Claire’s Corner: Finding the right breed

Fun fact – there are currently 190 dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), and even more breeds owned and loved by people around the world that are not yet registered by the AKC. With so many unique breeds to choose from, how can you be sure to pick the right breed for your family and your lifestyle?

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The first thing you need to look at is your current lifestyle and activity level. Are you someone who goes for daily runs and weekend hikes? A high energy working breed, such as an Australian shepherd, may be right for you. Conversely, if you prefer to spend your free time lounging on the couch (I relate heavily to this), then maybe a low-energy non-working breed, such as a shih tzu, is your perfect match. Far too many people get a certain breed because of how they look, or because they’ve wanted that specific breed for “as long as they can remember,” but not enough people step back and look at their own lives before making this incredibly important decision. Remember that selecting the wrong breed may have a negative impact on not only your life, but the life of your puppy as well. If you are a low energy person with a relaxed lifestyle and you bring home a high energy border collie, you will likely be left frustrated at a dog that chews your furniture, while the dog is left anxious and unfulfilled. So please be honest with yourself and choose the breed that is best for you and your family now, and not necessarily the breed that you think you want.

Once you have narrowed down your breed selection based on your lifestyle, the next thing that you need to look at is the history of the breed you’re considering. This is a very important step because the original purpose that the dog was bred for can give insight into possible behavioural characteristics your puppy may display. For instance, schnauzers were bred to hunt and kill rodents, a task which often required them to dig and burrow into the ground after their prey. As such, schnauzers have been known to dig a hole or two in their owner’s backyard, especially when they haven’t been given enough exercise. In Sprout’s case, bulldogs were bred to attack and bring down bulls, a trait which sometimes comes out in her play if she gets over-excited. As such, I never let her ‘attack’ any of her toys by shaking them or destroying them and instead use walks as an outlet for this excess energy in order to keep this natural instinct under control. In short, know the history of your chosen breed so you can prepare yourself for possible unwanted behaviours they may display as well as to give you some ideas on ways you can fulfil their breed-specific needs.

The third factor that I believe you should consider when choosing a breed is so simple that it is often overlooked – size! Large breeds like Great Danes and mastiffs don’t make good apartment pets for obvious reasons, but even if you have the living space to accommodate these gentle giants there are still other things to consider. Do you have a large enough car to transport them when they are full grown? Will your family and friends be comfortable with you bringing such a large dog to their homes when you go to visit? Can you afford to feed this size of dog, which will require significantly more food than a medium or small breed? On the other hand, small breeds are great for apartment living and are incredibly easy to travel with, however you need to consider the time of year you are looking at bringing your small breed puppy home. It is incredibly important that you begin walking your puppy from the first day you bring them home (more on this in a later post), however if you were to bring a 2lb Chihuahua puppy home in the middle of January it would be unsafe for a puppy this small to be walked outdoors. As such, if you are thinking of bringing home a small breed puppy, I highly recommend you wait until the spring or summer months to do so in order to be able to safely walk your new fur baby.

The final piece of the puzzle to finding the perfect breed for you involves looking at the potential health risks associated with your chosen breed as well as any grooming requirements they may have. Large breed dogs are often prone to hip dysplasia, while small breed dogs are at a higher risk for heart conditions. On top of this, every breed has their own breed specific health conditions that you should be aware of before purchasing a puppy of your own. Be sure to research not only the possible health conditions associated with your breed of choice, but also the possible cost of treatment for said conditions. Along with breed health comes breed lifespan – a very important factor that is often forgotten about. A puppy is not just a short term commitment; the minute you bring that puppy home you are signing yourself on to be a committed pack leader for the remainder of that dog’s life. It is a large commitment not to be taken lightly, and you should seriously think about how different your life may look a few years down the road. If your small breed dog has a lifespan of 15 years, will you still be in a position to care for that dog that far into the future? If not, that’s what adoption is for! There are a ton of older dogs looking for loving homes just like yours. Along with breed health comes grooming requirements. Grooming can be expensive if you choose to have a professional do it for you, and time consuming if you choose to do it yourself. Be sure to research the grooming requirements of the breed you are thinking of getting, and make sure you have both the time and money to accommodate these needs. I myself knew I wouldn’t have the time to brush my dog’s fur every day, and so the French bulldog’s short and low maintenance coat was perfect for me.

So now you know what to look for when researching your breed of interest, but where is the best place to find this information? The internet is a wonderful place to find information on breeds of all shapes and sizes, however you need to be careful that the facts are legitimate. I recommended visiting several different sites and even reading a few books to ensure the information you are finding is consistent, as well as to look at specific breed club websites (ie. The French Bulldog Club of Canada) as these are often very informative and legitimate. That being said, the best way to really get a feel for what a specific breed is like is not to read about it online, but to see it in person. Once you have done your preliminary research and believe you have found the breed for you, I encourage you to meet as many of them as possible before making your final decision. Just like one very calm and well socialized husky doesn’t mean every husky is low energy, one over-excited French bulldog does not mean they are all bouncing off the walls and impossible to control.

One final note on selecting the right breed for you – not all dogs will fit their breed description perfectly. This means that getting a ‘low-energy’ breed does not mean you don’t have to walk your dog or put any work into training them. Sprout is the perfect example of this. French bulldogs are often described as lazy couch potatoes, but she is a very active girl who requires a fair amount of exercise before her inner couch potato comes out. We have bulldogs at daycare that are more active than some huskies, so be sure to take any breed descriptions you read with a grain of salt and remember that each puppy will have its own unique energy requirements no matter the breed. Do your research, examine your lifestyle carefully and honestly, and choose the breed that will fulfill your life and allow you to fulfill theirs. After all, that’s what having a dog is all about!

Until next week,

Claire

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