UPDATED November 16th, 2017
Puppy love, it’s a real thing, and we’re not talking about the early days of a budding romance. We’re talking about all kinds of dogs, and the intense obsession you’re about to have with your furry friend. Seriously, look at the mushy, innocent face of a puppy and try not to melt…it’s impossible. But before you can get to the snuggles, the kisses, the park play dates and lifetime of love and affection, you need to pick the right dog breed for you. And much like finding a life partner, how to pick a dog that’s the perfect match for you, your family and your life isn’t always easy.
According to the American Kennel Club’s website, there are “over 160 different breeds of dog, and each of these breeds has its own unique temperament, appearance, activity level and set of needs. You should do some serious and careful research to determine which breed of dog is right for you and your family.” Sure, 160 different kinds of dogs—and that’s only the breeds recognized by the AKC, not the new mixed breeds, designer mutts, and rescue dogs—can seem a bit overwhelming to research. So here are some tips to help you navigate the wonderful world of canine companionship.
First, consider the size The size of your dog is a big factor in choosing a breed that will suite your lifestyle, and your space. If you live in a tiny apartment it might not be fair to you or your dog to get a breed that tends to be large. Aside from the fact that they won’t have space to run around and play, you’ll also start to feel cramped really quickly when your 100+ pound pup takes over your pillow. Trust us, we’ve been there. If you travel a lot, you might want a smaller dog that can come on the airplane with you. TSA requirements and airline regulations change frequently, but usually if you want your dog to come on board with you, he needs to be under 20 pounds and fit in an approved airline carrier that can fit in the seat in front of you. When you begin your hunt, start by searching for dogs based on the size and weight you are looking for. And then make sure you ask your breeder how big they expect their puppies to grow. Even within a breed dog sizes can range drastically from puppy to puppy.
To shed or not to shed? If you’re OCD or a neat freak, then you probably don’t want a dog that is going to shed all over your home. According to the ASPCA, “dogs naturally lose old or damaged hair by shedding. Although shedding is a normal process for dogs, the amount and frequency of hair that is shed often depends upon their health and breed type.” Certain breeds like poodles and terriers don’t shed much at all (you don’t even know it happens) while others like retrievers shed a lot, and often. Make sure you do your research and think honestly about your home, and how much time you are willing to spend vacuuming up dog hair.
Not all dogs are created equal, at least not in the intellectual sense Just like people, some dogs are smarter than others. You’ve heard the term you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…well you also can’t teach certain types of dogs new tricks. Border collies (think Lassie) are incredibly smart, love to learn and are workaholics; poodles are very active, very smart and quick to learn; German shepherds are courageous, loyal and intelligent. Remember that the type of breed you choose will, to some extent, determine how smart and trainable your dog is.
Do you want lots of energy or a lazy pup? In theory, you’re a perky, energetic, athletic person who works out often and wakes up with a smile, ready to tackle the day and get moving. In reality, you want nothing more than a lazy day of TV on your couch with a bag of popcorn and a cup of tea (or wine). And yes, there is a way to balance both lifestyles. But if you choose an athletic dog who needs to run around for hours every day, and you’re a homebody who doesn’t like exercise, it might not be the best fit. On the flip side, if you run marathons and you want a pup who can keep up with your pace, look for a dog who thrives in active environments. And be honest about who you are and what you want. Remember this puppy is yours for a long time if you’re lucky, so you want a dog that is compatible with your daily life.
When in doubt, rescue While handpicking a breed and a puppy that is the perfect match for your family is a nice option, there are tons of sweet dogs in shelters that need good homes. Over 2 million dogs enter shelters each year in the U.S. alone; don’t overlook the option to rescue or adopt a dog, and to give that animal the loving home he deserves. And when you do go to a shelter, keep in mind that those pups are probably nervous, stressed out and not acting like themselves. Ask the important questions (how old is the dog, how big will he be, is he good with kids etc.), and keep an open mind and an open heart. If you are looking to rescue or adopt, a great place to start is with this website, which helps you navigate all the pet shelters around the country.