How to choose the right dog.

How to choose the right dog.

Tagged in: breed , Dog , puppy Author: Dr Robyn Chandler

It is important to choose the right dog that suits your lifestyle, wants and needs.

Of course we are forced to use generalisations and typifications about each breed and of course there are exceptions to these ‘rules’. Many people reading this may have had dogs and individual experiences that differ from this, but these generalisations are based on the tens of thousands of animals that we have met and cared for in our careers spanning more than a decade. Don’t take offence if your favourite breed doesn’t come with a glowing recommendation, take it in the spirit in which this is meant – to stop animals that have been inappropriately chosen from being put up for adoption, or even euthanized, because the dog was ‘unsuitable’. Please choose wisely. We hope this helps you.

The most important thing to do when deciding if a particular breed is right for you is to check what the breed was originally bred for. There are plenty of internet sites that provide an overview of what a breed is all about, but I find these tend to lean towards making all breeds sound great-and they gloss over the negatives of the breed. They use wording like “this breed is fiercely protective of their family” which could mean “this breed will take a bullet for my child should someone attempt a drive-by while we’re out for a family stroll”, or it could mean “this dog will violently attack anyone who approaches my house, such as the postman, a Girl Guide selling cookies, or the next man I try to date”.

If you love Border Collies because you always had them when you were growing up on a farm, but now you live in a small flat on the 3rd floor in the middle of a city, you need to consider if choosing to buy a Border Collie is fair on the dog. It’s much fairer for you to change your expectations and choose a breed suitable to the conditions in which it will be kept, than to expect the dog to alter all the behaviours it has been bred to manifest and adapt to an unsuitable environment.

The golden rule is: if they were bred for a purpose or environment that sounds vastly different to what you want them for, then they probably aren’t the right breed for you.

This is coming from a vet currently consulting in Saudi Arabia where the latest fad breed are Huskies. (Massive forehead slap)



Do you own or rent your accommodation?

Or are you likely to be moving soon? It can be very hard to find landlords that allow pets. Please consider this before getting a dog, bending the rules is unlikely to work.

How big is your home?

A large dog will be awkward in a small space, as will a boisterous dog. Some breeds are large but, due to inertia, do not seem to take up much room (e.g. Greyhounds and Wolf Hounds).

Do you have a garden?

It’s not essential to have a garden if you want a dog, but it does make it easier for you and your dog to have convenient access to a safe, outdoor space for toileting or even just a bit of sunshine and fresh air.

Are you a neat freak? Or do you have posh furniture?

Avoid hairy, shedding breeds (German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Akitas, Newfoundlands etc). Avoid breeds that slobber a lot (Mastiffs, St Bernards etc)

Puppies will DEFINITELY destroy things if given half a chance - get an adult dog or crate train your puppy. Some breeds tend to be destructive e.g. English Bull Terriers. Large and boisterous dogs are more likely to knock things over. It is also hard to keep a water and mud-loving breed (Retrievers and Spaniels) from bringing some of the fun into your home.

Does your house have a lot of stairs?

Dogs with long backs and short legs (Dachshunds, Shih Tzus etc) should not be running up or down stairs – this is a slipped disk waiting to happen. If you can only access your flat through a staircase, bear in mind that your dog may get to an age where they cannot do stairs, and you may need to be carrying him in and out to go to the toilet; this is not going to be easy if it’s a 70kg Mastiff.

What climate do you live in?

Extremes of heat will be very bad for dogs with thick coats that are bred for cold climates (Huskies, Newfoundlands, St Bernards etc) or for dogs that have short noses (Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers etc). Extremes of cold are not great for dogs that have short coats and have been designed for hot conditions (Italian Greyhounds, Salukis, Whippets etc). If the outside temperature where you live means your favourite breed would be miserable outside your house or their life would be endangered through risk of heat-stroke, then consider getting a breed that would be more appropriate to your surroundings.



Do you have children?

Be a little careful of large dogs. In general I find that large dogs tend to be less likely to bite than small dogs, but the consequences are that much more devastating if they do snap. Remember that children can do very provoking things to dogs, or even just startle them when they are asleep. Even lovely dogs could be pushed past breaking point or unintentionally snap at a child. Also, large dogs are more likely to knock kids over with exuberant behaviour or even just a waggy tail. Mostly I find that children injured by dogs have usually done something that justified the behaviour from the dog, but not the consequences to the child. Be safe.

How big is your family?

Some breeds tend to form attachments to one person (generally working dogs like Collies and Working Cocker Spaniels), while others will lavish adoration on the entire family (like Labradors, Retrievers and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels).

Are any members of your family scared of dogs?

Do not get an intimidating size or a breed with a tendency to be dominant (e.g. Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Akitas etc).

Does anyone in your family have allergies?

It isn't a good idea to get a dog if someone in the family is allergic to dogs. This is a leading cause of dogs given up for adoption.
Some dog breeds are "hypoallergenic" and less like to trigger allergies, such as poodles and poodle crosses, but this isn't guaranteed, and it is always best to take the family member to visit the dog (and it's parents if possible) before purchasing or adopting it. 



Are you an experienced dog owner?

If not, avoid more dominant dog breeds and also ‘primitive breeds’ such as Akitas that don’t give you much warning as to what they are thinking.

Are you strong enough to handle the breed?

I’ve had more than a few clients who have broken hips or wrists being pulled over by a large dog that is physically too strong for them to handle safely.

Do you want an obedient and biddable dog?

If so, rather avoid Terriers, Beagles and Basset Hounds. These guys seriously groove to their own tune.

Do you have a low tolerance for noise?

Avoid yappy or howly dogs. Also bear in mind your neighbours’ tolerance for noise if you’re in a densely populated area.

Do you have low tolerance for bad smells?

Thick-coated breeds (e.g. Retrievers, German Shepherds, Newfoundlands) and breeds that are susceptible to allergic skin disease (e.g. West Highland White Terriers and Staffies) often have a yeasty (smelly feet) odour. Water-loving dogs like Retrievers and Spaniels will obviously smell like a wet dog more frequently. And when it comes to flatulence, Staffies can really take ‘silent and violent’ to torturous levels.

Are you at work for many hours a day?

Avoid breeds that are more likely to suffer with separation anxiety such as Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Weimeraners and Hungarian Vislas.

Do you not have much time for walking?

Consider getting a cat instead. Or a dogwalker. There are a few breeds which don’t like much exercise, such as Greyhounds (this may come as a surprise), there are some breeds which really don’t tolerate much walking (like Pugs and Bulldogs). Choose one of these. Do NOT get any working breeds – no herding dogs (Collies), hunting dogs (Cocker and Springer Spaniels) or Terriers. These dogs need and want a lot of exercise!

Can you cope with a high-maintainance dog?

This may be in the form of a dog with a long, thick coat that needs daily brushing or frequent grooming-parlour trips. Or a Bulldog that needs its skin folds cleaned every day.

Are you an active person?

If you’re looking to take your dog running or cycling with you it is best to avoid the brachycephalic breeds (ones with flat noses like Bulldogs and Pugs) as they are extremely intolerant to exercise. Avoid short-legged and unathletic breeds like Corgis and Basset Hounds, or lazy breeds like Greyhounds

Are you on low income?

Any pure breed is likely to be more expensive to insure or maintain but some are particularly susceptible to keeping vets in the black: Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, German Shepherd Dogs, Shar Peis, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels all have significantly higher chances of genetic conformational or medical conditions that are expensive to diagnose and treat. Labradors and other large breed dogs get expensive later on in life when they often need chronic medications for arthritis. Obviously large breed dogs also cost more to feed and any medications/sedatives and other veterinary fees will be more expensive. A 50kg dog will cost you 10 times more to feed than a 5kg dog.

The least expensive dog on average to maintain would be a small (not toy or teacup) to medium mixed breed dog. Weighing between 5kg and 12kg or thereabouts.

Do not chose a breed based on looks. Would you want to commit yourself for 10-16 years to a beautiful but highly-strung boyfriend or girlfriend who chewed things, howled, was always ill or was aggressive to your children?


Try spending some time in the home of someone who actually owns this breed of dog to see what they are like to live with.

And finally, because it’s worth repeating, WHAT WAS THE BREED INTENDED TO DO? Please do not be surprised if your cattle dog, who has been bred to snap at cattle’s heels, turns out to be snappy. Or if your husky, who has been bred to pull a sled through the snow for miles each day, needs 4 hours of running a day to remain tolerably sane.

My husband put this brilliantly after visiting some friends with really large, slobbery, hairy and boisterous dogs that dominated their small flat when he said: a lot of breeds of dog look great in the environment in which they are designed for, like bagpipes are wonderful played from the top of a castle at dusk. But would you really want someone playing bagpipes in your living room?

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