How To Choose the Right Dog For You

Modern Dog - - CONTENTS - BY POOJA MENON

Find­ing your per­fect ca­nine per­son­al­ity match starts with as­sess­ing your own wants and needs. Turn to page 60 for how to find your four-legged BFF!

Pic­ture this sce­nario. Ever since you can re­mem­ber, you’ve loved dogs. Your child­hood mem­o­ries are full of in­stances where you begged your par­ents for a dog only to be told that you could have one when you were older and able to take care of the pup your­self. Then one day, that day ar­rives, and you’re fi­nally ready to com­mit to car­ing for a liv­ing be­ing other than your­self. But with so many op­tions out there, how do you be­gin the search for your pup?

There are over 150 Amer­i­can Kennel Club rec­og­nized pure­bred dog breeds, and this is not tak­ing into ac­count the va­ri­ety of “mixed” breed munchkins that are also look­ing for homes. How then do you find a dog that will be the yin to your yang? Don’t fret, be­cause I’m here to help you get started on your search.

Choos­ing a fur mate is a bit like choos­ing a soul mate. It’s a life­time com­mit­ment, ‘til death do us part. It’s there­fore im­por­tant to con­sider com­pat­i­bil­ity from ev­ery an­gle be­fore tak­ing the plunge, from ba­sic per­son­al­ity traits and shared in­ter­ests to sim­i­lar en­ergy lev­els. To make the process eas­ier, I rec­om­mend you get out a pen and pa­per and make a list of ques­tions to kick­start the think­ing process.

Like, what kind of life­style do you lead? How much money do you make? Does your apart­ment al­low dogs? If so, are there any size re­stric­tions? How much time in a day do you have to spend with your pup? What kind of men­tal and phys­i­cal stim­u­la­tion can you pro­vide? Are the peo­ple you co-habit with as ex­cited as you are about get­ting a dog? Are you a fan of big dogs or small dogs? Is get­ting a pure­bred dog with pa­pers im­por­tant to you, or would you pre­fer to res­cue a dog from your lo­cal shel­ter? (Re­mem­ber you can find pure­bred and mixed breed dogs alike at shel­ters, both puppy and adult.) Do you pre­fer a fe­male dog or a male dog, and why? Do you have time for the in­ten­sive groom­ing that a long­haired dog might need, or would you rather go for dogs with short and easy coats? And how im­por­tant is a pristinely clean home to you?

Now let’s dig deeper. Say that you’re an ac­tive hiker who can notch eight miles a day with­out break­ing a sweat. You’re prob­a­bly go­ing to want a buddy who can keep up with you on your ad­ven­tures, like a Bernese Moun­tain Dog or a Vi­zla, or a BernVi­zla-mutt-mix. Say you live in a small apart­ment with barely enough room for two, then it’s likely a Chi­huahua or a Dash-Bi­chon-Frise-mix would be bet­ter suited than a young Rot­tweiler. Say you have a high-stress job that leaves you with no time to take crate train­ing breaks in the mid­dle of your day, then an ado­les­cent or se­nior dog would be a bet­ter op­tion for your life­style than a puppy. Or say you hold a flex­i­ble job that al­lows you to nip home dur­ing your lunch break, or you have the re­sources to ar­range for a dog walker, then a puppy might be an op­tion to con­sider. But no mat­ter what kind of dog you choose, big or small, young or old, pure­bred or mutt, they all re­quire your at­ten­tion, com­pan­ion­ship, and care.

Sadly, too many well-in­ten­tioned peo­ple to­day make the wrong choices when pick­ing out a com­pan­ion, only to be over­whelmed by the re­spon­si­bil­ity of rais­ing and nur­tur­ing a dog.

Ac­cord­ing to the ASPCA, each year more than 3.9 mil­lion dogs are sur­ren­dered to lo­cal shel­ters around the United States. Out of which more than 1.2 mil­lion dogs are eu­th­a­nized an­nu­ally. Rea­sons for these sta­tis­tics in­clude an over­crowded shel­ter sys­tem with nei­ther the money nor the re­sources needed to re­home each and ev­ery dog that comes through their door. But such an out­come can be avoided, and very eas­ily, with just a lit­tle bit of plan­ning and fore­thought.

So, now that you have your list ready, let’s ex­plore the dif­fer­ent groups of dog breeds that ex­ist, and con­sider if their char­ac­ter traits are com­pat­i­ble with what you have writ­ten down.

First up, we have the Herd­ing Dogs. These dogs have a nat­u­ral ten­dency to “herd” ev­ery­one around, from you to your friends to your Roomba. Herd­ing dogs thrive when they have a rai­son d'être but can turn into a de­struc­tive tor­nado with­out one. They are fiercely in­de­pen­dent, loyal, highly in­tel­li­gent, and have

an in­her­ent need to be busy. Think Border Col­lies, Aus­tralian

Shep­herds, the Bel­gian Mali­nois, Welsh Cor­gis, and Ger­man Shep­herds. If you have your heart set on a herd­ing breed, pre­pare to put in a good amount of work. Herd­ing dogs need to be so­cial­ized early to peo­ple and other an­i­mals, and they need their peo­ple to be strong per­son­al­i­ties that can lead. They also need a great deal of men­tal and phys­i­cal stim­u­la­tion to be happy and healthy, but if you keep your end of the bar­gain, the re­wards of hav­ing them as com­pan­ions are lim­it­less.

Sec­ond, we have the Hound Dogs. These dogs are ob­sessed with scents or, in the case of the sight hound mem­bers of this group (think Grey­hounds and Salukis), prey on the run. And once they’re on to some­thing it can be near im­pos­si­ble to stop them. Hound dogs have a mind of their own which can make them hard to train. While they are in­cred­i­bly de­voted to their peo­ple, the call of their nose or a squir­rel on the run can some­times be stronger than their need to please you. Hound dogs are also so­cia­ble, stub­born, cu­ri­ous, and fear­less. They tend to have high en­ergy lev­els and a ten­dency to get into mis­chief when bored. If you have your heart set on a hound dog—think Bea­gles, Dachshunds, Grey­hounds, Blood­hounds, or Rhode­sian Ridge­backs— re­call train­ing is a must be­fore you let them off-leash at your lo­cal park. Plus, there is no rea­son why you can’t turn their tal­ents into an op­por­tu­nity for train­ing, espe­cially if there is some nose­work or lure cours­ing in­volved.

Next, we have the Non-Sport­ing Dogs. Dogs from this group are many and as dif­fer­ent as salt and su­gar. Some share traits of play­ful­ness, cu­rios­ity, cheer­ful­ness, loy­alty, and adapt­abil­ity. Oth­ers ex­ude dig­nity, calm­ness, courage, de­vo­tion, and aloof­ness. While choos­ing a mem­ber of this group, it’s im­por­tant to do ad­di­tional re­search to iden­tify the unique per­son­al­ity traits of each spe­cific breed. For in­stance,

Bull­dogs are great for apart­ment liv­ing and a more laid­back life­style, be­ing that they pre­fer couches to walks, but their bull­head­ed­ness can also make them stub­born and hard to train. Poo­dles on the other hand are ex­tremely easy to train be­cause of their high in­tel­li­gence and ea­ger­ness to please, but this also means they can get into trouble more of­ten if they have noth­ing to oc­cupy their at­ten­tion. Other ex­am­ples of non-sport­ing dogs in­clude, the Shiba Inu, Bos­ton Ter­ri­ers, Chow Chows,

Dal­ma­tians, and the Co­ton De Tulear.

Then there are the Sport­ing Dogs. Like their name sug­gests, these are ac­tive, high-en­ergy dogs with well-rounded per­son­al­i­ties, and keen in­stincts in the wa­ter. They are also im­mensely lik­able and easy to train. Many are also keen hunters. Dogs in this group are easy go­ing, and cheer­ful. Some can be a tad stub­born. But most have a con­fi­dent and friendly dis­po­si­tion and are ea­ger to please. They thrive with daily ex­er­cise and train­ing. The adage “a tired dog is a happy dog

is a happy owner” is espe­cially true in this in­stance. Some ex­am­ples of sport­ing dogs in­clude Golden Retriev­ers, Labrador Retriev­ers, Ger­man Shorthaired Point­ers, English Set­ters, and English Cocker Spaniels.

Fifth, we have the feisty Ter­rier Group. Dogs in this group come in all sizes, colours, and shapes. From pint-sized to large, from chunky to svelte, these dogs are charm­ing, spir­ited, con­fi­dent, stub­born, clever, coura­geous, en­er­getic, and would pre­fer to be your one and only, al­though with early so­cial­iza­tion and con­tin­ued ex­po­sure to other dogs, they can (some­times grudg­ingly) ac­cept other pack mem­bers—as long as they’re the bosses. Which means it’s im­per­a­tive that you es­tab­lish your boss sta­tus early on through con­tin­ued obe­di­ence train­ing. These dogs also make ex­cel­lent can­di­dates for agility train­ing. Ex­am­ples of ter­ri­ers in­clude Nor­wich Ter­ri­ers, Amer­i­can Stafford­shire Ter­ri­ers, Minia­ture Sch­nauzers, and Rus­sell Ter­ri­ers.

Sixth, we have the pint-sized Toy Group. While dogs in this group are tiny in stature, don’t let their diminu­tive size fool you. They can be for­mi­da­ble, with a coura­geous streak a mile long. Think Chi­huahuas, Ha­vanese, Mal­tese, or Papil­lons. Their small sizes make them great for apart­ment liv­ing, and while they need a mod­er­ate amount of ex­er­cise, these pups are just as con­tent loung­ing in your lap. Dogs in this group have sparkling per­son­al­i­ties and are alert, cu­ri­ous, fear­less, proud, and af­fec­tion­ate. Some can be quick to train; oth­ers re­quire more pa­tience and ad­di­tional train­ing, so it’s im­por­tant to ex­plore in­di­vid­ual breeds fur­ther if this is the group that rocks your boat.

Next we have the Work­ing Dogs. Like herd­ing dogs, ca­nines in this group were once bred for spe­cific pur­poses, from guard­ing prop­erty to pulling sleds to con­duct­ing res­cue op­er­a­tions. Work­ing dogs thrive when given a job to do. They are quick to learn, highly in­tel­li­gent, ca­pa­ble, strong, fear­less, and some breeds can be fiercely in­de­pen­dent and pro­tec­tive. Think Dober­man Pin­sch­ers, Siberian Huskies, Great Danes, or the Akita. By virtue of their size, per­son­al­ity traits, and strength alone, these dogs are not for the faint of heart. They need strong lead­ers to lead, so­cial­ize, and train them. In re­turn, you’ll have a com­pan­ion that’s loyal to a fault, with a lion’s heart and courage to boot!

Last but not the least, say hello to the Mixed Cat­e­gory

a.k.a. dogs with­out a clear-cut lin­eage. Mixed dogs tend to be a mish-mash of breeds all rolled into one su­per-adorable pack­age. Thanks to their di­verse gene pool, mutts tend to have a health­ier con­sti­tu­tion than their pure­bred brethren, which is a huge plus. And while their per­son­al­i­ties are in­flu­enced greatly by their gene pool (with shel­ter dogs, you can find some re­ally un­in­ten­tion­ally neat com­bos, like, say, the spunky friend­li­ness of the Dachshund com­bined with the smarts and con­fi­dence of a bully breed), there are oth­ers fac­tors that play equally im­por­tant roles. The en­vi­ron­ment in which they were born into as pup­pies, the amount of time they spent with their mother and sib­lings, and the ex­pe­ri­ences they faced out in the world be­fore they landed in shel­ters are all in­flu­encers. Some mutts are con­fi­dent and happy go lucky right when you meet them; oth­ers are fear­ful and shy, tak­ing time to warm up. But what all mutts have in com­mon is their enor­mous ca­pac­ity to love and their strong de­sire to please their new­found pack.

Now that you have your list of ques­tions to get you started and a ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of the dif­fer­ent dog groups and per­son­al­i­ties out there, I’d say you are of­fi­cially ready to be­gin your search. Wel­com­ing a dog into your fam­ily is a fun and re­ward­ing jour­ney with many perks, in­clud­ing bol­ster­ing your men­tal well-be­ing and im­prov­ing your health. En­sur­ing you choose the right dog is the se­cret to a last­ing, suc­cess­ful, and happy re­la­tion­ship, and I wish you the very best of luck!

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