Getting a new puppy can be so fun! Choosing a breed is the most exciting part about preparing for a new family member. But wait – do not rush ahead and pick a breed based on looks alone.
It is really important that you pick a breed of dog that fits your lifestyle and activity level. As a professional dog trainer, more than half of all behavioral problems I see stem from the owner choosing the wrong breed of dog. Here are 9 questions you should ask yourself before heading out and getting a puppy of your chosen breed:
What was the dog originally bred for?
Most dogs, with the expectation of lapdogs, were once used to work for humans in some capacity. They might have been herding dogs, retrievers, hunting dogs, guard dogs, etc. The original breed purpose will determine your dog’s behavior, temperament, activity levels, etc.
Before you decide on a breed you absolutely need to inform yourself what that breed was originally created for – and if that purpose is compatible with your lifestyle.
Is the breed friendly with people?
If you are a social person, live in a densely populated area, or have a large family, it is crucial to find a breed that is outgoing. Golden Retrievers, Labradors, or Poodles, and their crosses (such as Schnoodles, Labradoodles or Bernedoodles) are social butterfly dogs that don’t know a stranger – everyone is their friend.
On the other hand, breeds such as an Anatolian Shepherd or Rottweiler were bred to guard and will not appreciate being around people outside their own family much.
What are the grooming needs?
If you pick a breed with a long or thick coat, your dog will need regular grooming. This will require time and/or money. Many owners of long-coated dogs decide to send the dog to the groomer once a month. Do not get a dog with a maintenance-intensive coat if you are not ready to take care of it.
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Is the breed trainable?
Some dogs are easier to train than others. Once again this comes back to the original breed purpose. If your dog is a herding dog or a retriever, he will like to work together with his owner and will excel at and enjoy training.
If you decide on a very independent breed such as an Alaskan Malamute or Great Pyrenees, do not expect your dog to have the same love for training.
Is the breed prone to health problems?
Some breeds are much healthier than others. Before you are set on a certain kind of doggy breed, consider if you are up for dealing with the health issues that might come with it.
Many large dogs tend to have hip dysplasia. Smaller dogs often suffer from patella luxation and eye problems.
Inform yourself about potential health problems before deciding on and acquiring a certain breed.
What is the dog’s activity level?
You should decide on a breed whose activity level matches yours. If you like to Netflix and chill, a Pug or Saint Bernard would be a good match. If you cannot wait to get on your mountain bike or go hiking on the weekends, you should look at a highly active breed such as a Red Heeler or Australian Shepherd.
As a dog trainer, mismatched activity levels are an issue I see all the time, and many owners are struggling a lot to manage the high energy dogs they got without considerations
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Can I find a great breeder?
It is important to purchase your future puppy from a reputable and responsible breeder. It is not always possible to find a great breeder close to you. However, you should not decide for a subpar breeder just because you do not want to drive too far.
Responsible breeders will invest a lot of time and energy into puppy raising, as well as making sure that the parents are healthy and free of genetic diseases. This requires upfront costs on the side of the breeder that unfortunately, not all are willing to cover.
If you don’t purchase your puppy from a responsible breeder you could set yourself up for owning a dog with future health and behavioral problems.
Invest time now and prevent heartache later!
Does my family like the breed?
When a family does not agree on the breed of puppy they are getting, things are off to a bad start. You should not purchase a puppy against the wishes of your family members.
Sit down together and discuss the breed and its temperament and activity level.
Is everyone on board? If not, you should spend some time finding a breed that all family members can agree on.
Does the dog need specific care?
Some breeds require specific care beyond the general grooming and training needs that every dog has. Hairless dogs such as the Chinese Crested need to be bathed and may require sunscreen if left out for longer periods in the summer.
Dogs like the Belgian Malinois will need extensive training in order to not show reactivity or aggression in social settings. Sighthound breeds such as the Greyhound or Saluki have such a high prey drive that they often need to stay on a leash for all of their life and should never be let off-leash in an unenclosed area.
Make yourself familiar with all the specific needs of the breed you have in mind so that you can care for your puppy as well as possible once he arrives!
The Bottom Line
Picking a dog breed should not be a quick decision. The more thought and planning you put into finding the right breed for you, the better your future companion will fit in with your family and your lifestyle. Do not make the mistake and skip ahead when finding the breed you really want.
As a dog trainer, the #1 way to tell if an owner will excel or fail with a new puppy is to look at how well they chose the breed. Set yourself up for success by picking the right one!