AKC judge explains how a purebred puppy can meet your expectations and preferences on personality, coat type, and adult size so that it fits your lifestyle.
YOUR BREED CHOICE MUST FIT
Show Dog or Family Pet
E. Katie Gammill, TheDogPlace Exhibition Editor
When selecting a family pet, consideration should be given to breed characteristics not always visible in a puppy but which are clearly described and 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 purebred breed'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 can sunburn and most toy breeds can’t handle extreme cold. Some breeds are heavily coated such as Pekingese or Yorkies and need daily grooming. The Miniature Pinscher or Toy Fox Terrier have smooth tight coats and terrier-like attitude. Toy sized dogs can become “ankle biters and “double as doorbells” with their yapping. However, if you want an extremely intelligent, cuddly, portable breed, Toy breeds are the ticket! Good apartment dogs, toy dogs require less outside walking. For an outgoing, happy companion, toy breeds can’t be beat and a long life span is a bonus.
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, herding breeds prefer to be with the family which they consider their "flock". 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. They are naturally protective and they love children. Herding breeds are affectionate, responsive companions.
Working dogs mean business. Dignified, loyal, devoted, and intelligent, working breeds are often chosen for rescue and police work. Bernese and St. Bernards still rescue hikers in the snow covered Alps whereas Newfies rescue swimmers. 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 and thus, they can cover a lot of ground in a short time when let loose so be careful. Working breeds like Great Danes, St. Bernards or Newfoundland dogs require space. All working breeds need a job to do to prevent boredom. They also need strong leader so training classes are important.
Hunting and gun dogs are “pointers, setters, and retrievers.” Pointers rapidly run through rough cover so they have short close coats. Water retrievers have thick, protective coats and like all "drop earred" dogs require special attention to ears. Spaniels are smaller, cover less ground, and are easier to keep up with. Affable, active, friendly and devoted, all sporting breeds are devoted to family and job. Like herding breeds, most dogs bred for the field and retrieving game 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 smaller or short legged breeds like the Bassett Hound whereas larger hound breeds flush out fox, deer, otter, elk, and boar with enthusiasm and courage. Sight hounds such as Borzoi, Greyhounds, Salukis, Wolfhounds and Whippets pursue game by sight, snatching it in strong jaws while at a racing gallop. Scent hounds pursue their game relentlessly and some, like Basset Hounds, have short legs and are easier to keep up with. Others, like Bloodhounds, have long ears 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.
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. 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 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 are superior varmint hunters. Terriers are gay, active, and fearless. Most are diggers, so if lawn is important to you, think twice. Many terrier breeds require professional clipping or hand stripping to stay in style. Tail high, stiff-legged and on tippy toes, there is little “give” in a terrier, they are single-minded, determined, and need discipline but all terriers love people and make great companions for rambunctious children. Due to the “bum rap” associated with illegal pit fighting check with your insurance agent regarding coverage.
New breeds seeking 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 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! 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. YOU ALONE are responsible for damages done by your dog, be it property or person. View your breed choice at maturity to evaluate for growth, coat, and temperament. A spur of the moment purchase, especially a cute puppy, can grow into an unwanted size, coat type and inability to keep your pet.
When in doubt, go to www.AKC.org for more detail on size and purpose of breed. There’s also an excellent article on Choosing The Right Breed in TheDogPlace.org. If you want to select a shelter dog visit the Animal Shelter section to help you make the right choice. Identifying its parentage, if at all possible 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.
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