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Choosing a dog breed

Mon, 01/11/2010 - 10:09am

Of course, finding a truly "perfect" dog would be like finding a truly "perfect" person; no dog is going to be completely without faults of any kind.  People who choose a dog based solely on characters from television or the movies are often disappointed.    (So are many who choose a dog based on the "love at first site" principle.)   Its better to think about choosing a dog the way you would think about choosing a roommate, a school, a car, or a house.   For any of these situations, you should first consider how long you would have to live with this choice.  

Then you should think about the details of what you're looking for.  There are many different types of dogs, even among those dogs that may look the same.  There's a lot more to a dog than just those irresistible "puppy-dog eyes" -- there's age, size, shape, coat type, activity level, breed traits, and temperament to think about, too.  Being selective about what you really want in a dog is very important in making a good choice.

If you have been thinking about getting a dog, you are probably aware that dog ownership demands time, money, and energy. Here are a few facts you may want to consider:

Life span: Dog ownership means commitment and responsibility for up to 10-15 years. Puppies will require three to four times more attention in a single day than most dogs over 3 years old.

 Housebreaking: Housebreaking can be started at 7 weeks of age, (which is generally the age puppies are taken from their mothers), but cannot be expected until bladder muscle control appears at about 14 weeks of age.

 Training: Early training goes a long way and lack of proper training and socialization can be very costly. Puppies need their owners to devote at least a full year of attention (about 3-5 hours total /week) towards proper training and socialization. Depending on their previous circumstances, some second-hand adult dogs may require even more training and socialization.

Play time: Puppies and active breeds demand time for play every day. Unless you have more than one dog, you will be the dog's main playmate -- your dog is not going to want to play by itself. Most breeds under 1 yr. need 3-4 twenty minute play sessions a day. Adults require at least 15-30 minutes vigorous activity/day. Terriers, herding breeds and sporting breeds require two to four times the amount of activity other breeds do.

Grooming: Even short-coated dogs will shed, and grooming is a requirement for almost every breed of dog. You may need to groom once a day for long hair dogs, and once a week for medium to short hair dogs. Dogs need baths about once a month as well. Remember, the more you groom, the less they will shed.

So, you should do some research first...you may even change your mind about what you're really looking for!  Then, consider at least several different sources of dogs, and think about the pros and cons of each.  Always temperament test any dog you are considering, to be sure you select the dog to fit you.  Finally, you should make sure you are prepared for any changes in your lifestyle, and then make the decision.  If you make an informed decision, you're on your way to choosing the perfect dog.

Should I get a purebred or mixed breed dog?

 Genetic Diseases of Purebred Dogs: The domestic dog we know today is the result of selective breeding over the last 14,000 years. Originally, dogs were bred for their working ability and for their "docile" nature. More recently, the trend has been to choose dogs for breeding based upon their physical beauty. As a result of this tendency and the practice of in-breeding, today's average "pure" breed of dog has a higher probability of inheriting a genetic disorder than a mixed breed does. Common genetic diseases include Canine Hip Dysplasia, epilepsy, blindness, deafness, auto immune diseases, bone disease, ear, nose, and eye structural problems, and blood clotting disorders. Buying a puppy from a pet store or a "roadside" dog dealer greatly increases your chances of getting a dog with a genetic disease, since many of these puppies come from puppy mills or situations under which the parent dogs are not screened for genetic disease. Purebreds without genetic disorders can be obtained from a very conscientious breeder who methodically removes defective stock from the breeding program. Responsible breeders must be chosen very carefully (see Hallmarks of a Responsible Breeder).

 Genetic Diseases of Mixed Breed Dogs: By their very nature, mixed breed dogs usually have a larger "gene pool", and thus have a theoretically lower chance of genetic disease as a group than purebred dogs do. The exception to this would be the case in which two like breeds make up a mix (Border Collie and Rough Collie, for example who are both prone to Collie Eye Anomaly), or in the case of Hip Dysplasia, which is common in a large percentage of medium and large breeds. The chances of getting a mixed breed dog with an inherited disease are statistically decreased, but not entirely eliminated.

Temperament of purebred dogs: There are books that say that a puppy inherits 70% of its personality from its mother. Not only will she affect her puppies genetically, but she also affects them socially. If the mother is shy or aggressive, this is a major warning sign. Even if the mother does appear to have a good temperament, be sure to run a temperament test on a puppy before you select it. There is bound to be a bully in every litter, who may turn into a very dominant dog later on.

Temperament of Mixed Breed Dogs: In most cases, at least one parent of a mixed breed puppy is unknown, so testing the puppy individually for its temperament is very important.  If you can tell that a dog is at least one breed, count on it inheriting some of those breed characteristics (i.e. if it looks like a terrier, guess that it will probably like to dig and bark)

Socialization of purebred dogs: Your breeder should be offering puppies at about 7-8 weeks of age. If a puppy is separated from its mother and siblings too early (before the seventh week) it may have trouble relating to other dogs. If it is left with its mother and littermates past the twelfth week with little or no human contact, it will be unlikely to bond well to humans.)

Socialization of Mixed Breed Dogs: Often, a mixed breed puppy comes from a non-ideal situation. If the puppy was separated from its mother and siblings too early (before the seventh week) it may have trouble relating to other dogs. If it is left with its mother and littermates past the twelfth week with little or no human contact, it will be unlikely to bond well to humans. Again, testing the mixed breed dog individually for its temperament is very important.

Size of Mixed Breed Dogs: The size of a mixed breed puppy cannot be determined by its paw size! (Consider the relative paw sizes of Basset Hounds vs. Greyhounds.) If one parent is known, or the puppy looks like a recognizable breed, assume it will be as large as the largest breed it could possibly be. Female dogs stop growing at 18 months and male dogs stop growing at about 9 months; getting an older mixed breed puppy is the best guarantee on size.

Coat Type of Mixed Breed Dogs: Many puppies have a furrier coat as puppies than they will have as adults. Often they will shed this puppy coat somewhere around 6-8 months. Colors and markings in mixed breeds often change with this shedding. If you see wire-hair, short hair, or curly hair on a puppy, you can probably assume it is there to stay; fuzzy can turn into anything.

Remember that a pedigree only guarantees what a puppy will look like. It is NOT a guarantee of health, or temperament, and in no way implies that the puppy is worthy of breeding. The only circumstance in which it is necessary to have a registered purebred is for an Kennel Club conformation competition, and for breeding . Mixed breed dogs and unregistered purebred dogs can still compete in most obedience competitions and in other dog sports.