Chosing the right breed of dog for your living space

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The right breed of dog must be chosen for more than just its size; temperment, activity level, grooming needs, and appetite must also be considered.

Folks will give a lot of consideration to choosing a car---size, style, speed, comfort, consumer reports--these will all be weighed before they bring a vehicle home. With a dog, the process seems easier; if it’s cute and doesn’t pee on your foot, you’ve bought a new member of the family. But a car, no matter how ill-chosen, won’t eat the couch, bite your cousin, or bark until you both land in the street. And you won’t break its heart if you trade it in for a more congenial model.

How do you pick the right pooch? First, where do you live? Apartment, suburban home, country estate? How do

you live? Sedately watching television most nights, or

a party every weekend? Are you a finicky or a casual

housekeeper; do you jog or stroll, have kids or live

alone? Are you looking for a companion or a decorative

door stop; are you frantically busy or a charter member

of the Get a Life Club? Lots of questions, but all

relevant.

A sprawling ranch house outside the city can absorb

most breeds of dogs. An apartment requires some

consideration. The automatic thought is that a teensy

dog would make the best fit. Even the most active one

pound Chihuahua will cause less commotion than an

enthusiastic Irish Wolfhound. But the fact is that the

Wolfhound just doesn’t get worked up that often (in

fact, rarely), whereas the little dog can keep moving

all day and night. As long as there’s room for the

animal to turn around (and a limit to low-lying

breakables when he does), a large inactive breed (for

example, a St. Bernard, Akita, English Bulldog, or

Standard Poodle) will do as well and sometimes even

better in an apartment then a tiny ball of fire, like

the Miniature Pinscher, Pomeranian, or Bichon Frise.

Your lifestyle is of great importance. If you’re

athletic and want a Frisbee-catching, running companion,

you need a very active breed. One of the sporting dogs

would be a good choice, a Welsh Terrier, Weimaraner, Old

English Sheepdog, or a Boxer would work well. Take a

moderate approach toward exercise? Then a Cocker

Spaniel, Golden Retriever, or a French Bulldog would fit

right in. (Keep in mind that degrees of energy and

enthusiasm can vary from dog to dog. Take a little walk

with the animal before you make your selection.)

If you have children (depending on their ages) or

elderly relatives (depending on their ages) you’ll need

a gentle, nurturing beast that won’t knock them screaming to the floor. Certain breeds, such as Rottweilers, Dalmatians, and Irish Setters, are so vigorous that even the most well-meaning dog can send a toddler or a granny flying. Clumber spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Shetland Sheepdogs, even something as large as a Mastiff, move gently and slowly.

If you’re highly social (or your children are), you

don’t need an animal that’s extremely territorial, like

the Doberman Pincher, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, the

Yorkshire Terrier, or the Chow. Beagles, St. Bernards,

Collies, Bichon Frise, Greyhounds...they’ll welcome

everyone. English Bulldogs, Great Danes, Border

Terriers, and Sealyham Terriers are also very sociable

dogs.

If it’s a watchdog you need, most breeds will be

fairly attentive to bumps in the night. A couple of

exceptions are the English Bulldogs, the Clumber Spaniel

and, believe it or not, the Irish Wolfhound. Among the

best watchdogs are Akitas, German Shepherds, Bull

Terriers, and Tibetan Terriers.

Now, the upkeep; will you cry at the sight of dog

hair on your good black suit? Then avoid dogs that

shed. A short-haired breed may seem like a sure thing

but some, such as the Dalmation, can be heavy shedders.

As a rule, of course, the longer-haired breeds are the

ones that required lots of grooming...Chows, Keeshonds,

Samoyed, Collies, etc. Some aren’t necessarily heavy

shedders; they just need lengthy, regular sessions with

a groomer to stay pretty, like the Bichon Frise,

poodles, and Old English Sheepdogs.

Also, keep your grocery budget in mind when shopping

for another mouth to feed. A 200 pound dog will munch

down $600 to $1000 annually. You might want something a

bit more dainty.

Do your research. An excellent book is “The Right

Dog for You”, by Daniel F. Tortora. The American Kennel

Club has a massive website with information about all the recognized breeds and the breeders in your area. Attend dog shows (where most breeder-owners will tell you more about their animals than you want to know) or watch them on TV, and talk to a veterinarian before you decide what breed will best suit you. Don’t buy from puppy mills or pet shops. Buy from responsible breeders who love their work or from families who love their dogs. And check out your local humane society. There are many purebreds waiting for

homes, not bad dogs, just unlucky ones with bad owners.

You’ll form a bond that’ll last longer than most

marriages. You’ll have a dog and a dog will have you.