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That cliché saying about books also applies to dogs: don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
It’s easy to see an adorable and beautiful breed of dog and decide that it’s the one for you, based solely on aesthetic, but there is so much more to picking out which breed is right for you. Dogs typically live between 12-15 years, so if you’re committing to a doggo, you want to make sure the breed you choose really suites your lifestyle.
Take Australian Shepherds as an example, a breed growing in popularity. This breed is an insanely intelligent working breed with strong herding and guarding instincts.
Because they’re a working dog, if you’re not living on a farm and using your Aussie Shep for those purposes, their energy and brains still need plenty of work to keep them from going stir crazy. Obedience training is a must as they’re quick learners, and agility or something to stimulate their minds is recommended. If you work insane hours or are looking for a four-legged companion to be a couch potato with, this breed is definitely not right for you, cute as they may be.
What should you take into consideration before bringing home a new bestie? Budget is essential. Can you even afford a dog? Buying or paying rescue fees for a dog is only one small portion of the costs you’ll incur as a pet parent. Supplies, food, vet, training, grooming, and any day care or dog walkers should be taken into account and budgeted for. Not only monetarily, but do you realistically have time to take your dog for a walk, rain or shine, good day or bad day, whether you worked a long day or not? Whether you get a puppy or an older dog, there’s also always training to be done which takes up a ton of time.
Size is the first thing you have to think about. If you live in an apartment or condo, or a strata of any kind, you should check the rules as they probably state a size limit. You also need to realize the bigger the dog, the more expensive their bills are! This also doesn’t mean a small dog will be less work than a big dog (for example,
Great Dane’s are notoriously lazy and surprisingly good apartment dogs, while a Jack Russel requires lots of training and exercise to combat their high activity levels).
Energy drawing from our last example, really think about your lifestyle. If you’re the kind of person wants to spend your Sunday in pjs watching Netflix then you can cross super active breeds off your list and start looking into breeds that are generally more chill. There is nothing worse than committing to a dog and then realizing their activity level don’t match your own; it’s a large reason we end up with so many dogs being surrendered to rescue organizations!
Personality traits specific to the breed are another key to making sure you’re looking for the right match. Do you want a guard dog or a family dog? Just a companion? Maybe a hiking buddy? If you’re looking for a dog that’ll be glued to your side, a Beagle or Cairn Terrier may not be your choice as they tend to be more independent.
Maintenance doesn’t just refer to the coats, but let’s start there. Long hair, short hair, curly hair, non shedding, double coats… find out just how much upkeep the dog you’ve got your eye on is going to require! You’ve gotta commit some time to keep their fur brushed and nails trimmed so they don’t get uncomfortable. The other bit of maintenance I’ll touch on is health issues: find out what the breed you’re looking at is susceptible to. For example, if you’re getting any kind of bulldog breed you need to clean their face wrinkles regularly and German Shepherds are known to have bad hips, so be prepared to supplement and potentially have a crotchety old dog one day that doesn’t move so well.
Rescue or breeder, a very good question. Often, rescue organizations do cost less than going to a traditional breeder, but understand those costs are there due to transportation fees, vet costs, and general expenses while under the rescue’s care. I’m a big advocate of adopting a rescue dog, as many of you know. There are so many dogs in shelter’s just waiting for their perfect home, and often the volunteers have gotten to know them so can help you find a good match.
Older dogs have often outgrown a lot of puppy habits, like accidents and chewing, but there are lots of puppies in shelter’s, too! If you want a particular breed, there is a high chance you can find a breed specific rescue. Now, if you’re going to go to a breeder, please just make sure they have a good reputation. No backyard breeders, ok? Make sure when you go to visit that the house or property are in good condition, the living arrangements for the dogs are top notch, and ask to meet Mom and Dad (they’ll both be on site) so you can judge their temperament and watch for any hidden health issues like bad hips, and honestly just to see that they are treated well. The choice is yours, but you know what I’m rooting for!
Whatever you choose to do, make sure you’re as committed to that dog as they will be to you. Times get tough, situations change, and that little nugget you’re adding to your family will stick by you for all of it. So don’t just bring a dog home that’s “cute”. If you need a place to start, try taking the American Kennel Club’s Breed Selector quiz to see who might be your perfect fit.