training and other doggie friends. We have many toy and companion breeds at our daycare who love to mingle with dogs big and small.
No matter what breed you opt for, always be sure to do your research, hire an experienced trainer to assist you from the start, work with a trusted breeder or rescue, and prepare for the lifelong commitment that having a dog is. If you have any doubts perhaps starting off with a goldfish or hamster is a better option as they are lower maintenance pets. If you are curious to know what having a dog is like try borrowing a friends for a week.