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
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
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.