How to select the right type of dog for you
By Michelle Liew
How to choose the right dog for you
Bringing a dog, or any pet home is akin to welcoming the newest member of the family. Considering that a pet will spend its entire lifetime under your care, making a hasty decision regarding its inception can lead to unwelcome consequences.
This is especially true when selecting a puppy to bring into the household. Many think only of how cute the puppy is and how winsome its ways are.
Dogs, though, like people, have differences in their temperaments and “dog-sanalities.” Some are disposed to being more hyperactive, others languid. Some are more forward and aggressive with their temperaments while others are more subdued and reticent by nature
It stands to reason that we cannot relate to all dogs in the same way, not expect all of them to adapt to our living conditions. The wrong partnership between dog and owner can lead to a situation of distress and eventual pet abandonment.
When making the decision to bring a pet into the family, many factors affecting its blending into the household are thrown into the mix.
Things to consider when choosing a dog
If you have chosen to bring a dog into the family, congratulations are in order because dog owners tend to be happier. Stroking or petting a dog is a recognized way of raising one’s endorphin levels and reducing stressors.
It can also work in the opposite direction. Bringing the wrong dog into the family can increase a person’s stress because the mismatch causes impatience and frustration on the parts of both the owner and the dog.
Does size really matter?
Yes, it does, though factors other than size have to be taken into consideration. . How big or small a dog is something that needs to be thought about because of the ability to complement needs and surroundings. Common sense tells us that a big dog is less suited for an apartment than a smaller one.
However, some big dogs do very well living in an apartment with its owner, possibly because of the other factors that I will now mention.
What is the dog’s temperament?
Different people gel well with different kinds of dogs. Some might prefer dogs which are more sedentary by nature, while others get along better with those which are more active.
Those who are a new dog owners might want to choose a more manageable dog with a softer, less aggressive or feisty temperament. Yet others require the presence of a more aggressive dog in the household because of the need, perhaps, for protection.
To gauge the temperament of a dog, there is a way to conduct a simple temperament test which I will outline later.
What are the dog’s exercise requirements?
All dogs need exercise in the same way we do. However, some dogs will require lots of opportunity to frolic or for daily walks. Yet others prefer the shelter of their homes and the comfort of a soft pillow.
A case in point relates to my own experience. My mother owns a Maltese that prefers to look out of the apartment window to peek at whoever roams around along the road outside. Bringing him downstairs for his ‘walk’ equates to sitting under the shelter of the void deck of the block of flats where my mother lives, because rather than walk, he prefers to simply watch others passing by.
In stark contrast is Cloudy, my West Highland Terrier, who needs to run with me whenever I bring her out. She gives my schnauzer, Misty a literal run for her money, or in a change of doggy
phraseology, food. Being of the terrier breed, she gets bored easily and will need the time for a stretch.
What are the genetic factors accompanying the breed?
Certain breeds of dogs have deficiencies just because they are of a particular breed. Some have so many that there are problems getting them insured! However, these are few and far between.
A point to note is that toy breeds and their opposite, the really big ones, have genetic problems based just on their size. Just because the breed has a propensity for a certain condition does not mean that the dog you choose to bring home will be predisposed to it.
What do you want from your dog?
This refers to one’s lifestyle needs. Some may require a dog that can get along well with the children in the household. Others may be living alone and require a dog to perform watchdog duties. Others need an exercise companion.
Is a dog’s age important?
You bet. Some may not want an old dog because they need a companion that will be around for a good number of years. Still others, being seniors themselves, may want an older dog that can keep them company during their twilight years.
I digress with a little story. Such was the situation I encountered many years ago when my grandparents decided to sell the home in which they lived since their marriage. They then had two samoyeds, also seniors at the age of 12. Moving to a smaller apartment, they were forced to make the decision to give away one of the dogs. The female had, by this time, passed away peacefully.
As it happened, they found a home for the remaining dog, a slightly cantankerous samoyed male named Romeo. (Yes, his sister who passed away was named Juliet).Romeo was sought by an elderly man who needed a dog in his twilight years. He found a new, happy home with this elderly gentleman. When the gentleman passed away from cancer, Romeo did too, as it happened, on the very same day.
Pure or Mixed Breed dogs
Some owners wish to have their little dogs participate in dog shows which require participants to fulfil purebred specifications. Others love the look of certain breeds of dogs.
Some prefer to have mixed breeds that exhibit a combination of interesting traits.
DIfferent breeds of dogs and their temperaments
Before choosing a dog, it is good to take his characteristics and temperament into consideration. Bear in mind that dogs were bred to serve different functions. Certain kinds of dogs would therefore be predisposed to certain temperaments. There are over 150 kinds of dogs, divided into 7 different groups with dogs of similar origin.
Collies,Australian Shepherds and Old English Sheepdogs were bred to help farmers herd their cattle. These dogs need plenty of exercise and involvement in agility or obedience.
Some herding dogs are:
Australian Cattle Dog
Bouvier des Flandres
Their exceptional sense of smell makes them good at tracking any human or animal scent. Bred for hunting. These dogs can be difficult to track themselves. They are also vocal and prone to baying and barking.
Some breeds belonging to the hound group include
Non-sporting dogs include poodles, chows and dalmatians. These dogs make excellent family companions because their activity level easily matches those of family members. These breeds are good for families who want dogs which can get along with their children.
Some of these would include:
As the name implies, these dogs were originally bred for sport. They dashed around all day,
getting water fowl for their masters. They require daily walks and invigorating exercise.
Some of these would be:
American Water Spaniels
English Cocker Spaniels
Curly coated retrievers
- Irish water spaniels
Terriers are energetic, brave and very determined. These little fellows need lots of exercise and time to romp and play. They love to dig, so if you have a garden and are planning to grow and plants in your lawn, this type of dog may not suit your needs. They may also nip boisterous children.
Examples of these dogs include:
West Highland White Terriers
Jack Russell Terriers
Kerry Blue Terrier
Miniature Bull Terrier
These were bred as companions and only wish to be with you. They may be lapdogs, but need exercise like any other dog. Small and yappy, they can easily get underfoot. They might not be good choices with boisterous children in the home.
Some of these are:
English Toy Spaniel
These dogs are bred to work at a specific job like hauling or sledding. They are loyal and independent, but must be controlled and get lots of exercise. If your lifestyle is a bit more sedentary, they are not such a good choices as companions.
Some of these are:
Temperament testing puppies
There are many ways of temperament testing dogs and puppies, developed by organizations to help owners adopt puppies that suit their needs. Before selecting a dog, it is good to do a little research via the internet or books to find just the right test for you. However, a good puppy temperament test will have these elements.
The unfamiliar setting
Take the puppies to an unfamiliar but comfortable setting for the test. Ideally, the person handling the puppies should be a stranger. It is important to handle them all in exactly the same way.
To achieve accuracy in testing, the puppies should be tested more than once.
Good breeders will have information on each puppy to share with you as well as the genetic information necessary i.e who the puppies parents are and their temperaments.
Restraining the puppy gently with the tummy up
Restraining the puppy with the tummy up is a common test for temperament. Its level of struggle will tell us how feisty it is. It is important, though, to read the puppy. A puppy which does not struggle at all might be relaxed, or frozen in fear. Owners might want the puppy to resist just a tad.
Lifting off the ground
Lifting the puppy off the ground is a good way of telling owners how active it is. If it puts up a lot of resistance, there is a chance that the dog will be over active.
The follow test
Young puppies will follow. How much a puppy follows will show how much interest he has in human beings.
Kneeling and squatting
Kneeling, squatting and calling a puppy indicates a puppy’s interest in humans.
To look for trainability, a tester might teach each puppy a simple skill like teaching it to look for a treat. Its positive response indicates whether or not it can be trained.
Adoption from shelters
Some owners might want to adopt dogs from shelters. Dogs would have been affected by being in a shelter for a long period of time and might have developed some aggressive and resistant tendencies. The SAFER test, standing for Safety Assessment for Evaluating Re-homing, was developed by Dr. Emily Weiss as a way to test an animal’s sociability and tendency towards aggression after being in a shelter for a period of time. Dogs are graded on levels from A to F based on their levels of responses to various activities.Owners who are considering adopting a dog from a shelter can employ this test.
The SAFER test
The handler holds the dog gently and stares into its eyes
The handler feels the dog all over to stimulate stronger than average touch with no pain.
Handler quickly tags the dogs rump and moves away
The handler holds the paw up and pinches between two toes. The pressure increases till the dog reacts.
Food aggression test
The handler puts food in a bowl and attempts to take it away as the dog eats it to see how aggressive he is.
Dog aggression test
The handler walks past a helper dog
Whether you are considering adopting a dog from a shelter or choosing a puppy from a breeder, it is good to evaluate a dog’s temperament to see if it complements you and members of the family.
Here, I would like to thank the writers who answered the question “What factors would you consider when choosing a dog?” Do take the time to give each of them a read.
Copyright Michelle Liew Tsui-LIn
All rights reserved
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