How Do I Choose a Dog Breed?

Choosing a dog breed is a very individualistic thing.  There is no single dog breed that is perfect for every family or every home.  Different breeds have different temperaments and different needs.  How do you sort through the wide range of options to find a dog breed that will be suitable for you and your lifestyle?

There are a range of questions that you should ask yourself about you, your family, and your home in order to determine the best dog breed to fit in with you.  Answering these questions will help you to identify things like the size, temperament, activity level and grooming requirements that would be workable for your lifestyle.

Are there other animals already in your home?

The first element to consider in choosing a dog breed is whether or not there are other dogs or cats in your home.  Some dog breeds will work better with other animals than other dog breeds will.  This is not always specific to a particular breed.  There can be individual differences between dogs within the same breed, but the characteristics of a breed can still impact this.  For example, if you have a cat, you may want to veer away from getting a sight hound, like a Greyhound or a Whippet, that is bred for a chase.  You are likely to do better with something like a Lab or Golden Retriever that is known to be very outgoing, or a lap dog that is known to be flexible, like a Pug.

Even if you have small animals in your home like rabbits or birds, you will want to give it consideration before you choose a dog breed.  Some dogs have specifically been bred to hunt, and the presence of small animals in the house will continually excite them, possibly in undesirable ways.  Terriers, for example, are bred to kill vermin, and their predatory instincts are likely to be triggered with smaller animals nearby.  Similar to dogs who will likely do well with cats, outgoing dog breeds and lap dogs are likely to do well with small animals in the house.  Consider something like a Maltese or Bichon Frise.

Are you a first time dog owner?

Some dog breeds are higher maintenance than others, and can be harder to train.  If you are a first time dog owner, you may want to have a low maintenance, “starter version” type of dog.  That’s not to say that your new pet will be no maintenance.  There are still things that you will want to learn and prepare, like having a place for your dog to sleep and knowing what to feed him.  You may also want to consider getting a dog that is a little older and has already been trained, rather than a puppy.  In terms of breeds that are some of the easiest to own, consider a Beagle, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a Chihuahua, or maybe a Collie.     

How much time do you spend at home?

Some breeds need higher levels of activity or attention than others.  The amount of time that you have available should certainly be considered when choosing a dog breed.  If you are away, a more independent or less active breed may be preferable.  If you are home a lot, you may have more options in choosing a breed, since you can devote more of your attention to your dog’s needs.  This can be a particularly important factor due to the amount of training time that you have available to give to a dog.  Some breeds are known for needing more training than others. 

For people who are not going to be home a majority of the day, consider a breed that is generally fine on their own at home.  Some possible options are the Basset Hound, known for being a sleepy dog; a French Bulldog, know for being fairly mellow; or a Greyhound, known for being quiet and independent.  Some of the dogs that will need more exercise, time that will have to be accounted for somewhere, include the Australian Shepherd, Weimaraner, Dalmatian, and Siberian Husky.

What kind of home do you live in?

Your home life is a very important consideration when choosing a dog breed.  This is where size and activities levels play an important part of your decision.  If you live in a small apartment in the city, for example, a large dog that requires a lot of activity may not be the best fit for you.  A farm far out in the country may offer you more options for the type of breed that you consider, but you would still want to be cautious of how you allow a small dog to be kept, in order to keep him safe in a area where there may be dangerous wildlife.

If you live in an apartment, some of the dog breeds that may work for you include the English Bulldog, Yorkshire Terrier, and Dachshund.  Dog breeds that tend to enjoy more space include the Border Collie, Great Pyrenees, Tibetan Mastiff, and Rottweiler.

Do you have small children?

Some dog breeds are known to work better with children than others.  It is similar to how some people are known to work better with children than others. In the case of dogs, it often has to do with the base behaviors that were bred into them.  In some cases, they may be very territorial, in other cases, they may just not be very tolerant of the noise that comes with having kids.   

Dog breeds that tend to work well with children include the Bernese Mountain Dog, Boston Terrier, Labrador Retriever, and Golden Retriever, and Pug.  Some of the dog breeds that are not recommended to be around children are the Akita, Bull Mastiff, Chihuahua, Chow Chow, Greyhound, and Jack Russell Terrier.

Even if you do not yet have kids, but you plan to, make sure that you choose an appropriate dog for kids.  You will not want to get yourself into a position where you have to re-home your dog at a later time.  That will not be easy on your dog or on you. 

Who else lives with you?

Be aware of others who are in the house, and their needs.  Aside from children, you want to be especially mindful of those who are elderly or disabled.  Some dog breeds may not work for them.  For example, if someone uses a walker to get around, a breed that is large and active could pose a problem.  Just imagine your family member trying to move around as a large, hyper dog comes running past, hitting the side of the walker as they go by.  Always think about potential scenarios with the type of dog that you choose and those who may be more vulnerable living in your home. 

Do you have allergies or asthma? 

If you have various allergies, asthma, or even a known dog allergy, but still want a dog, there are some dog breeds that are more likely to work in your life than others.  While there is no dog breed that is fully hypoallergenic, there are some breeds that have a non-shedding coat that produces less dander.  Dander is what causes most of the pet allergies in people.  The most common breed that is chosen by allergy sufferers is the Poodle.  You will find various poodle mixes, like the Cockapoo and Labradoodle, that have been bred specifically because they will tend to have less dander than their non-poodle counterparts (in this case Cocker Spaniel and Labrador Retriever).  Additional hypoallergenic breed options may include the Afghan Hound, Schnauzer, Kerry Blue Terrier, Maltese, or Portuguese Water Dog.

How much activity do you like?

Look for a breed that is likely to match with your level of physical activity.  If you tend to be a couch potato, a very active dog breed is not likely to work in your home.  Similarly, if you love to be out hiking, bike riding and doing other various activities, you want a dog that can keep up with you.

If you are looking for a dog that will lay around the house with you most of the day, consider a Chinese Crested, a Japanese Chin, a Pomeranian, a Basset Hound, a Cocker Spaniel, an English Bulldog, or a Great Dane.  If you need a dog that can keep up with you (or that you will have to keep up with) think about a Welsh Corgi, a Shetland Sheepdog, a Dalmatian, a Russell Terrier, a Siberian Husky, or maybe an Irish Setter.

What kind of temperament are you looking for?

Do you want a snuggler that loves everyone or are you more interested in a dog that will diligently protect the house?  Your breed selection can have a definite impact on these types of behaviors.  Think about what you are really looking for in a dog.  What is your real reason for getting a dog?  How do you want your dog to fit into the household?  How do you envision your dog when he is alongside you?   Work to choose a breed that will align to your answers to these types of questions.  

Some of the most cuddly dog breeds include the Pomeranian, the Golden Retriever (an all-around favorite breed for many), the Labrador Retriever (also an all-around favorite), and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  Some breeds to think about if you are looking for a guard dog might be the Akita, German Shepherd, Doberman Pinscher, or Rottweiler.

How do you feel about barking?

Does noise bother you?  If so, you should be aware that some breeds are known to bark more frequently than others.  If you don’t want a barker, avoid breeds such as the Beagle.  As a hunting hound, they tend to be vocal.  Additional breeds that are known loud-mouths are the Chihuahua, the Pomeranian, Siberian Husky and Yorkshire Terrier.  If you want an especially quiet dog, you may want to think about a Greyhound, a French Bulldog or a Bullmastiff. 

Do you have a size preference?

Although your living situation should certainly be a strong consideration in choosing a breed size, preference can also come into play.  For example, while I love all dogs, I have a strong affinity for large ones.  Fortunately, I have a home that allows for a large dog to have the kind of space and exercise that he needs.  The good news for all of us is that dogs come in a very wide range of sizes.  You are likely to find a breed that will meet your other needs and still be in the general size range that you prefer.

How do you feel about dog hair?

Let’s face it, some dogs shed more than others.  If you hate shedding, and can’t stand the idea of dog hair on your couch or clothes, you will want to pay attention to that when you are choosing a breed.  If you want to limit dog hair around your house, you may want to avoid breeds like German Shepherds, Great Pyrenees, Siberian Huskies, Chow Chows, or Golden Retrievers, as they are all known shedders.  Low shedding dog breeds include the Airedale Terrier, American Water Spaniel, Maltese, and Poodle.

Besides shedding, some dogs simply require a lot more grooming to stay neat and cute.  All dogs are going to need some grooming, like regular baths, tooth brushing and nail trims, but be prepared for the time and money that some dogs with thicker coats may require.  Some breeds that will need extra grooming attention include the Poodle, Bichon Frise, Afghan Hound, and Old English Sheepdog.

Take a Quiz

There are several dog breed selection quizzes that you can find online.  Each one will make suggestions regarding a suitable dog breed for your living situation.  I got some interesting answers when I did them.  It can certainly be a lot of fun, but don’t take the result as a mandate.  You will still want to do some research about the breed for yourself to see if it is a good fit.  I liked the results from the quiz I took on the Pedigree website, primarily because it gave a narrow selection of possible dog breed matches for me, rather than a singular choice.  Here are links to some of the quizzes that you may want to try:

What about a mixed breed?

Often mixed breeds can provide a “best of both worlds” type of match for you, as they will carry characteristics from multiple sources.  This could be a great, and very economical solution for you, since they also tend to cost less to acquire.  You might even be able to provide a wonderful home for a shelter dog in need.  While you are not likely to know the full mix of all breeds that might be present in your dog of choice, it is important to recognize common characteristics of the predominant breed(s) in your prospective pooch.  Do some research about common breeds before going to the shelter, or if there is a mixed breed dog that you are already considering, look up key characteristics before making a final decision.  Evaluate those characteristics in light of the various questions that we have already raised.    This will help you determine if the dog is likely to do well in your home. 

It’s About the Research

Choosing a dog breed is not based on just one element.  While you may find a particular breed to be especially cute, always consider the characteristics that the breed has before you bring a dog home.  It is important to choose a breed that is likely to fit well with your lifestyle so that you and the dog don’t have to go through unnecessary stress later on.  Always do some research, and make sure that you go into dog ownership with a clear view of what it is going to require.

Rebecca Chesonis

Rebecca Chesonis is a business professional with a lifelong love for dogs. She has owned and worked around dogs since she was a child. She has a love for all breeds, and a particular fondness for large dogs. She loves to write articles and create videos that will help you take care of your dog and find activities to make life with your dog even more fun!

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