Do you find yourself cooing helplessly over puppies on the street, or following more dogs than people on Instagram? Perhaps your children are begging for a four-legged friend, or you just love the thought of being greeted by a wagging tail when you get home from work. There are almost as many types of dog as there are reasons for adding one to your life, and they are all wonderful, and wonderfully unique.
This very uniqueness, however, means that research and careful consideration are needed before choosing the next member of your family. Dog breeds arose initially according to function; essentially, dogs were selected for traits that helped them be effective at certain jobs. As a result, different breeds will tend to have very different needs and characteristics, and although you may be attracted to a certain look, it does not necessarily follow that that dog is right for you.
Some factors to take into consideration are:
Is your ideal dog gregarious or reserved, active or laid back, responsive and easily trained, or strong-willed and independent? Would he thrive on masses of attention or be happy with his own company for several hours at a time? The American Kennel Club currently recognizes 210 dog breeds, divided into 7 different groups, and with certain expectations as to temperament and behavioral characteristics for each. These groups can be very useful starting point when deciding what type of dog will best match your needs.
All puppies, regardless of breed, are adorable. It is important to bear in mind, however, their likely dimensions once they are fully grown, and whether you truly have space in your home for an 80lb Bloodhound, no matter how cute he looks as wrinkly, tumbly baby. It is also important to be aware that some small dogs also require considerable room to run and burn off energy.
If you lead an active lifestyle, and can think of almost nothing better than long, frequent hikes with your best buddy at your side, then you need an active, energetic dog. If, on the other hand, your idea of bliss is a short stroll around the block followed by hours curled up on the couch, then a similarly laid-back breed is going to work best for you. Although large breeds do typically need more exercise than smaller ones (their steps cover a much great distance, after all!) this is by no means the only, or even the most important, factor. A Jack Russell Terrier, for instance, would require significantly more stimulation and exercise than a St Bernard to thrive.
All dogs need to be groomed on occasion, but maintaining the coat of an Afghan Hound is by far more time consuming and expensive than giving a Boxer the occasional bath. Be realistic about how much time, energy and money you are willing to put into grooming your pet.
There is almost nothing cuter than a puppy, and being able to raise your dog is an immensely rewarding experience. However, there is no denying that puppies are also a great deal of hard work. They cannot be left or more than a few hours at a time, need to be fed and to go outside often and require a great deal of active training, attention and socialization. Adult dogs, on the other hand (whether acquired from the breeder or adopted) tend to have fewer needs. They are typically calmer, and many have already received some house-training and basic obedience skills.
Certain breeds of dog are subject to particular health conditions, and may require expensive and time consuming preventative measures (Shar Peis, for example, are prone to fungal infections in their skin folds and need consistent and thorough cleaning to prevent this) as well as medical care later on. Screening is possible for a number of inherited conditions, such as hip dysplasia; a responsible breeder will make these certifications available to you upon request.
Dog ownership is a life-long commitment and a wonderful responsibility. A little time, effort and research now is a small price to pay for ensuring that you are on the path to your perfect match!