Which Breed Is Right For Me?
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Which Dog Breed Works Best For You?
I have trained, in some form or fashion, most American dog breeds. I will say this, if you are a novice dog owner, I’d recommend a Labrador Retriever or mix bred dog from a reputable rescue group. The reasons? Easy to find a good breeder or rescue dog in most social situations. If you are looking for a mixed bred dog, Lab mixes are also a good choice. (Another good choice are pit bulls and pit bull mixes. But first confirm that you can own one in your town, and in your neighborhood. And pick a friendly, sociable, confident one.) If you’ve owned some other dogs in the past, then you might try some of the other breeds. If you need a smaller or larger dog, then you’ll find the following analysis helpful. I’ve listed some of My Favorites for each Breed Type below, mentioning ones that you should probably consider first before looking into the others of that type. I don’t mean to imply that you can’t find terrific dogs from almost any breed, but I do want to head you in the right direction. And any negative comments I’ve made are to warn you of what I’ve been seeing with some breeds, and to say that not all dog breeds will fit into a pet lifestyle.
Be Aware Of Typical Breed Types:
Breeds are grouped into categories according to their breed types. There are Retrievers, Pointers, Scenthounds, Sighthounds, Herding Dogs, etc. If you understand the general characteristics of each group, then you will be able to find individual breeds within that group that will fit your needs.
It is VERY important to consider the original purpose of the breed when deciding which breed is right. For example, a breed that was designed as a Man-working (police) breed has a higher potential for biting strangers than a breed that was designed to hunt ducks (Retrievers). A breed that was designed to chase, catch and kill small game (Sighthounds) won’t be as obedient in public, off leash as a dog that was designed to work under command (like the Retrievers). Almost all of the breeds can be turned into acceptable house pets, however it will be easier with some than others.
Here’s my general evaluation of each breed type:
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Sighthounds
What I like about this breed type: Good, gentle, affectionate companions. Usually very quiet in the home. Thrilling to watch them run¦ they are like racing Ferrari’s, revving their engines, when you get them in race mode. I have met some extremely nice sight hounds that were great pets.
Original Purpose: To assist hunters by chasing, catching and killing game through their great speed; chase by keeping prey in sight; not designed to work under command; released in packs to run across open areas; quick kills instead of prolonged hunts.
Examples: Afghan, Borzoi, Greyhound, Saluki; Rhodesian Ridgeback
My Favorites: Greyhounds; Italian Greyhounds
Hunters by sight “ triggered to chase and bite moving objects and animals
Need same amount of exercise as any other working breed
Not bred to obey commands; they are game chasers
Can easily jump fences if you aren’t watching; very athletic and muscular
Usually not dog fighters, but will chase and kill some small animals; Rhodesian Ridgebacks are more pack oriented, more likely to be territorial, and can do higher levels of obedience than typical sighthounds; can be quite protective of the owner and property; not for novices
Tough on the outside, soft on the inside. They can’t take much training pressure. I find all of them to be quite sensitive, so training must be thoughtful, patient, and step-by-step
Most learn best with food reinforcements. Some are not food motivated, and so traditional training methods should be applied.
Good, gentle companion dogs. Rhodesians are the exceptions, they are rugged and not always gentle
Not as reliable off leash in public. Might chase something and get run over by a car.
Bred to work independently; yet will handle leadership from people
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Scenthounds
What I like about this breed type: LOTS of personality. Affectionate, outgoing, and adventurous. Usually good with other dogs, and good family dogs. Most are especially funny. How can you not love these dogs?
Original Purpose: To assist hunters by chasing and finding game by scent, then cornering the game for other dogs to catch (bulldogs or mastiffs), and then to be killed by the hunter; not designed to work under command.
Examples: Basset Hound, Beagle, Black and Tan Coonhound, Bloodhound, Foxhound, Otterhound
My Favorites: Beagles, Basset Hounds, Dachshund
Hunters by scent, therefore so focused on following scents on the ground, they are often unable to hear your commands. Dachshunds and Beagles can often be found that are highly trainable. I have trained many Dachshunds to high levels of obedience.
The bigger ones need lots of exercise. Some can run 20 or more miles a day. Dachshunds need much less exercise. Beagles need a good amount in order to be calm in the home
Do not learn well using too much pressure in the training. Most learn best with food reinforcements, but all should be finished up with traditional training methods to increase reliability.
Some are good companions, others are not (bred specifically as hunting dogs). These breeds run from two extremes, those that are hunting machines and those that are excellent city dogs.
Very agile. Have good three dimensional understanding of the environment.
Usually not dog fighters, since most hound breeds are worked in packs to find game. Dachshunds can be aggressive to other dogs when in packs, and need proper leadership.
Very pack oriented with other dogs; can be serious howlers when left alone in groups
Often get run over by cars. Not a breed to let run loose in an area with busy streets
Tough on the outside, soft on the inside. They can’t take much training pressure. Training must be thoughtful and patient.
Tend to run in packs with other dogs, and can often pay attention to other dogs more than to you.
Most will never be able to do off leash obedience work. Scents are too distracting.
Companionable in the home, but independent, defiant, and driven outdoors.
Bred to work independently, the working machine types were bred to work with minimal leadership from people. The companion breeds are people lovers, are very friendly and will work with you
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Retrievers
What I like about this breed type: Love everybody (except the Chesapeakes; who are sometimes one-family dogs). Highly trainable and easy to own. Excellent companions. I have trained tons of Retrievers, and really enjoy working with them. Labradoodles, Goldendoodles and Australian Goldendoodles are now on their way to becoming recognized breeds. They are retrievers. I haven’t been as impressed with the ‘doodles as the other retrievers. They are still a work in progress. They make good, friendly, sturdy family dogs. But, they haven’t been as easily trained as, say, a Labrador Retriever. I have found them to be more defiant, and not possessing strong working ability for obedience. That’s because people got into these to make money, not to create a dog with a purpose. On paper, the dog should be phenomenal. And the idea of a no shed coat is great. But, if you decide to get one, really do your homework. It will all come down to the breeding stock that went into the dog. Breed two working dogs together, and you’ll most likely get a working dog. Breed two pretty dogs with no ability together, and you’ll get what I’ve mostly been seeing, a pretty, friendly dog that is resistant to training and has manners issues in the home.
Original Purpose: to work under command, helping hunters retrieve dead game.
Examples: Chesapeake Bay, Curly Coated, Flat Coated, Golden and Labrador Retrievers; Poodle
My Favorites: Labrador Retriever; Golden Retriever; Standard Poodle
Like to retrieve, which can be an excellent motivator when training, and a plus when exercising the dog to tire it out
Easy to care for coats, though Poodles are the exception
Active dogs, needing lots of exercise and play. As with all breeds, you can find couch potato versions, but as a general rule, they need daily exercise to be calm in the home
Like attention from people. One of the main reasons these breeds train so well is because they like attention and love
Highly trainable; bred to work with and for people at close range. I’ve been especially impressed with the hunting Poodles
Make poor back yard dogs; need lots of people contact. It’s very sad to see such a friendly breed left alone hours and hours, day after day, in someone’s back yard. I would caution getting any Retriever from hunting lines unless you plan on doing a lot of training with the dog, and taking it with you a lot… they will get way too bored and into trouble otherwise.
Usually not dog fighters, though you can find fighters in all breeds
Medium to high intelligence, needs things to do to prevent boredom. I’ve seen dumb and smart Retrievers, most though are plenty smart for whatever your needs might be
Easily trained with good memories
Friendly to everyone; this is a major plus. Chesapeakes have a reputation for not being friendly with everyone, so they take more care in terms of ownership
Fairly quick to mature
Easily distracted from work by people, dogs, toys, and scents. Can be trained to ignore these distractions. They are highly versatile. To get a Retriever and not train it is almost a crime. They take to training very well.
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Pointers
What I like about this breed type: Affectionate and athletic. I like a dog that can keep up with me. Intelligent and highly trainable. Lots of capability, thus an interesting breed for those that like to train dogs, and for people that want a dog that can be trained to do a variety of tasks. I also like dogs that are protective, so this breed appeals to me for that reason, however, not everyone wants or should get a protective dog. I have found the Pointers slightly more of a challenge to train than the Retreivers, but that isn’t always a negative, it means you have a more complicated breed which can then, in turn, do more advanced tasks later on. I would like to try training one of the new pointing Retrievers and see what they are like.
Original Purpose: to help hunters find and flush birds out of brushy or grassy areas.
Examples: Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Pointer, German Shorthaired and Wirehaired Pointers, Vizsla, Weimaraner
My Favorites: German Shorthaired; German Wirehaired; Weimaraner; Vizsla
More independent than the Retrievers, tending to self hunt with some guidance from the Master
Some are natural Retrievers, some are not. You want to find a line of dogs that likes retrieving
Designed to work away from the handler, sometimes at great distances. Think about that: it means a dog that can obey at great distances IF you take them through advanced obedience. That’s a major plus
High energy level. Some can run 50 miles a day. That also means if you are looking for a couch potato, this isn’t the right breed for you, and it will make your life miserable
Any excess energy, if not burned off, can result in destructive behaviors
Usually good with children. I find the Vizslas and Weimaraners to be somewhat sensitive dogs, and thus, not all are going to do well in a home with unruly kids. Make sure you check out the parents and grandparents of any pup before you take one home.
Usually not dog fighters, but there are exceptions as with all breeds
Distracted by bird scent, though that’s not a major problem
Good ones are highly trainable. A major plus!
Distracted by air scents and are triggered to chase and bite moving objects or animals. This can all be managed by good training and good supervision
Can easily get lost in a city following a scent. You need to train them
Very fast runners. Hunters often follow them on horseback. Good breed for joggers, once the dog is over 18 months
Can be Shy, so need lots of Socialization. I’d avoid getting any shy dog
Some are very protective/territorial (Weimaraner, German Shorthaired and Wirehaired Pointers). Do you want a dog that is friendly all the time and in all situations? Then don’t get a typical pointing breed
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Spaniels
What I like about this breed type: Fun, affectionate and happy dogs. I like the smaller size; not everyone wants or can handle a large dog. Well bred, well socialized ones are excellent pets.
Original Purpose: to help hunters find and flush birds out of brushy areas.
Examples: American Water, Brittany, Clumber, American and English Cocker Spaniels.
My Favorites: Cocker Spaniel; Cavalier King Charles; and some of the very rare Spaniels since they haven’t been ruined by overbreeding and popularity
Respond well to training, but training MUST be done with a very soft approach. Not precise obedience dogs, and to try and make them precise obedience dogs will result in overly submissive behaviors (submissive urination) or fear biting. I need to show people how to work with their spaniels. A very playful dog is NOT a bad dog, it’s just a dog that needs proper play and exercise… but I see people getting angry with their spaniels for this very trait. Spaniels CAN’T take harsh owners, or rough play by kids. Spaniels, when treated unfairly will eventually fight back. They seem so gentle, and they are, but they will also take on the biggest dog or human or bratty kid if they are harassed and hurt. I’ve seen very gentle Spaniels attack ferociously when treated too roughly. If you can’t be firm, fair, loving and patient, don’t get a Spaniel. If you are going to do just the bare minimum in terms of obedience training, supervision, and containment, don’t get one. If you aren’t willing to shop for a reputable breeder, don’t get one. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Usually not dog fighters, but they will fight if provoked
Good ones are good with children, so long as the children are good with dogs
Distracted by bird scent, but that can easily be managed through training
Popularity has ruined many of the spaniel breeds, so watch out for Temperament problems. Lots of fear biters and hyper-aggressive specimens. Lots of allergy problems: can cost you thousands of dollars in vet bills. I know of one Spaniel that was so allergic to everything that it was hyperaggressive (imagine your skin being on fire all the time) and had to be put to death by a veterinarian because it’s medical problems couldn’t be managed. Be very careful!
Excellent sense of smell, so usually very food motivated, making the training go very well. They also can get very FAT if you indulge them with daily treats.
Natural Retrievers; I would only get a Spaniel from a line of dogs that naturally fetch. It will make the exercising and training so much easier over the years.
Love people “ can easily get lonely. Make poor back yard dogs (will cry, whine and dig). This is a dog that MUST have daily attention, exercise and care. They also need regular grooming, so if you can’t afford to do that, and can’t take the time to brush the dog out daily, don’t get one
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Setters
What I like about this breed type: Affectionate, fun, very sweet and athletic. Setters are very much like Pointers, though I have generally found them to be a bit softer, more like a Spaniel. If I was going to get one, I would get one from proven hunting lines, because then I would have a dog with a great deal of trainability. The show dog versions now have a reputation for being overly sensitive and not very intelligent. I like dogs with a great deal of capability, and Setters are in that category. Athletic and bold, friendly and adventurous. Great for someone that likes the outdoors, people who take their dogs with them, such as hikers or hunters. Most of what applies to Pointers applies to Setters
Original Purpose: To combine the traits of the Spaniels and Pointers.
Examples: English, Gordon and Irish Setters.
My Favorites: I have trained a number of Setters, but not enough to have a “favorite”. Take your time and really do your homework when choosing a breeder.
Fun loving and adventurous, prone to escape to relieve boredom; can be willful and sensitive, making training a challenge
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Curs
What I like about this breed type: I like unique breeds. It would be interesting to own dogs in this category, since I like a challenge and would enjoy working with a dog that had unique traits¦ but this isn’t for everyone. I don’t mind working with dogs that are challenging to own. Some of these dogs are still working farm dogs, and need a job. If you like a dog that wants something to do, then these are interesting dogs to work with. I have trained a number of Catahoula Leopard Dogs, and they range a lot in temperament. Before you get one, get to know the breeder and their dogs VERY well. Some can be quite aggressive towards strangers and other dogs, and some can be quite friendly and good with other dogs. They can often do well in herding cattle, which can be a good outlet for a Catahoula.
Original Purpose: Pets, hunting, guard dogs.
Example: Catahoula Leopard Dog
Part Native American dogs
Hunters (bear, raccoon, and big cats) and guard dogs; usually also do some kind of farm or ranch work
Very tough and territorial
Might be dog fighters
Not for the inexperienced dog owner; can be difficult to own. Oftentimes used in the South to hunt boar. This is not a breed for novices
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Mastiffs
What I like about this breed type: Loyal, loving and affectionate. Extremely attentive and trustworthy with the family children. Big and beautiful. Most are couch potatoes around the home, so they are pretty low maintenance pets. Good watchdogs that will alert you to intruders. They are unique and interesting. They will amaze you at times, they have a unique perceptiveness and intelligence, especially of the intent and rank order of people and animals. They are very pack oriented, making them especially watchful of children. There are numerous stories of mastiffs keeping kids safe. I know of one that would not let the toddler go down stairs unless mom was present. I know of another that knocked a man to the ground who came running by too closely to the family’s 5 year old daughter: he thought he was protecting her from the jogger. There are other stories of them cornering intruders, and fighting off large animals
Original Purpose: grabbing onto big animals and wrestling them to the ground. The hunter or butcher would then kill the animal for food. Also bred to guard property without supervision; not bred to work under command.
Examples: Dogue de Bordeaux, Newfoundland, Great Dane, Neapolitan and English Mastiff, Tosa, Fila Brasiliero, Rottweiler; Saint Bernard;
My Favorites: Rottweiler (If you get a well bred one, it is a phenomenal dog. If you get a poorly bred one, it can be a dangerous mess); Mastiff; Newfoundland; Bullmastiff (a good one is a phenomenal dog)
Large, territorial and protective. The Fila is extremely territorial and protective, especially if you have more than one. The Fila is NOT for the average dog owner. I’ve owned two of them. The Neapolitan is marketed as the “ultimate guard dog”, which is not true. I have seen many unstable Neos, and you need to be very careful when buying one. Tosas aren’t as territorial, and though some will say they are also the “ultimate guard dog”, I have found way too many with poor temperament and not suitable family pets. A good Great Dane is a pretty good dog, but can be dangerously territorial to intruding animals. A good Dane is a great dog. A Dane that is aggressive to other dogs, of people, or animals can be almost impossible to control. Be very selective of where you buy a Dane.
Dominant and defiant. Most mastiffs are defiant. They know what you are asking, but will not do it unless you are firm with them. They are very aware of the pack, and so you must show them leadership and authoritative commands and directions. You can mistake their defiance as stupidity, when instead it is YOU who is stupid. The Filas are very dominant, and they need a dominant, authoritative owner. Same with the Neos. If you baby them, they can hurt you or someone else. I have known of Neos that have lunged at their owners, defying commands. I have known of Filas biting family members who babied them, and didn’t respect that they are not really pets, but a working guard dog. I have seen friendly Newfoundlands that would knock kids and adults to the ground out of disrespect. And I have seen male Newfoundlands get into fights with other dogs who were disrespectful of the Newfoundland. Newfoundlands are great dogs, very loving and good with kids, but don’t be fooled: they need a leader, not a mommy / daddy.
Moderate ability to be obedient off leash.
Explosive Aggression if provoked; These breeds need EXTENSIVE socialization and proper breeding to be good pets. The most stable example of the breed, and the one you should probably get, is the English Mastiff. Be very selective in getting a Great Dane; they still retain their hunting instincts and can also be dog fighers. Great Danes are highly trainable, but they are NOT for inexperienced dog owners. You must be very selective in purchasing a Great Dane. None of these breeds make good backyard dogs. They MUST be a part of your family. The other breeds might be OK, but you have to be VERY selective and not believe everything you hear; they are best left to experienced dog owners, not as your first dog. Susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia, be very careful when purchasing to make sure the breeder X-rays all breeding animals.
Very loving and involved with family; extremely Bonded
Their minds process commands very slowly, so training and expections of response must be patient
Very slow to mature; 3 to 5 years before an adult
Often die young; 5 to 9 years
Prone to skeletal problems
Natural fighters: people and animals
Loyal. Some are one family dogs which do not transfer well to another family.
Extremely strong: too much strength for the average person to control if you get one of the guarding types
Can’t take a lot of pressure in obedience work, it confuses them
Dominant; the Newfoundlands are quite a bit different than the typical mastiffs¦ not people aggressive, but still are very concerned with pack order, making them very watchful of children (in a good way).
Beware: be sure to find one that isn’t shy or fearful; that is the biggest problem you will find in all the mastiff breeds.
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Bulldogs
What I like about this breed type: EXTREMELY FUN DOGS. I love the bull breeds. A well bred, well socialized, well trained pit bull, or pit bull mix, can be trained to do an amazing range of tasks. Affectionate, alert, fun loving, and funny. I swear some of these dogs have a sense of humor. I also like muscular and athletic dogs, since I am an active person. English Bulldogs are very smart, and can become very bratty if you don’t train them properly. Cane Corsos are interesting, too, and I’ve worked with quite a few of them, though I find way too many that are way too sensitive, and some that are way too dominant, to be good with most families. Bull Terriers are a favorite of mine, but they aren’t for everyone. The Olde English Bulldogge is terrific fun, and the few I’ve encountered have been very sweet dogs.
Original Purpose: grabbing onto big animals by the face and wrestling them to the ground or to a standstill. The hunter or butcher would then kill the animal for food. Not bred to guard property or people; generally people-friendly; not bred to work under command.
Examples: English Bulldog, Pit Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, Cane Corso, Dogo Argentino; Boerboel
My Favorites: Pit Bull
These are a sub-group of the Mastiffs; more trainable, especially the bull terrier breeds
Fighting dogs: Some pits are game bred, meaning they will fight if another dog gets in their face.
They tend to bite and hold and never give up in a fight
Muscular and compactly built
Insensitive to pain
Some Bulldog breeds are aggressive to people: I have met Bullterriers that would bite a stranger that entered the home without permission. Pit bulls often display the best sense of when to bite to protect their owners, but I’ve seen such a range of temperament that no one rule applies to them all. Bulldogs are rarely people aggressive. I’ve seen Cane Corsos bite family members who babied them and didn’t lead them properly. Dogos are often aggressive to other dogs they don’t know. I’ve seen a number of Boerboels that will bite people if they get in their faces… they are a handsome dog that strangers will want to come up and pet, and the dog will give them a puncture wound for not going through a proper greeting. And I’ve seen Boerboels that will bite family members that baby them. They are working guard dogs, and need to be treated a such. They are not typical companion dogs that you take everywhere, and let everyone touch. You MUST train all your bull breeds, and train them well.
Won’t tolerate a face-to-face challenge without a fight
Tend not to be barkers. Dogos are the exception, they are terrible barkers and howlers
Originally used to grapple with animals that were larger than themselves
Tend to be people friendly and playful, not originally bred to protect people.
When mixed with Terrier blood, they tend to be animal fighters, love people, and love to chew.
Beware: be sure to find one that isn’t shy or fearful; that is the biggest problem with these bulldog breeds. The second biggest problem are people that make these dogs vicious. If you are a dog abuser, don’t get a dog, regardless of the breed. Parents: DON’T LET YOUR KIDS GET A PIT BULL AND TREAT IT AS A WEAPON. These are very nice dogs. Let’s keep them that way. Third are the ones that people don’t train, and especially those who are babied. You don’t do that with these breeds.
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Flock Guards
What I like about this breed type: Affectionate, and good companions like the mastiffs, attentive to the children of the family. Good watchdogs that will alert you to intruders. Somewhat independent, so more able to take care of themselves when left alone. I also like big dogs, and these are all very big dogs. I have found the well bred ones to be very affectionate. The Komondors are very interesting, and a good one can do some pretty amazing obedience and are very athlethic. The Tibetian Mastiffs are protective (in a good way) and I like them very much. The Pyrenees are generally good natured. The Anatolian Shepherds have generally been pretty good dogs, but I have run into several shy ones.
Original Purpose: to live outdoors among livestock; to chase off predators (other canines); not bred to work under command.
Examples: Akbash, Great Pyrenees, Komondor, Kuvasz, Tibetian Mastiff, Anatolian Shepherd. I consider a Bouvier to be a flock guard, and probably the most trainable and intelligent of the group. Many put the Bouvier in another breed group, but after owning one and being around them, they act more like a flock guard
My Favorites: Great Pyrenees; Bouvier; Tibetian Mastiff (though I’ve seen some pretty poor examples of this dog recently, so be careful whenever you are looking at a rare breed dog)
Combine some of the characteristics of the Mastiffs, Sighthounds and Herding Dogs
Territorial ” triggered to chase and bite moving objects or animals within territory; tend to be aggressiv e towards other dogs (especially intruders on their territory), since they are used to protect flocks from wild canines (wolves, jackals and coyotes)
Independent workers “ not 100% responsive to obedience commands. I have generallly found that most can’t be trained to a high level of obedience, though there are always exceptions.
Intelligent “ often make their own decisions about what they will do. Intelligence isn’t the same thing as obedience. This breed type can be quite defiant to training, and most will not do well with repetitive obedience drills.
Quick to react. They can look like they are sleeping when in fact they are quite aware of everything and everyone around them.
Early Socialization of young puppies extremely important to avoid shyness
Extremely good hearing “ likely to bark at strange sounds at night
Resistant to change, need ongoing socialization
Pack instinct, must be made to Bond to people, or will Bond to other animals
Tend to be dog fighters (they were bred to kill wolves and other predators)
Loyal and protective of the animals in their care
Very large and powerful
Not precise obedience workers, except the Bouvier. Bouviers are quite defiant, however, so they are never going to be as obedient as, say, a German Shepherd Dog
Natural watch dogs (alerting you to intruders to your property), but not personal protection dogs (not bred to protect people).
Excellent hearing, tend to bark territorially
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Herding Dogs
What I like about this breed type: These dogs have it all: affectionate, intelligent, athletic, extremely trainable, usually not defiant but instead wanting to work, protective, and all weather coats. These breeds especially interest me because I like highly capable dogs. These give a person like me a challenge: how much can I teach this dog? What are the upper limits? For someone who likes training, these are great dogs. For passive owners, these dogs aren’t for them.
Original Purpose: To round up herding animals for ranchers; guard property and people; occasionally hunt deer.
Examples: Bearded Collie, Belgian Shepherds (Belgian, Malinois, Tervuren), Briard, Collie, Corgi (Cardigan and Pembroke), Shetland Sheepdog, Border Collie;
My Favorites: German Shepherd Dog; Malinois; Australian Cattle Dog; Collie
Barkers and nippers. ALL are territorial, and all bark a lot, so if you live where strangers or strange animals go back and forth, be prepared for a lot of barking. They can also be very mouthy, but that can be fixed with proper training.
Herding instinct: drovers or herders. Drovers bark at the animals from behind and move them along, herders eyeball the herd and intimidate the group to move as a herd in a direction.
Territorial watchdogs; tend to chase big game (including cars, bikes, skateboarders, joggers, etc.). You MUST teach them to come when called, and stop a chase when commanded
Strong pack instinct; aware of pack order issues. Can fight with one another if they only have each other to herd in the home, and live a boring lifestyle
Excellent sight, scent, hearing
Some are dog fighters, but the well bred ones aren’t. The more dominant ones of any breed are more likely to fight if there is a challenge, or other dogs are acting unmannerly
Bred to work with and for people on command
High trainability; usually are natural retrievers
Fast learners, excellent memories
Get bored easily. Need mental and physical work every day, or will be destructive. High energy.
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Nordic / Spitz Dogs
What I like about this breed type: AFFECTIONATE. Athletic and fun. Some are very funny. Great for joggers and people that like to be active outdoors with their dogs (but they must be kept on leash, or confined within a walled area, when not being supervised). Most are very friendly, though I’m alarmed at the number I see that are not sociable with other dogs, kids or strangers. The Asian spitz dogs are generally less sociable. I’ve worked with many good Samoyed, American Eskimo, Malamute and Huskies. I’ve been less pleased with the average Akita, or Shiba Inu, because of unwarranted aggression, though I have seen good ones. Jindos are only for experienced dog owners. Norwegian Lundehunds are known to be hard to house train, though I have found them to be affectionate. I’d avoid Chow Chows, Shar Peis; Akitas, and Shiba Inu if you have young kids, or kids who would be prone to tease a dog; if you are expecting your dog to do repetitive obedience or be very obedient to commands; if you have lots of strangers entering the home; if you can’t prevent the dog from escaping your property; if your dog is going to be expected to play with other dogs off leash in public. All these dogs take time, and have a higher flight response to pressure during training, so they can nip or bite when irritated or pushed too hard.
Original Purpose: To pull sleds; to live and work with packs of other dogs; generally had to supplement their own diets by hunting for their own food. Some were used as a type of hunting dog. Examples: Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, American Eskimo, Shiba Inu, Jindo Dog, Siberian Husky, Finnish Spitz, Canaan Dog, Karelian Bear Dog, Norwegian Lundehund; I would put the Chinese Shar Pei in this category because of their behavioral traits
My Favorites: Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute; American Eskimo; Samoyed
Extreme Endurance, need lots of exercise
Some love to pull a load or chase a moving object
Some are Dog Aggressive
Can be Shy and need lots of Socialization; Biggest problem are the shy ones. They will lash out an bite kids and adults. Be sure to do your homework when shopping for a dog! These are NOT to be used as protection dogs!!!
Love people (except Chow Chows, they are often antisocial) and make poor back yard dogs
Can be hard to train, defiant, and sometimes untrustworthy with other dogs, people and children. They can sometimes exhibit behaviors that are not typical of other dogs, and thus can do things that indicate poor social skills. Some of these breeds are NOT trustworthy with kids and will be prone to inflicting unjustified bites or attacks.
Some are prone to run away once they get running, they can’t hear you or respond to your commands
Not consistently obedient, can’t be allowed to run off leash or will run away. Oftentimes only faithful to themselves and their wants instead of the reasonable commands and rules of their masters and families. Sometimes these dogs need expert training and handling. These are still relatively primitive dogs and you shouldn’t expect them to behave like the European breeds that have had many centuries of domestication
Do not learn well using too much repetition or pressure. Most learn best with food reinforcements, though some are neither toy or food motivated. The key is having a good relationship with the dog.
Dominant to other dogs, and sometimes to kids and weak people
Slow to learn obedience commands
Happy dogs – especially the Huskies and Malamutes
Want to be doing something – they are usually active
Barkers, howlers, and diggers
Generally good companions, but you MUST get references when choosing a breeder or pup to make sure you are getting a dog with good temperament!!!
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Terriers
What I like about this breed type: Tough, affectionate, easy to care for, smaller dogs. Great companions, they can go anywhere. Some of the breeds are highly trainable. Live a long time. These are fun dogs with lots of personality. Their small size makes them popular, too. I like the terriers, but choose wisely, to get one that is going to be easy to train.
Original Purpose: Hunters and fighters of vermin and dogs.
Examples: Australian, Bedlington, Border, Cairn, Dandie Dinmont, Fox, Irish, Jack Russell, Kerry Blue, Lakeland, Manchester, Norwich, Norfolk, Scottish, Sealyham, Skye, Soft Coated Wheaten, Welsh, and West Highland White Terriers.
My Favorites: Border, Cairn, Jack Russell, Norwich, Norfolk, Scottish, West Highland Terriers
Stubborn and intense; generally most terrier breeds are defiant, and that has to be worked through in the training.
Must be well socialized, or will be timid, like all breeds
Must never be hit, or will become biters. Terriers were bred to fight, so if you hurt them, they will fight back.
Usually food and toy motivated; which helps a lot in the training. Be sure to pick one that likes food and is a natural retriever
Fun and happy dogs
Some are notorious dog fighters, some are good with neighboring dogs. Many were bred to be “game”, meaning that if another dog gets in their face to challenge them, they will fight. That is NORMAL for a number of terrier breeds
Very alert to sounds, and have excellent scenting abilities. Thus, they get distracted when loose
Barkers, diggers, and chewers, meaning you must teach them early on to not tear up your things, your home, or your back yard
Active, with busy minds. Most are NOT couch potatoes
Loyal and courageous companions
Territorial – they DO BARK. If you don’t like that, or live in a busy area, then don’t get a terrier
Triggered to chase and bite moving objects, animals, children or adults… so don’t play chase games with them
Excellent sense of smell
Sometimes difficult to housebreak – you must start on a good house training program from the very start
Can be snappy when irritated – as I said, they are fighters. Don’t provoke a fighter by teasing them
Often very people friendly – most are very friendly, super nice dogs
Easily distracted – so you must supervise in the home and in public
Tough and energetic workers
Highly trainable when trained in a consistent, fair and progressive manner
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Primitive breeds
What I like about this breed type: I find the primitive breeds very interesting, since they are closer to being wild. Some have been partially domesticated, so they make interesting pets. They are highly intelligent, and will amaze you at what they can figure out. However, they can be dangerous, especially with other dogs and children. I wouldn’t get one if I had small kids in my home. Some can be quite destructive in the home. I would avoid getting one as a pet, yet, a dog trainer is always interested in canine behavior. Don’t let my interest in rare breeds cause you to think these are good pets for your home¦ they probably are not. I wouldn’t recommend you get a Primitive Breed
Original Purpose: Hunters and fighters of vermin and dogs.
Examples: Carolina Dog, Basenji, Thai Ridgeback, dingo, coyote, dingo or coyote or wolf hybrids
Intelligent and independent
Wide variety of Temperaments: mild to wild
Not specialists at any task
Adopt with caution “ these dogs might not be fully domesticated
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me: Man Working Protection Dogs
What I like about this breed type: These dogs have it all: affectionate, intelligent, athletic, extremely trainable, protective, and all weather coats. These breeds especially interest me because I like highly capable dogs. These give a person like me a challenge: I think when I work one, “how much can I teach this dog? What are the upper limits?” I also like dogs that can actually protect the family, and stop an assailant, in an emergency. On the other hand, they require something to do all their lives, otherwise they can become unmanageable, destructive and hyper-aggressive. You need to be someone who is into training to get one of these dogs. Airedales are super sweet and good with kids, but I’ve seen some that were too protective for the average pet owner. Beauceron, Bouvier, Boxer, Doberman, most Schnauzers, German Wirehaired Pointers, and Hovawart are nice family companions, but not suitable for professional protection work. Bullmastiffs are a favorite of mine, but they are a lot of dog if you get one that has a desire to work and also protective. A true working Bullmastiff isn’t suitable for a typical pet owner, but can do police work. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers can range from being friendly and laid back like a companion Labrador Retriever, to the ones that are very serious working dogs which are highly protective; the ones with a strong temperament are not suitable for a typical pet owner since they are not really pets but working dogs. A working Great Dane is too much dog for the average person. Most people are expecting a Marmadukewhen they get a Great Dane; these dogs are NOT like that at all. The Belgian shepherd breeds range from great to terrible. Watch out for the nervous, unstable ones. German Shepherd Dogs, Dutch Shepherds, and working Belgian shepherds are great¦ if you get a great one. Police versions are NOT suitable for the average pet owner.
Original Purpose: to do combat with humans. As a PET, you can find a good dog among all the breeds I’ve listed here. Dobermans are a ton of fun, and so are Boxers. I loved my Bouvier, Kate, and think she was probably the best dog I ever owned. As a working dog, My Favorites below are those that I know you can find a good working police / protection type dog.
Examples: Airedale, Beauceron, Belgian Shepherds, Bouvier, Boxer, Bullmastiff, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Dalmatian, Doberman, Dutch Shepherd, Giant and Standard Schnauzer, German Shepherd Dog, German Wirehaired Pointer, Great Dane, Hovawart, Rottweiler
My Favorites: Airedale, Belgian Shepherds (Malinois); Dutch Shepherd; German Shepherd; Giant Schnauzer (not from show lines); Standard Schanauzer (not from show lines); German Shepherd Dog; Rottweiler
Personable and loyal
Extremely trainable (if you get a good one, and you do all the training & socializing necessary)
Good with puppies and children
May or may not like strangers
** These breeds are my personal favorites. I love their high level of trainability, and all of their varied capabilities. They are a dog trainer’s dream dog. But, it is VERY difficult to obtain a quality dog of these breeds. Many are unstable and/or unhealthy dogs. The very best dogs are police quality¦ and too much dog for the average person. I DON’T recommend these breeds for a novice dog owner. I do not recommend getting a show dog version of these breeds, nor do I recommend that you become a breeder of these dogs unless you are committed to producing good working specimens. These breeds MUST be trained and led properly!!! They are among the finest companion dogs. Negligent owners need not apply!
Each breed within each breed type won’t fit these descriptions exactly, but you should now get the idea and understand how to go about grouping the dog breeds for your needs. Some breeds are a cross between one or more of the breed types, so you need to figure out what characteristics they most likely have and how it will impact your day-to-day interactions with them. You’ll start by reading books and magazines to research all the breeds that you think might work for you, so you can write them in along the column to the left, from top to bottom. You have to study the full history of the breeds to understand their Temperaments. Don’t just read the history of what the dog used to be. Some of the breeds have been reconstructed in the past 100 years and aren’t anything like the way they were before that time. Try to be objective when evaluating what a breed is best used for, and bred for, today.
The Breed Selection Matrix
I have developed the Basso Brother’s Breed & Characteristics Matrix to help you choose the right breed of dog for your needs. This matrix can also be used to pick a mixed breed of dog if you understand the traits that are common to the breeds that make up a particular dog. Here’s how to use our matrix:
Sam The Dog Trainer’s Breed & Characteristics Matrix
List the traits you most want in a dog: breed, size, predictable behavior, good in my climate, obedience titles, easy to train, good with kids, coat care, amount of exercise, ability to find a good breeder, good with other dogs, etc. Then list the breeds you are considering. Then, verify if the breeds you are considering have the traits you want in a dog.
Example: Man Working Breeds
1.) Decide on all of the most important characteristics that you want in a dog. It is up to you to choose what things are important to you when picking a dog. Each category should be equally important to you, so pick the 5 to 10 most important characteristics that you must have in a dog, and leave out the minor details that aren’t so important. For example, some people need a dog with short hair because they don’t want to groom their dog frequently. Others live in a cold climate and need a dog with a heavy coat. Other people don’t care about the coat as much as the dog’s trainability. Some people want a personal protection dog, others don’t. Regardless of all the other characteristics, you’d be wise to pick a breed that is easily trained, without a lot of risk of serious health problems, and good with children. Fill in the traits that are most important to you along the top row from, from left to right. From top to bottom, you will list all the breeds you think you might be interested in. At first, you will gather information from books, magazines and the internet.
2.) Try to verify all the important information you feel is important. Start calling breeders and see what they have to say about each of your important characteristics. If you can, get references from the breeders and talk to owners of those breeds and see if the dogs measure up to what you have been hearing and reading. Finally, visit those breeds that most likely fit what you want and personally verify that the breed you want has the characteristics that are promised.
3.) Systematically narrow down your search for the best breed for your home and lifestyle. JUST REMEMBER: DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR OR READ¦ BE SURE TO VERIFY WHAT PEOPLE SAY! Not all you will hear or read is the truth. A hint: For most people, for their first dog, I recommend getting a Labrador Retriever¦ easy to train, loves everyone, easy care coat, loves to play fetch, and it is pretty easy to find a good one.
After this, you will then either want to get a puppy or an older dog. Get an 8 week old puppy from a breeder. That is the ideal age to get a puppy. Second, if you want an older dog, I recommend getting a dog that is 1 to 2 years old through a pure bred rescue group. If something is going to go wrong with a dog, it usually does by 2 years of age, including temperament or health. Find the breed club of the breed you are interested in by going to www.akc.org . Every breed club has rescue volunteers for their breed who work different regions of the country. They form rescue groups affiliated with the breed clubs. (I would avoid adopting a dog from a shelter unless you have some experience in picking a dog. But, you will find that mutts ARE just as loveable as purebred dogs¦ but the adopting phase is more difficult at a shelter. It all depends upon the quality and training of the staff at that shelter. Some are very good at matching owners and dogs and some aren’t. With purebred rescue, the dogs have often lived for a week or two with a family, who has gotten to know that dog. In a shelter, the dogs live in kennels, and it makes it harder for the staff to evaluate the dogs. If you are working with a well run shelter, then by all means, DO get a dog from a shelter, pure or mixed. It is just harder. The breed rescue folks are experts in their breeds. The shelter folks can range from very qualified to novice volunteers.) They know their breed and can help you find the dog you want of the breed you want. You can also interview them and ask them why people give up that breed¦ important information as to whether that breed is right for you. You DON’T want a breeder’s dog that has been sitting in a kennel for the past 6 months. It will be unsocialized and not a good pet¦ ever. You want a pet that fits your needs¦ well adjusted, housetrained¦ and probably a couch potato. You have to be very specific to the rescue people about the types of characteristics you want, or they might give you a dog with a lot of emotional baggage that wouldn’t be a great, turnkey pet.
Which Dog Breed Is Right For Me? Only you can answer that question
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Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.
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