So, the kids have worn you down, the hubby/wife has relented and given their approval, and you have the support of the whole family to begin the search for just the right dog or breed of dog to become your newest family member. But wait!!!! This process is not just a matter of finding a cute puppy at your local shelter or a good breeder and bringing him or her home. There are over 150 differnt breeds currently recognised by the AKC and other breed registries and they are all more or less suited to a certain type of home and environment. Some have a huge prey drive and might go after that fancy persian cat your neighbor loves so much, some are herding animals and can have behavioral issues without a “job” to keep them busy. Others are very dominant breeds and will become the alpha of the house unless they have a frim and fair hand to guide them.
SO, what are you looking for in a dog? How do you plan to house him/her? Are you looking for a house trained companion animal or a hunting partner? These questions are important when you are looking for a dog that will fit your family and your lifestyle well. Too many dogs end up as owner surrenders at shelters nationwide because they were a poor choice for a canine partner. But with so many different breeds of dogs available each one has a special niche to fill.
Companion or toy dogs can range in size from the tiny chihuahua to a full figured 25 pound Chinese pug, who is the largest of the toy breeds. Dogs in other groups can be in this size range, but were not nessessarily bred to be a lap dog. Terriers fall into this catagory. While the Chihuahua and pug were bred exclusively to grace the household and provide cuddely companionship, those in the terrier group were bred for hunting rabbits, small rodents, and other samll game. These dogs have an enhanced prey drive. It’s not to day that they can’t be a good housepet, but you won’t be likely to surcumvent generations of instict bred into them. They can be just a prey driven as their larger cousins.
Spaniels, Retrievers, Labs oh my!! These are the larger breed hunting dogs. Most are very focused and love to hunt. They are overall an intelligent bunch and ready at the drop of a hat to be off on the hunt. This may fit in well to your lifestyle. Do you hunt bird and other game in the country? Do you need a retriever to return your waterfowl? These dogs generally make wonderful inside or outside animals. They are not as large as the massive mastiffs or other guardian type dogs but are not as small as their diminutive cousins mentioned above. They are also usually good with children and can be kept either inside or outside with the proper accomidations. Most are fairly friendly to strangers and you won’t have the issues with neighbors and the local authorities as can happen when a dog from the guard or working dogs group scares a passerby.
Most guard dogs are territorial by nature. This is not to say that all dobermans will bark and scare the beejeesus out of anyone who happens to pass by your lawn. But, dogs in this group do tend to bond mostly with close family members. They tend to not just need firm guidance but desire to know their place in the “pack” or the heirarchy of your home. Without firm guidance and a knowledge of “who’s the boss” these dog can and often will assert their dominant tendancies. Many a lawsuit could perhaps have been avoided by some basic obedience classes and firm handling. These dogs certainly have their placeas all breeds do.
Dog breeds are a man made creation. Each one has been selectively bred for many generations to fullfill a specific need of man’s. Whether it be companionship, a hunting partner and tool, or to safeguard the home or valuables of his master. The instincs of these breeds has been enhanced and ingrained. You can’t override genertions of breeding and careful selection. Hunting dogs have been bred to the hunt and whether it be pointing out prey, flushing it out, or retrieving a kill – they can’t help but do their job. Companion dogs can be somewhat needy. Many pug and chihuahua owners say their dogs follow them everywhere around the house – even to the restroom. But, they also descibe a bond with their dogs that is akin to no other and is so fullfilling they can’t imagine life without them. Guard dogs and those that serve on the police force serve a protective need. Whether that be protecting the public or valuables.
Herding dogs protect the flock from would be predators. Each dogs serves a need. Doing your research and knowing ahead of time what your families needs are desires are – as well as knowing what you don’t want – are essential to finding the right dog and ensuring a lifelong relationship that is healthy and happy for both of you.