Adding a new dog to your household is a big decision, and when it comes to choosing a dog, the options are vast and varied. Different breeds exhibit distinct characteristics, temperaments, and needs, making it essential to align your lifestyle with a breed that suits you. Before you impulse-adopt a dog because of his physical traits, check out this guide on how to make sure you’re choosing a dog that will truly compliment your lifestyle.
One of the most valuable tools in this decision-making process is the breed standard. A breed standard is a detailed guideline that defines the ideal characteristics, appearance, and temperament of a specific dog breed. It is established and maintained by international (and national) kennel clubs and breed organizations to maintain the integrity and uniqueness of each breed. While individual dogs may deviate from the breed standard, knowing the general traits of a chosen dog breed goes a long way in helping dog owners succeed with their new pet.
Understanding Breed Standards
Breed standards cover a range of factors, including size, coat color, temperament, exercise needs, and health considerations. By carefully reviewing these standards, you can gain insights into what to expect from a particular breed and whether it aligns with your preferences and lifestyle. A livestock guardian breed may not be as active as a Brittany Spaniel, but he doesn’t fit in well in suburban environments where guarding the property isn’t an ideal trait in the eyes of the neighborhood. Understanding the specific needs of each breed can help prevent major heartbreak and future behavior problems by ensuring their individual needs are able to be met.
Breed standards often specify the acceptable size range for a particular breed. Consider your living space when choosing a dog; a Great Dane might be uncomfortable in a small apartment unless the owner is very active, while a toy breed may get lost in a spacious home (and may be more difficult to potty train if proper steps aren’t taken to prevent mistakes). Size considerations also extend to the energy levels and exercise requirements of the dog.
The type and maintenance of a dog’s coat can vary widely. Some breeds shed minimally, making them suitable for those with allergies, while others require regular grooming to prevent matting and tangling. The breed standard will provide details on coat color, length, and texture, allowing you to make an informed decision based on your ability to commit to grooming needs. High maintenance coats are a HUGE commitment and require monthly trips to the groomer to prevent matting and the need to be shaved down. Daily brushing is mandatory with some breeds, so if that level of work doesn’t sound like a good fit for you, a breed with less coat is a good idea.
Temperament is a crucial factor in selecting a dog breed, especially if you have children, other pets, or specific lifestyle preferences. Some breeds are known for their friendliness, while others may be more reserved or protective. The breed standard outlines the expected temperament, helping you choose a dog that fits seamlessly into your family dynamic. A German Shepherd will likely be aloof to strangers (or, may guard the house from your guests!) whereas a Labrador Retriever is likely to greet visitors with tail wags. Cattle dogs will likely herd people, children, and cats, while a Cavalier is usually happy to snuggle in any open lap. Genetic temperament is SO important when choosing a new dog, as training cannot change who a dog is at his core.
Different breeds have varying exercise needs. Some dogs thrive on high-intensity activities, while others are content with a leisurely stroll. If you lead an active lifestyle, a breed with high energy levels might be a perfect match. On the other hand, if you prefer a more relaxed pace, a breed with lower exercise requirements would be more suitable. Living with a Belgian Malinois is not the same as living with an English Bulldog, so choose wisely.
Breed standards also touch upon potential health concerns that are common to a particular breed. Being aware of these considerations allows you to be proactive in preventive care and ensures you’re prepared for any special needs your chosen breed may have. Brachycephalic breeds are prone to breathing problems and heat stroke, so living in the desert isn’t a great fit for them. Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers are unfortunately prone to cancer, and Dobermans are at a high risk of DCM. Understanding the specific health issues prevalent in your breed of choice can help you make the right breeder decision as well as help you choose a pet insurance plan.
How to Use Breed Standards in Your Decision-Making
- Research Extensively: Explore various breeds and their standards. Consider your living situation, daily routine, and personal preferences.
- Evaluate Your Lifestyle: Be honest about your activity level, the amount of time you can commit to grooming, and your experience with dog ownership.
- Meet the Breed: Attend dog shows, local events, or visit reputable breeders to interact with dogs of the breed you are interested in. This firsthand experience can provide valuable insights.
- Consult with Professionals: Talk to veterinarians, trainers, and experienced dog owners. They can offer practical advice and share their experiences with different breeds.
- Rescue Consideration: Don’t forget about the many wonderful dogs in shelters. While their lineage might be less clear, individual personality and temperament can be assessed during your interactions.
Choosing a dog based on breed standards is a thoughtful process that involves a combination of research, self-reflection, and hands-on experience. By aligning your preferences and lifestyle with the characteristics outlined in breed standards, you can increase the likelihood of a harmonious and fulfilling relationship with your new canine companion. Remember that every dog is an individual, and while breed standards provide a general guideline, there will always be variations within a breed. Take the time to get to know the unique personality of the dog you choose, and you’ll be rewarded with a lifelong bond built on trust and understanding.