Picking the right dog for your taste and lifestyle has the biggest influence on how much you enjoy your pet. Dogs can behave as different as they can look. Read below for some things to consider when selecting your dog.
There are a lot of terms used to describe dogs. One of them is a dog's breed. Since a dogs breed is determined by its ancestry it influences more than how a dog looks. Behavioral, intelligence, energy levels and trainability are some other traits that their heritage contributes to. Dogs are classified as either purebred, crossbred or mixed-breed.
Purebred dogs all trace their ancestry to a particular bloodline. Some popular purebred varieties or "breeds" include the Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd and the Yorkshire Terrier.
The crossbred dogs also called "designer dogs" are the offspring of the intentional breeding of two different breeds of purebred dogs. Some popular designer dogs are the Labradoodle, a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle, the Cockapoo, a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle and the Puggle, a cross between a Beagle and a Pug. These dogs share the ancestry and characteristics of both parent breeds.
Mixed-breed dogs are known by terms such as mutts and Heinz 57's, affectionately by mixed-breed owners and somewhat less lovingly by some owners of pedigree dogs. However, surveys indicate that roughly half of all dogs kept as pets in the U.S. are mixed-breeds. Their ancestry is often unknown beyond the mother making it harder to predict what kind of dog that cute little puppy will grow into. If left on their own to breed freely the offspring of mixed-breed dogs will eventually average out to a short-haired tan to black dog of about 40 lbs standing somewhere between a foot and a half to two feet tall.
Considering the three classifications the question most often asked is which makes the best kind of pet. The answer is that they can all make great pets and they all can make poor pets. In the wild young animals learn acceptable behavior from more senior pack members. A domestic dog still carries with it the pack mentality of its wild ancestors but its owner and anyone else in the household are now their pack.
This means that members of the household are left with the responsibility of teaching good behavior through training. Individual dogs no matter what their heritage have individual behavioral tendencies just like any other animal however proper training can turn just about any dog into a pet that is a pleasure to own.
That being said there can be both benefits and pitfalls in choosing a purebred or designer crossbred dog. The carefully controlled breeding of the purebreds and the purebred parents of the designer dogs fixes certain traits in their offspring like the long low body shape of the Dachshund or the wrinkly skin of the Chinese Shar-pei. More than appearance gets fixed though, behavioral tendencies like the high energy level of many breeds of terriers or the susceptibility to health issues like hip problems in some large breeds like the German Shepherd Dog are also fixed. The main benefit of choosing a certain breed is that these fixed traits are well known making it easier to decide if a breed is right for you.
When talking about purebred dogs the term registered also comes up. A registered dog is a purebred that has met the proof standards of a particular kennel club, like the AKC (American Kennel Club) or CKC (Continental Kennel Club), that it's parents were both registered purebreds of a particular breed. The registration requirements vary from club to club and are not necessarily accepted by another club.
All clubs have their own list of accepted breeds and these list usually contain all of the more common breeds but the acceptance of less common or newer breeds can vary considerably. These clubs also group similar breeds into categories mainly for competition purposes at dog shows. Some of the more universally accepted breed groups in the U.S. are Sporting Dogs, Working Dogs, Non-Sporting Dogs, Hounds, Herding Dogs, Terriers and Toys.
No matter whether you've decided on a pure bred or mixed-breed there are a few considerations beyond how they look that should factor into your decision on whether a particular dog is right for you. Be sure to take the characteristics listed below into account when choosing your pet.
Size is probably the first factor that should be considered. Large dogs need more room, can be harder to handle, eat more food and make more of a mess than smaller dogs so think about how your choice will impact your living space, budget and time.
Size ranges are well documented for purebreds but there are some indicators for mixed-breeds. The size of the parents if known is the most reliable but a "guesstimate" can be made from body proportions and age weight ratios. The first method that come to mind is usually paw size compared to the rest of the dog, another common method says to double the weight at 14 weeks. Remember that just like babies of most other species a puppies body proportions will change as it grows.
Energy level is another consideration. This ties in pretty closely to exercise requirements and how they will impact the flow of your living space. A dog that isn't getting enough exercise to burn off their excess energy will find a way to get rid of it, usually through less desirable behaviors. If you have enough room for the dog to run they can exercise themselves but if you don't have a big yard you can count on devoting some time every day to walking your dog. This can mean an hour or more a day especially for the running breeds like the Afghan, Borzoi or Greyhound.
Demeanor is another consideration and is very important especially if there are small children or other pets in the household. Sporting and scent hound type dogs like the retrievers or beagles tend to be accepting of both children and other pets while working dogs and terriers tend to prefer not to have them in their life. Matching known behavioral tendencies to your lifestyle and environment goes a long way in avoiding conflicts with your pet and helps make training easier.
Shedding tendencies and grooming requirements are something that will need to be handled as long as you own your pets. These are well documented for the purebreds but can also be inferred by the type of coat the dog has. Short tight single coats usually shed the least and have the lowest special grooming requirements. Long, heavy double coat and wiry or curly coats all bring either increased shedding or special grooming requirements into the care you need to provide.
Known health issues like hip problems for the large breeds like the mastiffs or larger shepherds and respiratory or heat related problems for breeds with the pushed in snouts like bulldogs and pugs are well known for the purebreds. Depending on their heritage these may also be inherited traits in the mixed-breeds. While choosing a cheaper food or grooming your pet your self allow you to influence the cost of owning your dog health related cost are what they are and can be considerable to address some of these issues.
Making informed decisions on all of these factors will go a long way in ensuring that both you and your dog are happy in your relationship. As stated before these qualities are all well known for the purebreds but familiarizing yourself with the characteristics of the various breeds can help you in determining the tendencies of a mixed-breed because many of theses have at least one identifiable breed in their heritage. You can find further information on the purebreds on the purebred page and some tips on figuring out just what went into the mix of mixed breeds. Good luck on your quest to find the perfect dog for you!