CHOOSING A FAMILY DOG
E. Katie Gammill,
Big dog, small dog,
watchdog, short coat or profusely coated,
hyper-active breeds, or the latest marketing ploy, Designer Dogs?
Think about what attracts you in the adult dog
and be logical. It’s worrisome to see a Neapolitan Mastiff dragging
along a petite person or an elderly owner walking a rambunctious pitbull puppy. A dog is for a lifetime and plays a major part in the
family dynamics. All puppies are cute but hugging an eight week old
Cane Corso puppy is a far reach from controlling the adult.
There IS a breed for
everyone. Note I said BREED. Most pure bred dogs, when grown, tend
to look like the picture that caught your eye. Consistency of size,
coat, personality, activity level; these things reflect selective
breeding. There is no consistency in a mutt, mongrel, cross-bred, or
“designer dog”. With such a mixed up gene package, what the mongrel
is like at maturity is a “crap shoot”.
Small Breeds: Although they come with long life spans, Toy breed
dogs come with issues also. They can be nervous, shy, sensitive to
heat or cold, yappy, clingy, stubborn, aggressive, bed hogs, couch
potatoes, and lazy dogs. The flat faced breeds snore. Others are
prone to back injuries, and hairless dogs require special skin care.
Small dogs double as a door bell, which can be useful if you are
hard of hearing, or very annoying.
Chihuahuas, Yorkies, French bulldogs, Maltese, Papillons, Cavalier
and Toy Spaniels, are among breeds that do well as apartment dogs as
they can play and exercise indoors.
Big Breeds: Some newly recognized (but very old) breeds are the Leonberger, Dogue De Bordeaux, and the Tibetan Mastiff. Large dogs
have a shorter life span, take time to mature and often present a
different picture than the cuddly puppy you fell in love with. When
first time owners purchase such powerful breeds because they are
“different”, they often find themselves in over their heads and the
dogs wind up in shelters.
It takes physical and mental strength to handle a large breed such
as a Rottweiler, Bullmastiff, Malamute, etc. Herding and Working
breeds need a job or they become neurotic and destructive.
Regardless of what a breeder may tell you, Border Collies and
Australian Cattle Dogs do not make apartment dogs; Toy breeds are a
better choice for high-rise dwellers. Terriers are active, rugged,
and may not get along with other dogs.
Molosser Breeds: New owners who want something “different” may find Molosser breeds enchanting but beyond their expertise. Being drug
around by 200 pounds of muscle is NOT a good experience. Neither is
picking up big dog “land mines” deposited in your yard or during a
walk. Well forget the walk part, unless YOU quickly become trained,
you won’t be walking the neighborhood with your impressive Molosser
breed. Unless the dog is well trained you should prepare for a
lonely existence and few visitors.
One characteristic not usually evident in a puppy is the “wet
mouth.” Meet adults of these breeds and decide if you really want to
be “slimed”. This category includes the Saint Bernard, Neapolitan
Mastiff, and Newfoundland. A shake of the head showers everything. A
“dry mouth” breed such as the greyhound, whippet, or saluki might be
preferable for you. Retrieving breeds love water - and water bowls.
Do your research.
Personality: But it’s not just size and coat type, temperament
should be a deciding factor in your choice. Purebred dogs are
bred to behave in a way "characteristic" of their breed.
Personality is described in every AKC Breed Standard, which is what
they are judged by. Crossing two purebred dogs may produce
a so-called Designer Dog, but in reality, it is a "MUTT". Due to
expert marketing and uneducated buyers, the public can be duped into
believing the dog that will bite your grandchild has a "great
Behavior Traits: Observe play behavior; some breeds pounce, chase,
run, bite, and herd, depending upon what the breed was bred to do.
Failing to research temperament and play behavior causes injuries to
other family dogs and children. Owners ARE responsible for any
damage their dog does to person or property.
Check with your
insurance company as your desired breed may be on a “black list”
leaving your home uninsurable.
Coat Type: Anyone under the impression a short haired dog sheds less
than a long haired dog is in for a surprise. The shorter coats shed
year around and hair weaves itself into furniture and carpets. Long
haired dogs tend to “blow coat” twice a year and that can be
encouraged by warm baths and raking. Within a month or so, the hair
is gone and new growth starts. Some coats grow continuously. Some
cord like a mop. Hairy breeds require constant upkeep. Hygienic
trimming around the anus and privates is important. Are you up for
that? How much professional grooming can you afford? Do you want
your dog to look like the one in the breed example? Then think twice
about a Poodle or Old English sheepdog.
Exercise Requirements: Beagles, Bassets, and other hounds do best
with large fenced areas. Hunters by nature, confinement keeps their
noses from getting them into trouble. Terriers also require ample
space as they are active varmint dogs. Parson Russell terriers fit
little boys as they are tough and non stop. Wolfhounds and Mastiffs
are fireside buddies, low key and calm. Afghans, like all coursing
breeds, offer elegance but they need space to stretch their long
legs. Think about your living arrangements before purchasing a dog.
Breeds such as Goldens, German Shepherds, and Labradors do well as
house dogs if they are given a good daily run. Perhaps you ride a
Dogs and children require care and attention. A good fit makes for
household harmony. It’s up to the owner to encourage the dog to
learn what is, and what is not acceptable. And to protect the child
and puppy from each other’s antics!
Housebreaking can be an issue with Toy dogs due to the way
the breeder raised them. Some toy dogs wear
“belly bands” to protect carpets and furniture. Constant monitoring
and a regular feeding schedule facilitate housebreaking. Dogs won’t
soil where they sleep unless there is no alternative. Toy puppies
may have been forced to live in their own filth by the breeder and
learned to tolerate it may develop stool eating. Cleanliness
encourages them to “hold” until its time to go outside.
House Training: Puppies need boundaries. You must be the ALPHA dog.
Your guidance is the difference between an enjoyable pet and a
nuisance. Whether your puppy is large or small, remember this. “Buy
in haste, repent in leisure.” It isn’t the puppy’s fault if it
doesn’t fit your lifestyle, but it IS the puppy that suffers the
Where, When, How To Buy? Buy only from an established breeder who
has an invested interest in their breed. Puppies come equipped with
loyalty, and friendship. Not all breeders have those qualities.
Don’t let a lolling tongue and pleading eyes make the decision for
you. Don’t take your children with you to see puppies until the
breed has been determined and the price met. Don’t take a puppy
under eight weeks of age as they need their mother’s discipline and
Don’t be affronted when questioned about your facilities, fencing,
and children in the home. Be prepared to explain what happened to
your last pet. Established breeders ask you to contact them first if
it’s impossible to keep a puppy or older dog purchased from them.
Spay and neuter your pet. If you are interested in breeding, buy
from a show breeder who will mentor you.
Take the opportunity to research over 150 breeds before your making
a purchase. Go to www.akc.org and read about your breed of choice.
Check temperament, care, longevity, health problems, character, and
We hope this information has helped you. Make a knowledgeable choice
to insure happiness for both parties concerned. Don’t confine your
quest to a familiar breed. Be open minded. A breed never before
considered may become your “hidden treasure”.