Choosing The Breed That Is Right For You

You have decided the time is right. A puppy would fit into your life and schedule. And you have the financial reserves to take care of a little critter. How do you decide which breed is right for you?

Start by making a list of criteria you require in a pet before you even start looking at the breeds. Otherwise you will rearrange your needs and wants to fit the breed that you see in the pictures or at the dog show and in the end will be disappointed.

Next, you need to narrow down your search. One way to do this is to look at the broad general groups of dogs and start to narrow down your likes and dislikes to find a breed category that meets your needs.

Then you need to look carefully into the breeds within that group to find the best breed for you. Once you have narrowed it down to a few breeds, head out to the dog shows and do more in depth research into each breed.

Remember, even with all the research you do, you can still get a huge range of personality within a breed and even within a litter.

All dogs can be great dogs in the right hands. Let’s start to look at the following issues to help figure out which dog belongs in your hands!


What adult size is realistic for you? A 150 lb Mastiff may not be the best choice for a 105 lb 75 year old senior. A Chihuahua is not a good choice for someone wanting a jogging companion. What size can you handle? Consider leash control, physical restraint, desired lifestyle and basic grooming (brushing).


How much exercise can you realistically offer you pet? Are you waiting for a knee replacement? Do you work 12 hour days? Are you interested in training for fly ball, retrieving or agility? Or are you that marathon runner looking for a companion?

Grooming requirements.

Do they need to be professionally groomed every 6 weeks? Do they need daily intensive hair brushing? Do they shed a lot? Remember, even short haired dogs will shed and require brushing. And every dog should have their teeth brushed every day. Do you have the time and patience for extensive grooming? Can you afford the visits to the groomer? If not, look for a short haired dog.


Are you looking for a family pet to take camping with you? Or are you single and planning to stay that way? Are your children quiet or rambunctious? Do you have a lot of children over to the house to visit?

Cost to maintain.

Large dogs cost more in food and medication. Some breeds have significant potential health issues. Just remember, even with the best research, some dogs will end up with health problems.

How much room do you have?

Will this be an apartment dog, condo dog, house dog or on an acreage? Any dog can be an apartment dog but do you really want to train your Great Dane to the pee pads or fake grass on the balcony of your apartment? With enough exercise and training, even the Border Collie or Weimaraner can be an apartment dog.


Do you want a one person dog? Do you like feistier dogs that are a greater challenge to train? Do you want a dog that is a pleaser? Are you looking for an alarm system? Do you need a gentle snuggler? Do you want a lap dog? What need is this dog filling?

Experience level.

If you are a first time dog owner, you don’t want a dominant challenging breed. If you are experienced at dog ownership and are a dominant personality yourself, you will want a stronger minded dog. Be honest with yourself! How dominant are you? Don’t choose a dog more dominant than you!

Let’s look at some examples: You decide you want a dog in the 20-40 lb range that is good with children and fairly easy to train. You can do 40 minute walks once daily and find brushing a dog therapeutic and relaxing. You are now well on your way to finding the right dog for you. Don’t get side tracked! A dog like a Sheltie may be perfect for you.

Or perhaps you are single and living in a 561 sq ft apartment with a small balcony. You work 12 hour days but can take your dog to work if it stays under your desk in a basket. A Chihuahua may be the best choice for you.

Perhaps you like to run 5 km every day, have acreage, hope to do agility, and love brushing your dog. You work 6 hour days. You have two teenage children that hide in their rooms on their computer and you rarely see their friends. A border collie may work for you.

You have an idea of what you are looking for. Next, look at the breed categories to help you narrow down what type of dog you want. The categories have distinctive personalities, but the breeds within those classes can vary quite a lot. Most people are attracted to the breeds and personalities within a particular group. Now that you know what you are looking for, this may help you narrow down the search into a particular category.

Sporting Dogs like to work. They are intelligent and energetic. They are usually medium to large breed dogs. Without adequate intellectual outlet and exercise they can become destructive. (Labradors, Golden Retrievers , Setters, Spaniels, etc.)

Hounds live for their noses and are easily distracted. They aren’t people pleasers and therefore can be harder to train. Are you up to a challenge? They tend to be medium to large breed dogs. (Basset Hounds, Beagles, Afghan Hounds, Dachshund, Whippets, Rhodesian Ridgebacks etc.)

Working dogs are quite dominant by nature. They require strong owners who are clear pack leaders. They can be protective and often are used to guard property. They tend to be large to giant breed dogs. (Boxers, Mastiffs, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Dobermans etc.)

Herding dogs are highly intelligent and easy to train but tend towards nippiness. They herd when they get excited. They want to please their owners. They are most commonly medium to large breed dogs. (Australian shepherd, Corgi, German Shepherd, Border Collie etc.)

Terriers were bred to hunt vermin. They are tenacious, stubborn, intelligent and can be a problem around other dogs. They are a smaller solid dog that can be challenging to raise. (Cairn Terrier, Jack Russell, Staffordshire, Bull Terrier etc.)

Toy dogs think they are big dogs but are much more fragile. They easily break limbs and don’t hesitate at trying to be dominant. These are very popular dogs but come with a number of medical issues. Good training is important in these breeds or they turn into ‘carpet sharks’. (Chihuahua, Shih Tzu, Yorkie, King Charles Cavalier etc.)

The non-sporting dogs have a sporting or working temperament without the same degree of drive. This is quite a variable group but some of the breeds are excellent for the inexperienced dog owner. (Boston Terrier, Poodle, Bichon Frise, Bulldog, American Eskimo).

Once you have narrowed it down to one or two groups of dogs, look more closely at the breeds within those groups. Consider temperament, training and exercise needs, and health issues. Once you have narrowed it down to a few breeds, go and visit the dog shows. You may be surprised by what you see. The internet is a great source of information – good and bad!

Once you have decided on a breed, you need to find a breeder. Or you can check out the shelters and rescue organizations. Judge a dog by its individual personality. Breed profiles provide guidelines but the individual dog has a unique personality.

Next time we will look at where to find your dream dog.