How to Chose a Dog for Your Personality and Lifestyle

In K9 Well Being’s newsletter, I provide resources that can help readers make an informed decision when it comes to selecting a breed of dog that will best suit them.

As we grow older or our living situations change, so might our choice of dogs. For example, a high-drive dog may have been well suited to a life on the farm, but if you sell the farm and move to the city, that breed may not work out very well in an apartment in the city.

In our last post I spent a little time discussing the breed, Cane Corso, saying that this is not a breed for a novice owner. But if I were a single woman living in a dicey area – and I had a sound foundation training hard-dogs- this is a breed I would seriously consider.

If you are unfamiliar with the attributes of a breed, do your research. Physical attraction is only a part of your relationship equation with a dog.

My favorite breed of all time is the Bouvier. They’re like a non-whining, standoffish, stoic-to-a-fault European German Shepherd.

My first Bouv, Alice, was 12 when she did something she’d never done before.

My mom was visiting the ranch when Alice dashed after Molly-Cule — the little Jack Russel- Chihuahua mix. They ducked under and electric fence to chase one of my mules.

Molly-Cule missed the strike, but that mule nailed Alice. Broke her humerus bone. But Alice did not yelp. She did not whine. The only reason I knew she was hurt was that she broke off her chase and slunk discreetly into the horse trailer. If she’d been any of my German Shepherds, there would have at least been a quick yelp. The word “stoic” is quite the understatement for a Bouv.

My Bouvier, Alice, was a wonderful trail-mate… but she began that training at 8 weeks… and had additional mentorship with Echo — A GSD who was truly the ambassador for the breed.

I don’t want to be around a dog that whines, begs or pesters me. I want a dog that is laid back and easy going, yet will hup-to when duty calls. Bouvier, Wil, and I spent a few hours one afternoon (in 100 degree heat) moving our bull who had fallen in love with a neighbor’s heifer and was intent on tearing down all our fences so he could go say howdy-do.

That was a grueling afternoon. But a Bouv is a partner, and he will stick with you like a European Shepherd to “get’er done.’ Dang near killed us both with heatstroke.

I want a dog that will be my back up.

One day, Alice (age 15) , Wil (age 7) and I were south of Seattle at a car wash in a run down part of town. Some vagrant-looking guys approached me as I was putting things back in my truck after vacuuming it. The dogs were tied to rhododendron bushes in the shade.

“Lady, want some help?” one asked.

“No thanks.” I said

But they kept approaching. And I knew they’d heard me.

“Lady, want some help?” the same man asked again.

“No. Thank you.” I said.

But still they advanced.

“Stop!” I said forcefully, putting my hand out like a traffic cop. They did stop.

“Look at the bushes,” I said. My gaze followed my finger, and what I observed caused white tingling fear spread to across my body.

Wil was on high alert. He drilled into those guys with a look that said, “One more step, I’m taking you out.”

Not everyone wants or needs or wants a dog for defense. Some people want a companion to jog with. Others want a companion to watch television with. Some want a dog to do some sport with – dock diving, agility, lure coursing, dog sledding, ring sport…

Do you want a sports dog? A hunting dog? A companion dog? A defense dog? Choose carefully!

Whatever your reason is for wanting a dog, it is best that you identify that reason. And then do some research. Find out if that breed is suitable to your needs.

And even if you are not searching for a purebred, it is still a good idea to do your needs assessment and best-fit breed exercise.

In the case of mixed breeds, keep in mind that the dog may look a lot like one breed, but have the temperament of another. You cannot judge these “books” by their covers.

For example, let’s say that you find a basset hound – Labrador mix. He might look a whole lot like a lab, but if he has the basset temperament, he surely will not act like one! You’ll likely have a kind-hearted, hard-to-train, independent minded, loves to follow his nose dog.

Mixed breeds may not exhibit the temperament or disposition of the breed they most resemble.

Maybe he looks like the basset hound, but has the Lab temperament? Then he will most likely love kids and people, be naturally pretty good with other animals, be a wonderful, fun companion. He’ll be protective without being a menace. And he’ll always be up for playing outfield when the kids are playing baseball.

If you understand the breed characteristics of both, you may be able to project an educated guess about the kind of dog he is. And in doing so– if you are familiar with breed temperament characteristics– you may be able to determine whether or not you two will be a good match.

Of course, besides temperament and disposition, there are other things that you need to consider:

What size of dog will work best for your lifestyle?

  • Tiny?
  • Medium?
  • Large?
  • Huge?
  • How large is your house? Yard? Car?
  • Do you need to transport this dog?
  • Can you afford to feed a large dog?
  • Is this breed prone to disease, hip problems, or other medical issues?
  • Will his job (such as being a livestock guardian, for example) require a large bodied dog?

Golden Retriever with Chihuahua-Jack Russel Terrorist friend

What are the challenges of your dog’s hair or coat?

  • What is your tolerance for shedding?
  • Are you allergic to dog hair?
  • Do you like the feel of a short-haired dog?
  • Do you have the patience and/or financial means to manage the coat of a long-haired dog?

A coat like this can be a challenge in some climates (i.e. wet and muddy), vegetative habitats (eg. cheat grass, hounds tongue)

Fleas and ticks … and dogs

Environmental concerns: Is “Where you live” conducive to the dog you want?

  • Is the dog large enough to hold his own with coyotes or other wildlife or savvy enough not to pick a war he cannot win?
  • Are there weeds, such as cheat grass, that will cause harm to the dog unless monitored with some degree of obsession on your part? With the dog’s coat be resilient against such plants? (Labradors are; Bouviers are not.)
  • (My vet found a cheat grass blade WAY down in Alice’s ear canal! He also found a tick way down in her ear canal!)
  • Is the breed of dog you are considering illegal in your city or county?
  • Is your climate suitable for this dog?

Will the dog pose a threat to other people or animals that share your world?

  • Will this dog get along with other animals you have or plan to have?
  • Is this dog safe with children?
  • Will this dog be a safety hazard to old people who have mobility issues?

Dog aggression can be a factor of temperament, inadequate socialization and/or training, as well as thyroid disease! CLICK HERE  to learn more.

If you find that the dog you chose is not working out for you, it is okay to re-home him. I have done this twice in the 50 years I have owned dogs. The first was Buck – the Shepherd – Lab I mentioned in my previous post. Buck was one of the finest dogs I have ever met. But we were not “soul mates.”

Buck loved his rabbits. In fact, each time a litter was born, there was no way to pry him away from his job as guardian angel to the kits.

The second was a little Chihuahua – Jack Russell Terrorist mix. A visitor to the ranch fell madly in love with Miss Molly-Cule and asked if he could have her. She went on to be his service dog and the two are 100% inseparable. She adores him and he has gone to extreme lengths to protect, defend and care for her.

Molly-Cule — Queen of the Jungle!

In both these cases, these dogs were better suited to their new owners than to me. In the end, I was just a sort of conduit to spur them on to the people they were meant to be with.

There are a number of “breed selector” tools online. Dog Identifier has a “round up” of eight of them:

Dog Breed Selector Tools: Find Your Perfect Dog

In my email newsletter I told readers about the ones I took that provided the most authentic results. If you would like to subscribe to our newsletter, simply drop a line to Info@K9WellBeing.com and ask to Subscribe to the Newsletter.