As a dog trainer, I am no longer stunned when I get a phone call from an owner of a working-class dog who wants their dog to be calm and quiet instead of what it was born to do, which is work. My first question is always, “Did you know your dog was a working dog when you got it?”
Without going into the argument of nature versus nurture, the fact is that different breeds are born to do different things. If you are looking to get a new dog, whether buying from a breeder, pet store or rescuing from a shelter, there are questions you need to ask yourself first.
What type of lifestyle do you have? How do you want the dog to fit into that lifestyle? For example, if you want to take a dog with you everywhere you go, a Neapolitan Mastiff isn’t the dog for you.
Do you want a large or small dog? Do you prefer a loud or quiet dog? What about a protective breed? Are you active or do you want a lazy house dog? Should you start with a puppy or bypass the housebreaking stage and get an older dog? Is shedding a concern for you? What about drooling?
There are myriad questions to ask yourself that can narrow down your breed choices to help your decision be successful.
A concern that most people rarely consider is the long-term ownership costs of a dog. The purchase or adoption fee is an upfront cost that can be steep if you aren’t prepared for it.
Most rescues and shelters will include shots, spaying or neutering and microchipping in the fee. But that will be an additional cost if you get a puppy from a breeder.
Monthly costs with a new dog are food and heartworm-preventive. Shots are needed yearly, and if your dog gets sick, antibiotics are dosed and charged by weight. Some dogs are more prone to illnesses and preventive measures need to be taken. These are all factors to consider when deciding on a dog breed.
Still having trouble narrowing your choices? Dogs 101 is a great resource on YouTube for snippets of information on different dog breeds. Visit a dog park and get to know the dogs that frequent the park.
Talk to owners about their dogs and the issues they face. Dog owners love to talk about their dogs, and you could end up with more information than you could ever need.
Ask your friends, family, coworkers and consider dog-sitting their pets to get an idea of what it will be like to have a dog at home.
Just as every person in the human race is unique and special, every dog within each breed is unique. Appreciate the differences and celebrate the quirks.
My last piece of advice: after you bring home your four-legged family member, start training early.
Kathryn Leisinger is the “Dean of Wags” for the School of Wags, a nonprofit large dog rescue organization.