How Do I Choose the Right Dog For Me?
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is kind of like the Oscars: plenty of glamour, lots of talk about who is going to win, celebrities galore in the audience, tension, tears, really lovely trophies, and endless debate about who won and why. Sure there are many other dog shows, just like there are many different awards shows, but Westminster is the one everybody watches on TV.
If you’re lucky enough to go, Westminster is also a great place to learn about dog breeds, especially if you’re thinking about getting a dog. That’s because it’s one of the few benched shows left in the United States. (In benched shows, dogs and their owners must sit all day in designated benching areas near the show rings, so the public can see and ask about their dogs.)
So you can see dogs of more than 150 breeds, and ask the people who show them all about the breed. And at Westminster, all the dogs must already be champions, so you get to see some great representatives of each breed. But when you talk to the owner of a show dog, remember that they have made a considerable commitment to the breed and are very proud of their dog. So start by asking about the good stuff. Later, when you’ve shown that you’re interested, you can ask about the negatives.
In my Westminster research, I started by asking several breeders, “What’s the most wonderful thing about your breed?”
“They’re clowns; they smile all the time,” said Kathy Brosnan of her Miniature Bull Terrier, Ch. Hellion’s Midsummer’s Cobweb. “The more you laugh, the more outrageous they will be. They have to have an audience.”
“Pugs are bred to be a companion, and they want to please you,” said Candy Schlieper, who was at the show with Ch. Candyland’s Baby Ruth and Ch. Candyland’s Bustre Bar. “They want to be with people constantly. Plus, they’re a nice size and have a wonderful temperament.”
“They’re tough as nails in the field but a couch potato at home,” said Ron Sebastiani of his Border Terrier, Ch. Ruron’s Flash Bobik. “They work hard and look pretty.”
Roxanne Roach, who was busy plopping the very accommodating Ch. Romar-Englelong Chili Pepper MW into the arms of all who craved to hold the Miniature Dachshund, said, “Their personality is playful, mischievous and honorable. And they’re a multipurpose dog.”
“They like to bond with the whole family, and they do like to snuggle,” said Connie Steffens of Border Collie Ch. Brakenhill Star of Bonclyde. “But they are very intelligent, and that can make them a handful. Even when they’re sleeping, they’re thinking. And a bored dog can be destructive. It’s not that some breeds are better, and some breeds are worse, but rather that every breed has characteristics that make it right for some people and not right for others. So I asked the breeders, “What kind of person makes a good owner for this breed, and what kind of person doesn’t?”
“The best person has a happy-go-lucky attitude about life and likes the unexpected,” said Roach with the Dachshund. Said Brosnan with the Miniature Bull Terrier, “The worst is people who want 100 percent predictability from their dog.” Good potential Border Terrier owners understand what kind of work terriers were bred to do, while bad possible Pug owners are people who don’t like a dog who sheds, snores and sneezes.
Essential Questions to Consider When Researching a Dog Breed:
It would be best if you had a dog whose desire for exercise (how much and what kind) matches your own and your schedule.
Health Issues, Both Within the Breed and Within That Person’s Kennel Lines
“If someone says there are no health problems in a breed, talk to someone else,” said Schlieper. Every breed has some. It doesn’t mean every dog is unhealthy, but it does mean every breeder should be working hard to breed dogs free of the problems that lurk in a breed’s gene pool.
That includes how good the dog is with families, kids, and other dogs. Will they tolerate some teasing or the clumsiness of a child? Will they let people in your home? Are they cuddly or more standoffish? Your circumstances will dictate how important each of these things is to you. You should also ask about temperament within a particular breeder’s kennel: Are they breeding with temperament in mind?
How Much Maintenance Does the Dog Need?
That includes grooming and special food requirements and the time involved in daily care.
How Much Time Will it Take to Train and Socialize the Dog?
Do they have special training requirements?
Are They Easy to Housebreak?
What is the Life Expectancy of the Breed?
“Go around and talk to many different breeders of the same breed to confirm what you’ve been told,” Roach advised. “And this is not the time to talk business.” Breeders do not sell dogs at dog shows. So if you meet someone from whom you might like to buy a dog, take their card and find out when you can call them.
Any dog show, even one that isn’t benched, is a great place to learn about the breeds of interest. Shows always have grooming areas where the exhibitors set up their equipment and get their dogs ready for the show ring. If you wander over there, you’ll always find some dogs and breeders who are happy to talk about them. Just wait until after the breed has been shown in the ring because, before that, they’re busy getting their dogs ready for their big moment.
All dogs require a certain level of commitment. It’s important to consider whether you can meet the needs of any dog, regardless of the breed.
What Is the Most Low Maintenance Dog?
Dogs that are low-maintenance in terms of grooming would ease up your already busy schedule. They are also recommended for people who suffer from pet allergies since these dogs tend to shed less. According to Steve Duno, author of the book Be the Dog: Secrets of the Natural Dog Owner, such dogs could include the following breeds: Boxers, Pugs, Greyhounds, Whippets, Pointers, and Beagles. Terriers and Poodles don’t shed much, but they do require regular haircuts.
The personality of the dog is vital, however. Some breeds, like the Maltese, crave near-constant human companionship. That can be a good thing for owners who desire the trusted, reliable company of a devoted dog. If someone else can step in to help care for your pet during the day, such an affectionate dog might become depressed while you are away working. Any dog would appreciate daily exercise from a dog walker or another helper, so that you might factor that into your scenario.
If you’re open to dogs other than purebreds, I recommend adopting a mixed breed from a shelter. It’s just been my experience that mixed breeds tend to be easygoing, often having the right balance of characteristics. Each individual dog is different, so you can spend a bit of time getting to know the individual dogs’ personalities and speaking with the shelter staff about your needs.
Which Hypoallergenic Dog is Best for Me?
There is no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic dog as all dogs shed dander, which is the leading cause of issues for allergy sufferers. But there are, however, some dog breeds that can cause fewer allergy symptoms. Breeds such as Bichon Frise, Poodle, Schnauzer, and Maltese have hair that requires regular brushing and trimming. You could opt for a hairless breed such as the Peruvian Inca Orchid, American Hairless Terrier, and the Xoloitzcuintli.
What Dogs Don’t Shed?
As well as the dogs listed above, other breeds such as Spanish Water Dog, Lagotto Romagnolo, Irish Water Spaniel, and Afghan Hound have hair that does not shed. These breeds all require regular brushing and trimming to maintain a healthy coat.
What Dog Breeds Are Good with Cats?
Even the most ardent cat-lovers sometimes find space in their lives and homes for a dog. After all, perhaps you’ve married a dog lover, the kids are clamoring for a puppy, or you have simply decided a happy-go-lucky dog would be an excellent addition to your household.
The key to your happiness as a cat-loving dog owner, say the experts, is to understand the traits you enjoy in cats and to look for similar characteristics in a dog. “Unfortunately, ‘low-maintenance dog’ would be an oxymoron for most cat lovers,” says Dr. Bruce Silverman of Village West Veterinary in Chicago. However, Silverman and other experts agree that you can find a dog breed that’s right for you with a little thought.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Cat-Friendly Dog:
Some dogs are miserable without an outlet for their boundless energy, while others are quite content to sit on your lap or at your feet.
Some breeds are more talkative or yippy. If you’re accustomed to a cat that seldom talks, you might consider a quieter dog breed.
If you’re used to caring for a long-haired Persian, you likely won’t mind the care needed by a Collie or Shetland Sheepdog. However, if your cat takes care of its own grooming needs, you’ll probably want to consider a dog that needs less grooming.
If your cat weighs around 8 or 9 pounds, it might be shocking to add a large dog to the household. Remember: That cute, wiggly cat-sized puppy is going to grow.
Several dog breeds were bred for working purposes. If you have a cat in your household or plan to add a cat someday, avoid dogs that have been bred to hunt small animals, says Amy Shojai, a Dallas-based certified animal behavior consultant who has written 23 pet-care books. For example, Terriers and sighthounds might perceive the family cat as prey.
Of course, every dog possesses its personality and quirks, but in general, breeds can be counted on for certain predictable traits. Experts say you’ll likely find some familiar, almost cat-like qualities among these breeds:
- Toy Poodle – Cat lovers likely will be comfortable with the Toy Poodle’s small stature, says Shojai. Toy Poodles are smart and playful, and they make good pets for novice dog owners. However, they do require regular grooming, and they thrive on interaction with you. They’re likely to be more dependent than the average cat.
- Basenji – The Basenji is known as a bark-less breed, but that doesn’t mean they’re silent, says Shojai. “They will scream, yodel and more when not getting their way, something like a complaining Siamese,” says Shojai. If those vocalizations aren’t enough to sell you on the Basenji, consider the breed’s other cat-like qualities. “The breed likes to self-groom with licking, similar to a cat. It’s a very clean dog,” says Shojai. “They also may enjoy countertop surfing or lounging on the backs of chairs, as do cats.”
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – “The Cavalier is a sweet, lap-sitting, quiet and clean dog,” says Shojai. The Cavalier’s gentle, adaptable nature works well in a household with cats.
- Pekingese – Do you appreciate most cats’ regal approach to life? The little Pekingese might be the dog for you. “The Pekingese’s holier-than-thou attitude could be compared to some cats that know they are the center of the universe,” says Shojai. Be aware, though, that the Pekingese’s large, slightly protruding eyes might make it more vulnerable to eye injuries from cat scratches.
- Golden Retriever – Certainly, the Golden Retriever is a bit larger than a cat or several cats. However, these dogs are known for their happy, gentle, and adaptable natures. Plus, Retrievers are likely to have gentle mouths as well, says Shojai. “Dogs like Retrievers have inhibited bites.”