Choosing a Dog Breed That's Right for You

(Photo by Shannon Richards)

A Note from Dr. John:

So you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and get a puppy.  How exciting!  Now which breed will it be?  It’s a pretty straightforward decision, right?  Wrong!

Dog breeds are not a one-size-fits-all kind of decision.  There are so many dog breeds to choose from.  While overwhelming, having so many breeds to choose from is a good thing.  More choices means that you can pick the right dog for your particular lifestyle.  Whether you are getting your dog from a high-end breeder or from the local shelter, you want to make sure that you consider the following factors before making your decision.  

What type of housing do you live in?

Whether you live in a big house in the suburbs, a small apartment in the city, or a farmhouse in the country, there is a dog breed for you.  As a general rule, the bigger the area that you have to roam around in, the bigger the dog you can get.

Do you already have other pets?
Some pets are very playful and do much better with a companion animal around the house.  It can help get some extra energy out or help relieve separation anxiety.  Some dogs, however, are “one-pet-household” kinds of pets.  They can be aggressive or unwelcoming to other animals.  If you are getting your dog from a shelter, most locations will allow a test-run period to see if the pet is a good fit for your home and if other pets are going to be a problem.  Always be careful when bringing a new dog home.  While they may be sweet to you, they may be fearful of other dogs and act out on their fear. 

Are there children in your household?
You can never be too safe when it comes to introducing a new pet to your children.  Make sure that any new pets are very closely supervised when around young children.  Some breeds are much more likely to be patient and gentle with young children than other breeds.

Why do you want a pet?
Do you want a pooch that will simply snuggle with you, couch-potato style?  Or do you need a rugged, outdoorsy dog that can trail run and hike with you through any weather?  Or do you need a working dog to help keep the farm animals in line?  Again, the dog breed you pick will vary depending on your lifestyle and needs. 

How messy is messy?
Every dog is going to make a mess sooner or later.  The question is, how big of a mess are you willing to tolerate in your home?  Are you a neat freak that can’t stand a little dust in the corner?  Or are you pretty laid back about things being out of order here and there?  The amount of clutter or mess that a dog brings to your house will depend on size, coat length, energy level, and demeanor.

What is your budget?
Whether you choose to pay the shelter $100 or the breeder $1,200 for a dog, remember that pet expenses don’t stop there.  In fact, they’ve just started!  Some expenses, such as vaccines, do not vary based on your dog’s breed.  Other expenses will vary dramatically based on the breed you choose.  For instance, the cost of dog food, toys, treats, medications, and grooming fees will be very different for a 3lb Yorkshire Terrier than they will be for a 150lb Bull Mastiff.  Consider how these expenses will fit into your personal budget before deciding on the newest member of your family.

Our information is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian.  Do not use this information for diagnostic purposes. Always take your pet to your veterinarian to obtain a diagnosis and course of treatment.