Choosing the Right Breed of Dog for Your Family

Golden Retriever Dog
Golden Retrievers Were Bred To Retrieve Downed Birds

Because of the way that dogs have been bred to have such specific physical features and behavioral traits, it is important to pick the right type of dog for your family. This is true whether you are considering a purebred or a mixed-breed dog, because even most mixed breeds have predominant breed-specific characteristics associated with whatever mix of different breeds they represent. While physical characteristics are not necessarily determinative, there is a very good chance that your dog will act very much like the specific breeds whose visible characteristics are noticeable. Your local veterinarian and the staff at the animal hospital, shelter, or veterinary clinic from where you are considering adopting your newest family member can help you identify the breed characteristics in any dog you might be considering for adoption.

Generally, purebred dogs fall into one of the following officially-recognized breed categories: hounds, sporting (or gun) dogs, terriers, utility (or non-sporting) dogs, working (or herding) dogs, and toy breeds. Each category comprises a dozen or more individual breeds with particular traits, but all of the breeds within the same category tend to share some basic traits. For example, hounds and sporting dogs have been bred to help hunters by finding and chasing prey. Some rely on their acute vision while others have been bred to have highly refined and sensitive noses (even more sensitive than other dogs) to enable them to track prey species. Terriers were bred mainly to catch small varmints and love to chase smaller animals and to dig holes. They make good pets but can be very destructive to furniture and carpeting if they do not get enough exercise outdoors. They may also require considerable training to regard other family pets as members of the family instead of prey. Working dogs have been bred to be very trainable and to follow human commands and tend to excel in obedience and loyalty when properly trained. Toy breeds were bred mainly as indoor companions and many can live very happily spending almost all of their time in doors and on the laps of the members of their human families.

Japanese Chin Dog
Japanese Chin

Dog breeds obviously vary tremendously in size and range from toy breeds like two-pound Yorkshire Terriers and five-pound Papillons and Chihuahuas all the way up to 150-pound Great Danes and 180-pound English Mastiffs. Dog breeds also vary just as much in their respective needs for exercise and human attention; and some, like Labradors, Collies, and Golden Retrievers, bond closely with many people and eagerly meet new human friends, whereas others, like Japanese Akitas, tend to form close social bonds primarily with their human families, even preferring a specific member of the family sometimes, and to be somewhat less accepting of human strangers.


Energy levels and need for exercise differ very much among various breeds of dogs as well. Those originally bred for working, such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, require very active lifestyles with plenty of space and time to run around and play. Newfoundlands, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and Portuguese Water Dogs all love to swim and ?Newfies? in particular have been bred to rescue humans from drowning and typically have a very strong urge to drag any person they see in the water to safety.  Some dogs, such as German Shepherds and Rottweilers make exceptional guard dogs because they have been bred to be protective and territorial of their homes and human families. Finally, dogs vary in how much they eat and in how much grooming their coats require, as well as in how much fur they typically shed. All of these are important considerations in deciding what kind of dog is best for your home and for your family.

Great Dane
Great Danes Are Among The Tallest Dogs

Unless you are in the market for a dog for a very specific and exclusive purpose, such as to hunt or to retrieve downed fowl, to guard your family, or to work as a police service K-9, there may be no particular breed that is necessarily ?perfect? for your family, at least not by exclusive virtue of its breed. Chances are, there are many different breeds that would be suitable for any family, although there are certainly some breeds that should be ruled out, simply because their needs are just incompatible with your lifestyle and would, therefore, make unrealistic or impractical choices for some homes.



Finally, every mixed-breed ?mutt? represents some of the traits of specific individual breeds. One advantage of adopting a mutt is that many mixed breeds are more adaptable to variations in human lifestyles because their natural breed-specific tendencies are typically less strong and they are more adaptable to change through training and acclimation to the lives of their owners than purebred dogs. Ultimately, every type of dog would be the perfect companion for somebody, but it is your responsibility to make realistic choices based on what is known about all of the different dog breeds that humans have created. Ideally, the animal shelter or dog breeder (as the case may be) should be your second stop in adopting a new dog. Your first stop should be your local veterinarian or animal clinic where you can find professionals like our staff who would be more than happy to help you identify the best choices of dog breed for you and your family.


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