When it comes to dogs, everyone knows there are so many different types to choose from. Just take one trip to the Douglas County Animal Shelter any given week, and you will see German Shepherds, Chihuahuas, Collies, Boxers, American Bulldogs, Pointers, Dachshunds, Labs, Huskies and much more. You’ll also see a lot of mixed breeds in all shapes, sizes, ages, colors and personalities.
So how do you know which one is the right one for you?
According to the American Kennel Club, you should consider the following when choosing a dog:
1. Temperament: If your dog has a personality that doesn’t match yours, you’re going to be in for a long 10 to 16 years. Do you need a dog that is friendly to everyone it meets or do you prefer one that will protect your home from strangers? Do you want one that follows you around and likes to snuggle or one that prefers a bit of independence?
2. Grooming Needs: About a year after I got my oldest dog, Gabby, I swore to myself that I would never own another white dog. If I go a day or two without vacuuming, I can gather enough hair out of my living room floor to make a coat for a whole other dog. Now, I wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world, and after almost nine years, I’ve gotten used to having a little strand of white fur appear here and there, but not everyone will grow to love this sort of thing. Most dogs shed, but some shed more than others. Some dogs need to be brushed, groomed and bathed a lot more often than others, as well. Personally, I like having dogs with short hair, because they are easier to brush and bathe, but some like the look of longer-haired dogs.
3. Age: Let’s face it, puppies are adorable, but they aren’t always the best pet for every household. Puppies are high-maintenance; they need to be house-trained, socialized and require much more attention than older dogs. If you are gone for long hours or don’t have the patience to clean up a few accidents on the carpet, you might want to consider choosing an older dog. Many of the older dogs I see at the shelter are housebroken or already get along great with people and other pets, but the downside with an older dog is that generally, you won’t have it around for as long as you will a dog you raise from a young age.
4. Sex: Many people prefer male or female dogs for many different reasons. Some say one or the other is easier to deal with. If your dog is spayed or neutered as it should be, there more than likely won’t be many notable gender differences. However, if you already have a dog of one sex and you want to add to your family, you might want to consider getting one of the opposite sex. Males and females tend to get along better most of the time, but I firmly believe almost any two dogs can get along when introduced and monitored properly.
5. Size: I’ll be the first person to admit that I prefer larger dogs to smaller dogs. Give me a Great Dane any day, but I don’t see myself going out to adopt a Chihuahua anytime soon. That said, I also live in the woods and my dogs have plenty of room to run, and I live alone, so I have room for a few big furry friends. If you live in a tiny apartment and you are gone or busy all day, common sense says a big dog with lots of energy isn’t going to be your best bet.
6. Health: Every pet you own will require some sort of medical attention at some point. Rabies vaccinations are required by law in Douglas County. Flea and heartworm prevention that comes from your veterinarian, in my opinion, works way better than anything you can find in the grocery store. And as much as we try to prevent them, accidents always happen. But did you know some breeds are more prone to health problems than others? Some dogs, due to their size, may not live as long as others. Some dogs are prone to hip and joint problems. Others are more likely to lose their sight or hearing. Before adopting a dog, you might want to see what health problems are common for that breed and make sure you think you can handle them should they arise in the future.
So, now that you’ve thought about what you’re looking for in a dog, here is a little bit of info on a few of the more common types of dogs found in our area.
- Labrador Retrievers: According to the AKC, Labs are the most popular dogs in the country. I believe it. Every week, I see purebred Labs and Lab mixes come through the shelter. Labs (like Chester, pictured above) are great family dogs because they are even-tempered and easily trained. Labs require a moderate amount of exercise.
- Beagles: Beagles are very friendly and generally, they never meet a stranger. They are smaller than Labs and do not require as much grooming as many other dogs. Beagles enjoy companionship and require a moderate amount of activity.
- Chihuahuas: We all know Chihuahuas are small, but they make up for the lack of size with intelligence. They do not require much exercise or grooming but do not always make the best pets for families with young children.
- Collies: While Chihuahuas aren’t always great with children, Collies are said to be the ideal dog for families with kids. (Why do you think Lassie had her own book, movie and TV show, among other things?) They do require some exercise and grooming, however, according to the AKC, Collies tend to stay cleaner than most breeds and do not have a “doggie odor.”
- German Shepherds: If you’re looking for a dog who will be loyal to your family and protect your home from strangers, German Shepherds, if socialized properly, are great for such a situation. (Most military and police dogs are German Shepherds.) They tend to have a lot of energy and require a little bit of regular grooming and moderate exercise.
- Poodles: If you have allergies, you might want to consider choosing a poodle. Their coats are hypoallergenic, however, they do require professional grooming. Poodles are very active and require a good bit of exercise, but they can easily adapt to living in small houses and apartments.
- American Staffordshire Terriers: These guys are one of the many breeds that fall under the "Pit Bull" label, and it often means a bad reputation. That couldn't be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, American Staffordshire Terriers are very people-friendly and love to be given jobs to do, so a good bit of activity or exercise is required. They are usually loyal to their families and require very little grooming.
To learn more about other breeds of dogs, visit the American Kennel Club’s Breeds Website.
If you are still trying to figure out what breed you want, here are some links to a few great quizzes and questionnaires from various websites:
- Dog Breed Selector Quiz (This one’s very detailed and allows you to select which factors are a priority and which ones aren’t.)
- Animal Planet’s Dog Breed Selector allows you to research by breed or by traits that are important to you.
- For a little more fun with your answers, try Dogster.com’s Quiz. The website also has a ton of other great info about your new pet.
And as always, don’t forget to visit the Douglas County Animal Shelter when you decide to pick out a pet. The shelter is always full of dogs and cats of all ages, shapes, sizes and breeds, including Chester (the sweetest Lab you'll ever meet, pictured above). You can often find many purebred pups at the shelter, too. Whether you decide on a purebred or a mixed breed, you will find a best friend for life when you adopt a shelter dog.