By Beth Hamill
We’ve met lots of dogs and owners while walking dogs across northern Virginia – and I can tell you from experience, it’s really important to choose a dog that matches your lifestyle and interests.
Sometimes people pick a dog based on its appearance, or on an idealized image of the kind of dog they want to spend time with. But a dog is a living, breathing being and if you’re going to have a long, happy life together, their behavioral qualities need to mesh with your situation and interests.
Working dogs, for example, need lots of exercise and may not be a good match for a single person with a social life. Some breeds, like Beagles, have a reputation for being patient, easy-going, and great with kids.
And Jack Russell Terriers – I speak from experience – will bark, jump on your furniture, and do their very best to catch rabbits, squirrels and whatever else may be crawling around outside (and sometimes they get lucky). The key is to make a choice you can live with happily–or at least willingly!
Research Dog Breeds
There are lots of online resources to help you, starting with the American Kennel Club’s interactive list of breeds that shows you dogs based on their activity level, barking, shedding and other characteristics. Or you can zero right in on the best family dogs.
There are also many guides that start with a quiz about you: your home and yard, family and activity level, and more. You can find them from Purina, Pedigree, Iams and more – including this one from Orvis that asks what you want to do with your dog, from cuddling to swimming.
What About Mixed Breed Dogs?
This approach works for mixed breed dogs, too. Some of the most popular dogs now aren’t purebreds – I’m thinking of all of you doodles out there! These dogs can share the behavioral qualities of the breeds that make up their mix, but less predictably because they’re not inherited from both parents. You can check out the pros and cons here, here, and here.
Of course, every dog has his or her own personality, too, and it can be evident even when they’re a puppy. So if you’re looking over a litter, pay attention to the way the different pups interact with their littermates (or don’t), and with people.
Should I Adopt a Rescue Dog?
What about rescues? Lots of my customers have adopted rescues, and I think that’s a great thing. (Incidentally, a lot of dogs wind up in rescues because the owner wasn’t the best match for them.)
Many rescue dogs are great companions; my Jack Russell-Beagle mix is one. Prepare yourself, however, for potential behavioral issues if the dog is not a puppy. Behavioral issues may stem from negative early experiences and/or a lack of appropriate training and socialization. That could mean working with a trainer and your vet to help you and your dog, so plan on that time and expense.
A more mature adoptee with a history may not be the best choice for a first-time dog owner. However, if you can get a puppy from a rescued litter, you’re much less likely encounter behaviors related to early, negative experiences. Their education still requires time, money and energy, but you are likely to have a solid citizen in the end. You can find a balanced look at the pros and cons here.
Have you had a good experience in choosing a dog? Let me hear from you!
PS: Looking for a quiet companion? Consider a Tibetan Terrier. They were bred as companion dogs for monks. (But be prepared to brush!)