“Acquiring a dog may be the only opportunity a human ever has to choose a relative.”
— Mordecai Siegal
We just said goodbye to the Thanksgiving turkey and will soon welcome Santa Claus and the loot he drags down the chimney.
Hopefully one of those things will not be a dog.
The selection of a dog must be made by the person who will be the dog’s main human. Whether it’s a kid or an adult, the main human must select his/her dog.
Readers of this blog may pick up on the fact that I rarely speak in absolute absolutes—but this time, I do not mince words.
When you decide you want to commit to a decade – sometimes even two decades—of owning a dog, you owe it to yourself and your new dog to consider the ramifications of your choice. Here are some guidelines:
- Do you have a good-sized lot or acreage that will support a large dog?
- Do you live in an apartment or in the city where a large dog breed will create a daily challenge?
- Do you travel a lot? If you travel would you board or take your dog with you?
- Will you have to buy a different car in order to accommodate your new dog?
- It (usually) costs a lot more to keep a large dog than a small one.
- Obviously, a large dog will eat more than a little one.
- Grooming is usually more expensive for a large dog than a small one. This may not be the case if you have a little dog with a high-maintenance coat (e.g. Maltese) as opposed to a large dog with a care-free coat (e.g. Labrador).
- Boarding costs more for large dogs.
- How much “bother” are you willing to deal with when it comes to coat? Are you willing to attend to daily grooming or are you the “wash-and-wear” type?
- Does the breed shed (most do and some of those perpetually leave hair everywhere all times of year. Others shed like stuffed toys losing their stuffing once or twice per year.
- Other breeds, such as the Bouvier and Poodle do not shed. However, one must spend a considerable amount of time to keep some of these coats brushed out and groomed, otherwise the coat will turn into a felt mat.
- Do you want a family dog (e.g. Labrador) or a one-person dog (e.g. Akita)?
- Do you want a dog that will greet strangers with happiness (e.g. Golden Retriever) or one who has reservations about everyone he meets and may even be a bit “sharp” or aggressive toward strangers (e.g. Chow)?
- Are you willing and able to be a strong leader, or do you want a dog that is easy going and easily managed?
- Do you want a dog that is constantly “on” – in drive—armed with a finger on the trigger? Do you really want the liability of a dog like this and if so, are you willing to put in the time to train this dog so that he is 100% responsive to your commands? If not, stay away from these breeds. (Examples:, Cattle dogs, Border collies, European-bred working dogs– Belgian Malinois, Beligan Terveurn, German Shepherd, Bouviers, etc.
Things that upset a terrier may pass virtually unnoticed by a Great Dane.”
— Smiley Blanton
- What need in your life will your dog fill?
- Do you want a pal?
- Do you want protection?
- Do you want a running buddy or hiking friend?
- Do you want company?
When you are considering “purpose” also think about the purpose for which that breed was designed. For example, I have a friend, Karen Cattledog Cox, who has a fleet of Cattle Dogs who don’t work cattle; they work geese. She has carved out a cool little business protecting commercial and private property from geese who have decided to hang out year round. They are a bit of a problem in that they can be very aggressive when protecting “their” turf, and in large numbers, they can be very destructive. She and her dogs are “GooseBusters.”
Beagles were designed to hunt foxes and other small animals. You’ll have a time of it getting the hunter brain to shut down.
Some breeds are outlawed in various counties and cities across the USA. Before getting a dog, you might want to check with your county to be sure that the breed you want to own is cleared.
- Many large breeds live short lives. For some, ten years is ancient.
- A lot of small breeds live well into their teens – some even make it into their 20s’.
- That’s not to say that with good care and good genes you can’t get a few years or more of quality life in any dog. Alice, a Bouvier – with a life expectancy of around 12, was still working cattle at age 14 and now, at 15 is mostly blind and deaf and pretty stove up. But she is still her old “bouncing Bouvier self” in many ways and her quality of life is still good.
I have a lot of facebook friends who are Leonberger owners. This is a very cool breed—great at Service Dog work as they are kind and gentle giants. One of my FB friends was describing how much Leonbergers love water and mud. But they also love to be everywhere their people are—in the car, in the house, on the couch (or dining room table from which they have a much better view of the world!). Seems to me you’d need a fulltime housekeeper if you owned a Leonberger, otherwise your house would soon resemble a beach with all the sand packed in!
Keep in mind that he choice you make will affect you, your dog, and your relationships with people you know and will meet for the time you have this dog. I have some friends who acquired a 5 week-old Border Collie after their little mongrel died at age 14. I find it very disrupting to be around this dog as she has a myriad of behavior issues that are the result of being a high-drive breed that was rehomed too early.
The AGE at which one adopts his next dog is the topic for another blog.