Which breed of dog should I get?
Once someone decides to get a dog, the question then becomes "Which dog breed?" There are hundreds of recognized breeds of dogs out there, and many more mixes.
So how do you find the one that's right for you? There are many considerations to make when choosing a dog breed. What's important for one person may not be as important for another. So while this article will cover many different factors it will be up to you to determine which are important and which are not as important.
While it's possible to train dogs to do just about anything (especially if you are a talented trainer) the purpose of choosing the right dog breed for you, is to cut down on the amount of work you would have to do to fit a dog into your lifestyle. It's easier for both you and the dog in the long run.
How much space do you have for a dog? If you live in an apartment, you may have size restrictions on how large of a dog you can get (and sometimes, even what breed).
Generally, if you are looking at a larger breed (like a Labrador or Golden Retriever) you will want to have a house and a yard to allow the dog enough room to stretch his legs and for you to not trip over him!
Now, while size can be a moderate indicator of exercise needs, it's not fool proof. For example the Great Dane is nicknamed "the apartment dog" for it's mellow and laid back personality that makes it perfect for spending the day lounging in the apartment with you.
Or in layman's terms, how much exercise a dog needs. All dogs need exercise, but some need more than others. Many toy and small breeds are happy with a short walk and running around the house all day. More energetic breeds like the Siberian Husky need long walks and need to have them everyday rain or shine, and that's in addition to having yard space to run around in.
Take an honest appraisal of yourself. Are you out every weekend backpacking, running or bicycling? Do you enjoy an occasional leisurely walk around the block once a day? Or maybe you just like to relax at home in your favorite armchair? There's no wrong answer here, just be honest with yourself.
While it's true that many people get a dog as an exercise partner, and some manage to make a significant change to their lifestyle once they do, depending on a dog to get you up and out of the house is probably not going to work for most people. So even if you do plan to exercise with your dog, don't have that be the metric by which you measure your activity level for him.
It's very important to get a dog that matches your activity level. A dog that does not have his energy needs met is more likely to be destructive and annoying. It's not the dog's fault per say, he's just going stir crazy for something to do!
While a well trained dog should be okay around all sorts of people it is clear when looking over different breeds that some do better with small children than others.
If you have children, may have children in the reasonably near future, or have frequent visits by people with children, you will want to look at breeds that are considered "good with kids". These are breeds like the; Beagle, Pug, Golden Retriever, Labrador, Australian Shepard, Bernese Mountain Dog, Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Brittany Spaniel, Corgi, Bulldog, Chihuahua, Collies, Dalmatians, Lhasa Apso, and Maltese to name a few.
Thankfully, dogs are such a popular family pet that you are likely to find a breed from just about any size, fur style, and energy level to fit your needs.
Unfortunately just because a dog is good with children doesn't necessarily mean it will be good with other pets. If you have other pets, and especially if you have pets like cats or small animals, you will want to make sure that any breed that starts to catch your eye will also be able to, at the very least, leave them in relative peace.
This is especially true for the hunting breeds and some northern breeds. Siberian Huskies, although famously friendly with children, are generally not so friendly with cats and other small animal due to their healthy prey drive. Likewise if you were a rabbit farmer, a beagle is probably not the most ideal choice for you.
All dogs should be groomed on occasion. A quick brush over and a nail trim are usually in order for most dogs. But some dogs have coats that require more extensive care. Some breeds that require higher than normal grooming are the: Lhasa Apso, Cocker Spaniel, Maltese, Poodle, Old English Sheep Dog, and Airedale. Nearly all of these will require trips to a professional grooming salon to keep their fur in good condition. (Unless you plan to really put in the study and effort at home, but most people don't have the time or facilities to do it properly and safely.)
If you choose a dog that has longer hair, like a Golden Retriever or an Australian Shepard, plan to brush them regularly as long hair tends to tangle and then mat. Mats are bad because as time goes on they get tighter and eventually will rub open bleeding sores into a dogs skin if they aren't removed.
When it comes to fur you also have to factor in how much you value house cleanliness. While all dogs shed, some shed more than others. And some may surprise you!
Northern breeds like the Siberian Husky and Samoyed tend to "blow" their coats twice a year. During this period the fluffy under coat will loosen and come out in great patches. By the time they are done you will think you have enough fur to knit yourself another dog!
You would think that a short hair breed like a beagle or dalmatian would cause less mess, but that's not necessarily the case! Those little hairs seem to fall off 24/7. Regular brushing with a rubber "hound brush" helps, especially in spring when they shed the extra winter hairs, but be prepared for a fairly constant sprinkle around the house with these breeds.
Some breeds can be aloof when it comes to people outside their family, they can even be protective if they think their family is in danger. While these dogs can be great if you live in a questionable neighborhood, or out in the country, they're not so good if you are like having lots of different friends over frequently.
If you are a socialite who likes to be out and about with people, you'll want to choose a dog that is comfortable around lots of strangers.
I hate to put this one in here, but it really is a factor. Simply put, big dogs cost more. They eat more, their dishes and kennels are bigger, their treats are bigger, they require more medication at the vet. Once a dog starts to get over 60lbs you will see an increase in the cost of dog related items.
Small dogs cost less, but really small dogs (teacups) may end up needing more trips to the vet and special services not available at a regular vet.
And of course, if you decide to get more than one dog, that will increase your cost as well!
Putting it all together
Now that you have an idea of what sort of requirements your dog will need to meet to live with you, it's time to start reading resumes! And by that I mean breed standards. You can give yourself a head start by listing the two most important things to you (ie: low energy dog, good with kids) and putting that into a google search. Once you have a list of possible candidates, read more about their breed and see if they look like they will be a good fit!
You can also avail yourself of online breed selectors if you're having problems coming up with ideas, but don't tie yourself to them because they cannot weigh the various requirements the way you can. For example, they may see a dog being good with kids as important as one that doesn't need much grooming. But you may think that a dog that's good with kids is an absolute necessity, while not needing much grooming would be more of a nice plus.
If you've got the time and enjoy reading, you might want to flip through one or more of the various dog breed compilation books.
When you do finally settle on the most promising breed (or breeds) read up on them exclusively for a while, and if possible talk to a friend who owns one and spend some time with their dog.
Of course, once you know which direction you want to go, you will have a few more questions to answer before you go pick up your new best friend.