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Choosing a Dog Breed to Match Your Temperament and Lifestyle

Part of the Dogs All-In-One For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Ask the shelter or rescue group (or breeders) for help in determining the breed or mix of the animal you’re thinking about adopting, and be honest about your own lifestyle.

Each dog has a unique personality which may or may not be typical for the breed, so spend time playing with and observing your prospective pup — and with both parents (the dam and sire) if possible — before making any decisions:

  • Sporting breeds: Retrievers, Pointers, and Spaniels are high energy and need plenty of activity, but they’re generally easier than many other breeds to train.

  • Large working breeds: Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, and Boxers tend to be territorial and protective. They need to be thoroughly socialized to keep them from becoming aggressive.

  • Terriers: Jack Russell Terriers, Fox Terriers, Westies, and Schnauzers are high energy and bark a lot. They like to dig and jump, and can rarely be deterred from chasing small furry animals.

  • Hounds: Beagles, Dachshunds, and Greyhounds follow scents or moving targets without regard to you, traffic, or anything else. They are independent and can be difficult to train.

  • Northern breeds: Siberian Huskies and Malamutes are extremely high energy, independent, and notoriously difficult to train. They are great at sports like sled pulling but can become destructive without enough mental and physical challenge.

  • Toy breeds: Chihuahuas, Shih Tzu, and Maltese tend to bark a lot and can be prone to shyness (as a protective mechanism caused by their diminutive size) or aggression when they’re unsocialized or overly protected.

  • Herding breeds: Border Collies, Shelties, and Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent and trainable. They need a challenging job and plenty of exercise, or they can become destructive. Some herding breeds tend to nip at heels to keep children, other pets, or anyone else in the herd.

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