You want to make the right choice! AKC Breeder-Judge Katie Gammill explains how a your breed choice, purebred puppy or shelter dog, must meet your expectations and preferences on size, personality, and coat type so that the family pet fits your lifestyle.
YOUR BREED CHOICE MUST FIT
E. Katie Gammill, TheDogPlace Exhibition Editor
When selecting a family pet, consideration should be given to temperament, size, and coat. While not always visible in a puppy, they are predictable in a purebred.
The seven groups in the AKC are: Toy, Herding, Working, Sporting, Non-Sporting, Terrier, Hound, and Miscellaneous. More miscellaneous breeds are being accepted into AKC. Dogs initially were bred for a specific purpose and were grouped and named for that purpose. If pet owners understand a potential pet’s heritage, fewer surprises occur. Selecting a breed that fits your lifestyle keeps dogs out of shelters.
Each of the AKC groups offers a short coat, long coat, wire coat, silky coat, and no-coat such as the Mexican Hairless and Chinese Crested. Below are some expected traits of various groups.
Toy dogs require thoughtful care due to their diminutive size. They are more vulnerable to theft or attack if left outside. Hairless breeds sunburn if left outside and most toy breeds can’t handle extreme cold. Some are heavily coated such as the Pekingese and Yorkies and need daily grooming. The Minpin or Toy Fox have smooth tight coats and terrier-like attitude. Bed dogs and lap dogs, most toys tend to lose teeth early due to miniaturized jaws and some are difficult to house break. Toys can become “ankle biters and “double as doorbells” with their yapping. However, if you want an extremely intelligent, cuddly, portable breed, this is the ticket! Good apartment dogs, toys require less outside walking. For an outgoing, happy companion, toy breeds can’t be beat. A long life span finds many outliving their owners.
Herding dogs are hard wired to herd; cars, bicycles, skates, children, tractors and stock are fair game. A fenced yard is required. Large and small, prick ears or folded ears, all herding breeds are sensitive, extremely smart and eager to please. They do NOT do well outside or chained, but prefer to be one of the family. Size varies from short-legged Corgis to swift German Shepherd Dogs. Herding dogs are keen and responsive, excelling in obedience and agility. Some herding breeds are used in police work. Protective, they love children. Herding instinct leads them into dangerous situations, so owners must insure their safety. Herding breeds are affectionate, responsive companions.
Working dogs mean business. Dignified, loyal, devoted, and intelligent, working breeds also participate in rescue and police work. Bernese and St. Bernards still rescue hikers in the snow covered Alps. Newfies rescue swimmers and like Great Danes, their size requires space. Some, such as Pyrenees and Anatolians guard livestock against wolves and tend to be more independent. The “northern breeds” (Malamute, Siberian, Samoyed), are bred to travel miles over the tundra. They can cover a lot of ground in a short time when let loose so be careful. Working breeds need a job to do and a strong leader so one must be “alpha” when choosing a dog from this Group. Training classes are important...
Hunting and gun dogs are “pointers, setters, and retrievers.” Their size and coat type varies depending on the job they do. Pointers rapidly run through rough cover and have short close coats. Spaniels are smaller, cover less ground, and are easier to keep up with. Water retrievers have thick, protective coats and require special attention to wet drop ears. Expect an occasional “water shower”, messy floors, and the occasional skin problem. Affable, active, friendly and devoted, all sporting breeds assist the hunter. Devoted to family and job, sporting breeds prefer the front seat of the truck. Quick and accurate in locating game, most perform well in the field. Like herding breeds, most dogs bred for the field are high energy and require lots of exercise. If you like the sweet disposition but don’t need the high drive, choose a Clumber or Field Spaniel.
Bunnies and varmints are fair game for hounds. Having an acute sense of smell, their noses get them into trouble. When on track, they have little awareness of their surroundings. Some hound breeds flush out fox, deer, otter, elk, and boar with enthusiasm and courage. Many hounds run in packs. Sight hounds pursue game by sight, snatching it in strong jaws while at a racing gallop. Scent hounds go to ground and pursue their game relentlessly. Some have short legs and are easier to keep up with. Scent hounds have long ears to cup their head to assist in pulling scent into nostrils. Their resounding bark and upright “flag” tail identifies their location for the hunter. Hounds can be single minded, stubborn, and independent but a pleading expression absolves them of all guilt. Greyhounds, Borzoi, and Whippets are exotic and graceful. Irish Wolfhounds are imposing but all hound temperaments are pleasing.
The Non-Sporting group offers delightful variety. They range in size and purpose as lap dogs, temple guard dogs, Oriental sleeve dogs, circus performers, and ratters, and many dogs in this Group once served a noble purpose. Size and coat type range from the Chow to the Bulldog to two sizes of Poodles and two types of Tibetan dogs. The Boston Terrier is a good American breed for young and old alike. Individual breed history is deep and varied. Extensive research into history (did you know Poodles were German water retrievers?), temperament (nothing tops the bulldog for unshakable courage), size, and coat care will serve one well when selecting a dog from this Group.
Terriers are active, tough, hardy, and excluding the larger Airedale, most are small enough to carry. Scotties have been the choice of several Presidents. General Patton chose the Bull Terrier. Compact and strong, all terriers wear their scars proudly and should not be penalized for a lively, aggressive nature. Varmint hunters all; terriers are gay, active, and fearless. Most are diggers, so if lawn is important to you, study another group. Most terriers require professional clipping or hand stripping to like the photos. Tail high, stiff-legged and on tippy toes, terriers love a challenge! There is little “give” in a terrier, they are single-minded, determined, and need discipline. If you want a cuddly lap dog, terriers are not for you but all terrier breeds love people. The Am. Staffordshire, Staffie Bull and Bull Terrier have sweet temperaments and make good pets for older children despite the “bum rap” associated with illegal pit fighting. As with some of the working breeds, check with your insurance agent regarding coverage.
New breeds desiring AKC recognition are put into this Group. Many are old world or rare breeds. Some are quite large and require an experienced handler. If you have never owned a dog, this is not the place for a pet owner to start because some of the breeds in this group are foreign breeds which are being further developed in America. They don’t have the decades of verifiable history and genetic background of the long-accepted American Kennel Club breeds although they are admittedly “new” and interesting.
Select a breed that fits your lifestyle! YOU ALONE are responsible for damages done by your dog, be it property or person. Proper environment and allocated time for grooming is important. Dogs must be socialized with older people and children. Barking and marking may cause a neighbor problem. View your choice at maturity for growth, coat, and temperament. A spur of the moment purchase can evolve into an unwanted surprise and inability to keep your pet.
When in doubt, go to www.AKC.org. Breeder referrals and more detail in purpose of breed is available. There’s also a whole section on Choosing The Right Breed in TheDogPlace. If you want to select a shelter dog, identify its parentage if at all possible. This indicates natural tendencies, health problems and personality traits that surface as the dog matures.
Enroll in obedience. Introduce your dog to other breeds. Welcome to the wonderful world of dogs where new friends and experiences await.