What dog breed is right for me?
This week I thought we might cover some of the popular breeds and their pros and cons.
It's important that people consider their living circumstances, activity levels and general lifestyle when choosing a pet or the potential mismatch can result in unhappiness in both parties.
Behavioural problems are the main reason for relinquishment of a pet and a lot of them (not all) arise from the pet's needs not being met on a psychological level.
Obviously I can't cover even close to all the dog breeds, but I will cover some of the most popular.
Yup these loveable goofs top the list as one of the most popular family pets. And for good reason...
They are generally very tolerant, affectionate and outgoing, rarely having problems with socialising and are highly trainable. They are usually confident and whilst they may get bored on their own, it is rare to see them for separation anxiety and they can retain their puppy joy (crazy) for many years.
However, they do have a tendency to get fat as they are highly food motivated, aka giant pigs, which will eat anything alive or dead (which makes them highly trainable as a plus). They are also prone to ear infections due to their love of the wet stuff and having floppy ears and are one of the breeds most at risk for elbow and hip dysplasia.
So if you want a family dog who will love your kids as much as they love him, you enjoy big sloppy kisses, sharing a wet dog shake or just want a fun-loving companion, then the labrador might be for you.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
These guys are the gentle hearts of the small dog world.
Cavaliers are affectionate, kind and gentle and often great with kids. They have a silky coat and oh so strokeable ears. They are loving and loyal and a popular family dog.
Downsides include a genetic predisposition to heart problems, hernias and dry eye. Their coat requires regular grooming to stop matting and keep it gorgeous and they can suffer dental and breathing/snoring issues if they are particularly short nosed.
But despite this, they are a beautiful natured dog with huge liquid brown eyes to fall in love with and a huge heart full of love, love, love.
Jack Russell Terriers
These little livewires are balls of happy happy with energy to spare. They are loyal and big-hearted, keen to please and live life to the fullest. They love shaking their 'prey' to death which means toys, pillows, anything stuffed ends up destroyed.
From a medical perspective they are quite healthy. They have few genetic problems and most are rarely seen thanks to good breeding over the years.
If anything, they may possibly present for skin complaints, hernias or undescended testes (which should be removed as they carry a high risk of cancer). They also think they're pretty tough and have a tendency to pick a fight with much larger or more dangerous opponents and are the most common breed presented for snakebite (they were bred for rat control after all).
But on the whole they are cute, spotted lionhearts with a love of life that we could probably all learn from.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
These guys look tough but are possibly the biggest sooks on the planet. Full of personality and avid talkers, the Staffy is a very popular breed.
Staffies are friendly and affectionate, crave attention and love nothing more than just being part of the family. Just look at those smiles! They don't like to be left alone for long periods though.
They (and other bully breeds) commonly present as youngsters with demodectic mange which is easily treatable but shows a genetic predisposition. They also often suffer skin allergies and commonly damage their cruciate ligaments due to their muscle bulk and high activity levels.
Unfortunately, Staffies are one of the most overbred dogs, being one of the least common we see for desexing and shelters most commonly deal with unwanted staffies or their crosses ?
But as a family dog or single companion they are friendly, oh so full of life (all day long!) and are enthusiastic about everything from a snuggle to a walk to a car ride.
Beagles are highly intelligent and friendly dogs that have also reached near-the-top of the cute chart as puppies. Those big ears and sad-looking faces you just wanna squish and smooch...
These dogs are inquisitive and happy doing their own thing, aka following their noses and seeing the world through smell. Though they do need mental stimulation or they will find their own fun!
They are usually very friendly and relatively low maintenance.
They do have a genetic predisposition to a range of eye disorders, though we don't actually see any that frequently. Probably the biggest downfall of beagles is their want to follow their noses... wherever it takes them and they get so absorbed in their travels they often end up a long way from home.
You'll need good fences if you own a beagle but they are rewarding with their calm nature, affection and are very calming to stroke with their lovely soft fur.
Danes are probably the best known of the giant breeds. They are quiet and loyal, somewhat introverted around people they don't know but placid and gentle at the same time. Their exercise requirements are fairly low and really they're mostly content to hang out with you either at home or on a walk.
Most Danes will suffer from some form of inherited bone disorder in their time, be it Wobblers, arthritis or cartilage problems. Danes are also one the breeds most at risk for a twisted stomach (GDV or bloat) because they are so deep chested. They often benefit from good socialisation because despite their size, they're truly not overly confident dogs.
Acquiring a Dane should not be taken lightly, as with any giant breed, they need careful dietary management as they grow and obviously cost a lot more to feed or medicate. But to those who already own one, this is completely offset by their solid presence, quiet company and the huge place they take up in your heart (and home!)
The Pommy really is a little teddy bear bundle of joy.
Pommies are generally very friendly for such little guys and have an contagious happiness about them. They are playful and sweet and rarely snappy.
Pommies do suffer from toy breed issues such as low blood sugar, so do better being fed twice daily. They also commonly present for luxating patellas (kneecaps) and collapsing tracheas as they age. Their coats also require a decent amount of maintenance.
But these guys are infectious in their boundless joy in life and make a cuddly and affectionate lap dog.
How much personality can you stuff in a pug? These guys have got to be happiest dogs on the planet. Seriously, you just can't get a pug down. Pugs are full of life and their goggly faces alight with joy over every interaction. They are affectionate and friendly to the max.
Pugs do suffer breathing issues thanks to their squashy faces and ear problems as their ear canals are also squashed up. They also sometimes have spinal issues if their tails are overly curled. It's not a huge negative, but they also shed hair like demons.
All this is forgiven though, once you experience the utter joy a pug has in life. Their exuberance combined with the facial expressions they pull on those crazy squished faces can raise anyone out of a dark place and make them see the fun in life.
Ok, so this is one close to my heart. We rarely see standard Dachy's anymore and miniatures are making a resurgence in popularity.
Dachshunds are fiercely loyal and can be quite territorial. But to those accepted few they are very affectionate, playful and quite silly. They do form tight bonds with their primary carer and can have a tendency towards being anxious. They do not do well being left alone for long periods and appreciate company. They have low maintenance coats and are low shedders.
Dachy's are not a breed generally recommended for families with young kids and do better with quieter company. They suffer from spinal issues if allowed to get overweight and sometimes as a result of trauma. They are also over-represented in the hormonal diseases like diabetes and cushings.
Dachy's won't love you straight away if you're not their family, but once you're on the in they can be the most delightful, fun-filled and loyal dogs.
(As a footnote I have two preschool-aged children and my two snausages are fantastic with them as they were raised from puppies with the kids).
These pint-sized puppies are packed full of personality. IF they trust you enough to show you. Chiwowzers (yes, that is what I call them) can be sweet and affectionate, silly and playful. They do like to dance on their back legs as well.
Chi's can also be fiercely protective of what they consider to be theirs and have a reputation for being snappy. But if you view the world from their perspective it can be a scary place!
Chihuahuas can suffer from toy breed issues similar to pommies such as low blood sugar, luxating patellas and collapsing trachea. They also over-represent in the hydrocephaly stakes (usually fatal) and can present with leg-calves-perthes disease.
I think Chiwowzers have a negative reputation but to those who see the real deal they are full of fun and personality.
The majestic Shepherd is a highly intelligent breed who are also loyal and extremely obedient when trained.
They are affectionate to those they accept though can be wary of strangers. They are highly motivated and as such are used in highly specific roles.
Shepherds are unfortunately a breed often riddled with genetic problems such as hip dysplasia, skin complaints (often weird and wonderful ones) and dietary issues.
But to those familiar to them they can be bucket loads of energetic fun, a gentle and steady companion and a great defender.
Dallies have got to be one of the happiest and silliest dogs around. They possibly even top Labs on how long they take to grow up mentally and socially!
They are an inquisitive and motivated dog with a need for stimulation or they will create their own activities. They can be trained to specific roles as they are quite intelligent (if they can focus for long enough). They are also the smiliest breed which can put people off as they think it's a snarl but it's not! They shed a lot but their coat is short and doesn't tend to have a doggy smell.
Dally problems include deafness, either on ear or both, bladder stones due to a liver defect and skin issues.
However, Damations have a joy in life they express with all activities. They enjoy being part of the family and can be stalwart and loyal friends.
Made famous by the toilet roll ads, the Shar Pei has experienced a spike in popularity. But these guys need some consideration before taking one on as they can be fairly high maintenance.
They are friendly and playful with their family, though sometimes aloof, but can be intolerant of strangers and small children. It is recommended that puppies are well socialised as general friendliness is not common to this breed.
Shar Pei's have inherent problems related to their excess skin and often suffer skin fold and ear infections and entropion (often requiring at least one surgery). They over-represent in the demodex stakes too.
Despite this, owners of Shars would never trade their fuzzy ball of skin folds for another breed and find them agreeable and valued members of the family.
Bassetts aren't a common breed but those who own them love their jowly, sad-faced, oversized sausage dogs. And with good reason; Bassetts are kind and friendly, inquisitive and open to new people. They have low maintenance coats which are often sleek and soft.
However, Bassetts do have their share of diseases. Bleeding disorders, elbow dysplasia, ear infections, back problems and primary glaucoma come to mind.
If you like small big dogs, sad faces on happy dogs or really just a quiet, kissy hound friend, then look at a Bassett Hound. He may be looking for you!
The Rotti has somewhat of a bad reputation thanks to being made 'tough' in the '90s. And while they don't take a Labrador's view to strangers, they can actually be huge sooks.
They are stoic and solid, relatively low maintanance and easy to train. But defensive of family should they feel threatened.
Rottis are predisposed to bleeding disorders, dysplasias and wobblers on a genetic basis.
But if you can get past the stereotype and get to know one you'll be surprised at how gentle these mean-looking giants can be.
This includes Greyhounds, Whippets and Italian Greyhounds. These guys are known for their speed but are truly one of the laziest dogs around. Yes, they'll have bursts of energy, but these guys are sprinters, not endurance racers, so they do fine with short periods of exercise. The only thing to note is that as they get smaller (ie. the Italian Greyhound especially) the more crazy excitable they can be. They are quietly affectionate and love cuddles.
Sighthounds are generally pretty healthy, with no outstanding genetic problems. We commonly see them for high velocity injuries sustained during play. They have a low maintenance coat, but do feel the cold with their thin skin so fashionable jackets are in order.
They are also bred to hunt, so they do have a high prey drive for fast moving furry things (like cats, rabbits, smaller fuzzy dogs).
But if you're after a low maintenance dog with relatively low exercise requirements, who loves to lounge around and take up most of the couch, then look at a sighthound!
Being a terrier, these guys have loads of heart and bundles of energy! They have attitude and cheekiness to spare. They do require regular grooming to prevent matting.
Maltesers (yes I said it) have inherited eye problems, can suffer from luxating patellas, dental problems and over-represent in hormonal diseases especially Cushings.
But these little snowflakes are rewarding and fun little companions with a zest for life!