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There are 175 breeds recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC). That's a lot of different dogs! For anyone looking for a dog, there's little question you can find a breed that you will love within the seven groups. But how do you choose the right breed for you? What should you do to ensure the dog you've chosen will be a good match for your lifestyle? Choosing on looks alone may set you up for a heartbreak. Shelters are full of animals that, for one reason or another, didn't fit into the homes they found themselves. All too often, this is because of too little research and too much impulse. So how do you narrow it down to the right choice for you?
Dog shows are a great source of information as they are the best way to see a lot of breeds in one place. It's also a great opportunity to talk to breeders and owners to get the real skinny on living with a particular breed of dog. Don't fall into the habit of only looking at the things you like in a breed. The positives are easy to live with - it's the negatives that you will have a hard time with. A good breeder will tell you the good AND the bad about their breed. Do they shed excessively? Are they prone to barking? Are there common health issues in the breed. Ask as many questions as you can and seriously weigh the impact that the negatives will have on your life. Do you like your house to be spotless? You may think twice about bringing home a sporting dog who is always in the water and mud. Are you a couch potato? A busy breed like a Border Collie will be a huge mismatch!
Here are some of the things you should consider when searching for the right Breed of dog for you.
Breed Traits & Instincts
There are 175 breeds divided into 7 groups. These include Sporting, Hounds, Terriers, Working, Toy, Herding and Non-Sporting. You can fairly safely predict certain behaviour traits within each group and then further narrow down your decision by researching the unique breeds that appeal to you.
Be honest with yourself about what you like and make sure you get the full story. Some hounds are not big barkers, but they will bay, which can be quite noisy. Rottweilers are incredibly loyal, but can also be pushy since they were originally bred to drive cattle. As part of your research, think about what the dog was bred to do. Dogs like Terriers are bred to enter a small opening, like a hole in the ground, and take on vermin head on - if they were bred to be soft, they would not be good at their jobs. Tenacity is a big part of being a terrier. Some breeds are bred for protection work, which means they are genetically inclined to bite and bite hard. You may do great with a dog like a Belgian Malinois, who are often referred to as a "full-time job", but if you are not prepared for that, you'll be in a bad position. Ask yourself: Are you prepared to deal with the innate drives of the breed you covet?
Read about the breed you like, meet people who own them and ask your questions up front. Find out what they like and what they don't like and thoroughly explore both the positives and the negatives before you make your final decision of breed choice.
Energy level should be a massive consideration. Of course there are variables within each breed, but for the most part you can count on certain breeds having a certain level of energy. This match will determine a lot! If you bring home a dog with less enthusiasm than you have for the things you like to do, you'll be frustrated and if you get a dog with more enthusiasm than you have for things, they'll be frustrated.
A Border Collie won't like living with a couch potato anymore than a Mastiff will like being your jogging companion.
Pick a breed that has similar energy to you and your family and you'll both be happy!
Another big consideration is temperament. Again, this will vary within a breed, but if you are someone who is super relaxed about the rules, a Rottweiler may not be the right choice for you. Ask yourself: Are you a strong leader? Always remembering that true leadership is built on calm, fair and consistent rules, not on tyranny, intimidation or brute force. If you know a dog like a German Shepherd will likely walk all over you, that dog could become a danger to you and others and is not the right choice. If you're not likely to enforce training and manners, a Great Dane will likely pull you off of your feet one day, but a Miniature Poodle may just fit you perfectly.
Other factors, like shedding and grooming requirements will play a role as well. Some dogs can get by with a light brushing and nail trim once a week and others will have far more excessive grooming needs. Some need daily brushing to keep their coats from matting. Will your dog need to have regular haircuts? Dogs who don't shed will need more professional maintenance like clipping on a regular basis. Make sure you factor in the additional yearly costs.
Consider size as an important factor as well. A big dog means big accessories, including a bigger vehicle in a lot of cases. Are you prepared to provide space in the house for a giant crate/dog bed/food bill, etc.
In the end, you're making a decision that will hopefully be with your for the next 10 or 15 years. A few extra months taken to research the right breed for you will be time well spent.
As always, Happy Training!
Hi! I'm Shannon and I joined the McCann team in 1999 while training Quincey, my wonderful and spirited Rottweiler, to have good listening skills. I'm the Director of Online Training and Content for McCann Professional Dog Trainers and I enjoy writing about dogs and dog training for the McCann blog. I currently share my life with 2 Tollers (Reggie & Ned) and I love helping people develop the best possible relationship with their 4-legged family members. Join us for a FREE lesson at MyDogCan.McCannDogs.com.