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How to select the right type of dog for you

Updated on May 11, 2013
My dogs, Misty and Cloudy
My dogs, Misty and Cloudy | Source

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.

An Australian Cattle Dog
An Australian Cattle Dog | Source

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.

Herding dogs

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

  • Australian Shepherd

  • Bearded Collie

  • Beauceron

  • Belgian Malinois

  • Belgian Sheepdog

  • Belgian Tervuren

  • Border Collie

  • Bouvier des Flandres

  • Briard

  • Canaan Dog



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

  • Afghan hounds

  • American foxhounds

  • Basset Hounds

  • Beagles

  • Bloodhounds

  • Daschunds

  • English foxhound

  • Irish wolfhound

  • Greyhound

  • Saluki

A western bulldog
A western bulldog | Source

Non-sporting dogs

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:

  • Bichon frise

  • Boston Terrier

  • Bulldog

  • Bulldog

  • Sharpei

  • Boston terrier

  • Lhasa Apso

  • Xolos

  • Tibetian spaniels


Sporting dogs

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

  • Cocker spaniels

  • English Cocker Spaniels

  • English Setters

  • Springer Spaniels

  • Golden Retrievers

  • Irish Setters

  • labrador retrievers

  • Curly coated retrievers

  • Field spaniels

  • Irish water spaniels

Cloudy, my West Highland Terrier
Cloudy, my West Highland Terrier | Source


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:

  • Airedale Terriers

  • West Highland White Terriers

  • Schnauzers

  • Jack Russell Terriers

  • Irish Terriers

  • Kerry Blue Terrier

  • Cairn Terriers

  • Australian Terriers

  • Lakeland Terrer

  • Miniature Bull Terrier

  • Border Terrier


Toy dogs

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:

  • Chihuahuas

  • Chinese crested

  • English Toy Spaniel

  • Havanese

  • Italian Greyhound

  • Maltese

  • Miniature Pinschers

  • Papillon

  • Poodles

  • Pomeranians


Working dogs

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:

  • Akita Inus

  • Alaskan Malamutes

  • Newfoundlands

  • Rottweilers

  • St Bernard

  • Samoyeds

  • Doberman Pinschers

  • Giant Schnauzers

  • Siberian Husky

  • Standard schnauzers

Corgi Puppies
Corgi Puppies | Source

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.

Accurate testing

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

Stare Test
The handler holds the dog gently and stares into its eyes
Sensitivity Test
The handler feels the dog all over to stimulate stronger than average touch with no pain.
Tag Test
Handler quickly tags the dogs rump and moves away
Pinch Test
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

N.B. Before the test commences, the handler must interact with the dog in a friendly manner.


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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    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks Mark. Yes. Too True. Dogs are chosen because they are cute, etc, and then left in a shelter when they grow out of puppy hood and lose their cuteness. It's sad, and I think people have to get out of that shallow mode of thinking and realize that a dog is much more than that. Thanks for sharing!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 

      8 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Your mom´s Maltese sounds perfect. There is definitely a dog out there for everyone, but too often dogs are chosen just based on looks, and they end up being dumped at an animal shelter.

      Great article! Voted up and shared.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      A little research is certainly worth the time, Lurana! And prevents heartache too. Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Excellent article! My young daughter recently brought home a library book about choosing the right dog. It discussed different breeds using the same kinds of points you did, about size, exercise needs, temperament, etc. and it was very eye-opening for me! I would strongly encourage potential dog owners to read your advice carefully and research the breeds they are interested in before adopting. There is truly so much to consider. :-) ~Lurana

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Schnauzers a good choices for those who don't like too active a dog! It knows when to pull back and push forward to ask for play. Thanks for sharing, Mary.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Lot of good info in this Hub! I think I made the right decision when I got my Miniature Schnauzer. I like a small lap dog like her.

      If and when something happens to her, I think I'll get a Maltese. I rescued one and he was just the sweetest little dog.

      Voted UP shared and Pinned to my Pets board.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Travmaj. The worst situation is when owners outlive their pets. Then true heartbreak happens! Thanks for sharing!

    • travmaj profile image


      8 years ago from australia

      Hello Michelle, - when you see lists of all the dogs and breeds you wonder how it's ever possible to make a choice.

      Great hub covering all anyone could possibly want to know before choosing a dog. I'm sure many people will benefit from this work and it is so well documented. Great work.

      Sometimes, choice is thrust upon us - I mean the dog chooses us. I've been chosen a few times, over the years - strays seem to know the way to our house. Luckily, it's always worked out fine.

      I find it so sad when elderly people have to leave their dogs behind like your grandparents - so glad Romeo found such a good home and that made for a happy resolution for everyone.

      voting up and across and thank you for such an important hub.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Jaye. I hope it can benefit the many potential dog owners out there. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Mary. Yes, exactly it. If you do not know what you are in for it can be a heartbreaking situation. Thanks for sharing, my friend!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Glim. I should have thought about my Westie a little more too, hence my hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Kidscrafts. I always try to not to overlook things, although it is not always full proof. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      All the best on that, ladydeonne! I hope that you'll get a great dog!!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Hope that the addition comes soon, suziecat! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Martie! Yes, my shelter-adopted JRT was a dog who chose me from the beginning...looked as though I couldn't say no to him. Lived with us for 13 years, since he was 2! Died of cancer last year. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Dianna!!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      8 years ago from Deep South, USA

      This is a very thorough and well-organized article, Michelle. Here's hoping it gains lots of readers, especially those people thinking about getting a new dog. Knowing these things beforehand can stave off disappointment and problems.

      Voted Up+++


    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      8 years ago from New York

      You really covered it in this one Michelle! Anyone, and I mean anyone thinking about a dog should definitely read this hub. You've included so many good hints and directions. Like the "tummy up"! If you don't know what you're getting it can lead to heartbreak for both you and the dog.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and shared.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      8 years ago

      Extremely useful hub. We love our dog but in retrospect should have thought about it a little more. He has sever separation anxiety and when we got him as a puppy he was so timid and shy. Important info shared.

    • kidscrafts profile image


      8 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Great hub as always Michelle! You always tackle your hubs to cover every corner of the subject! It's most interesting!

      I was so touch by the story of your grandparents and their dogs. It must have been hard for them to let go one of their dogs to someone else. But I am not suprised that the dog past away the same day as his new owner; I think he knew that his purpose for his life was complete. I have a friend who had exactly the same situation with a cat and the passing of her husband. Cats and dogs can feel so many more things that we give them credit for!

      Thank you for sharing your knowledge and the story about the dog of your grandparents!

    • ladydeonne profile image

      Deonne Anderson 

      8 years ago from Florence, SC

      Very informative and useful. My daughter and I went dog shopping on this past Friday. We are looking to buy or adopt a dog that will be active enough to play with our 1.11 year old Red Nosed female Pit. Our 8.6 year old male Red Nose Pit/German Shepard is no longer interested in playing and prefers to stay by himself. Both dogs are socialized and love other puppies and dogs. So, dogs that are already in the home is a big consideration. Wish me luck!

    • suziecat7 profile image


      8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      This is an excellent and informative Hub. I've recently lost my black lab mix and her brother passed 2 years ago. I am sadly dogless for now but hope to add a new family member in the near future. Thanks for this great Hub.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Midget, I can't imagine buying a dog before reading this most informative hub of yours. It is so very important to chose the right dog. But so often a dog just happens to chose you and then change your personality for the better.

      Excellent, most informative and well-written hub!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      Truly a great topic and very useful for getting the right pet.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Eddy, hope that it will benefit new owners out there!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Janine!!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Bill. The wrong dog in dog in the household can be a disaster! Thanks for sharing!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      8 years ago from Wales

      A wonderful hub Michelle which I am sure will benefit many who are thinking along these lines.

      As always voting up.


    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      8 years ago from New York, New York

      Truly wonderful advice here Michelle and thank you as always for sharing your knowledge here on this. Hope you are having a great weekend, too my friend!!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      8 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This is a very important hub. We have been going to dog training for the past six weeks, and the instructor talks about this very subject. People need to pay attention to finding a dog that matches their household and their lifestyle. Well done, Michelle.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      On the factors you should consider when choosing a dog.


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