I often get asked “What kind of dog should I get?” or I will see this posted on social media groups and every answer is “I have an XXX, they are the best!” These people are not wrong, their dog might be the perfect choice for their family, but there are literally hundreds of breeds out there to choose from, and if we factor cross breeds in even more choices. Going by the most popular answer on social media, or even recommendations from your friends/family is not the soundest way to choose the right dog to join your family- obviously you are going to be committed to this dog for its entire lifespan- on average your looking at a 10+ year commitment! The thing is this is such a personal question with many factors that go in to making the best decision for your individual circumstances and you may find that the dog you thought you would get is no longer on the list of possibilities because of these three non-negotiable factors. Maybe a breed you never would have considered before has now appeared on your short list.
Let’s unpack some of the most important factors in making a good decision. Many of these considerations apply regardless of if you are looking for a pet or an assistance dog prospect.
- The first thing you need to ask yourself is what is the function of the dog? What do you want out of your relationship with your dog? Every breed was designed with a different function in mind and will suit different lifestyles. If you are looking for an assistance dog prospect then you need to consider what its duties may require, and what physical attributes are required for this job. Maybe you are just looking for a great pet to go camping with, if you spend most of your time travelling in a caravan maybe you have space restrictions that might rule out a bigger dog? Once we have an idea of intended function you should have some preliminary ideas about size at the very least.
- The next most important consideration you need to factor in is how much activity can you commit to giving the dog at the bare minimum. Ideas like “I’m really not very active but if I get an active dog I will exercise more” tend to back fire badly. Let’s look at where you are at now. You can always condition a dog to be more active as you get more active – consider training together, but it is extremely difficult to dial a very energetic dogs needs down to couch potato level if you fail to follow through. If you are an enthusiastic long-distance runner and want a jogging partner – maybe a chihuahua is not the best choice for you. If you are looking for someone to snuggle on the couch and watch movies because you are unable to be too physically active maybe a border collie is not the best choice for you.
It should also be noted that size does not necessarily indicate the energy level of a dog. There are many small breeds that are very active, like a Jack Russel and many large breeds that are couch potatoes, like a greyhound.
- The next non-negotiable factor that you need to seriously consider is grooming. You must keep your dog well groomed for its health. If you are not willing to deal with hours of grooming or paying a professional regularly then perhaps a poodle is not the right choice for you. Perhaps you can not deal with a dog that sheds a lot, in this case maybe a borzoi is out too. Also consider is this a breed that drools? Is that something you can live with?
Once you have a list that takes in to account the function of the dog, the exercise your able to provide as a minimum, and the grooming requirements of that breed we can certainly start to look at other factors like what dogs you have a soft spot for, your price point, rescue vs breeder, availability and waiting lists for the right dog etc. Remember making the smart choice about acquiring your dog is setting you up for 10+ years of compatibility, it is worth doing a little research before jumping in.