Find Your Dog Breed

Edited by Kathy McGraw

The dog is one of the most versatile animals on the planet, having been altered by selective breeding from its basic canid form into 400 different varieties, called breeds. The first record we have of distinct dog breeds goes back to around 4000 years ago, which resembled modern-day Greyhounds. Each breed has a standard, which is a list of features that perfect representative of that breed should have. The closer to the ideal an animal is, the more desirable it is for breeding purposes. Since every good breeder is always trying to improve the breed, animals that deviate from the standard too far will not be used for breeding.

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Accordingly, when you buy a purebred dog, you are getting a known quantity of general characteristics, such as size, appearance, and basic disposition. Knowing what you're going to get with an animal makes it easier to choose the right dog for your circumstances. Of course, all dogs, like humans, are individuals and no two will have exactly the same personality.

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How to Choose the Right Dog Breed for You

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Dogs can live well into their teens if properly taken care of, so when you bring a puppy into your life, you are making a commitment to integrate it into your life and care for it as a member of your family. It's a huge commitment or time and resources that should not be entered into lightly. Furthermore, not every breed is suited to every situation; indeed, some breeds may be strongly contraindicated in certain environments.

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The reason I bring this up is that I have seen what happens first hand when someone brings a puppy home without doing the proper research into the breed. A neighbor of mine bought a beautiful Weimaraner puppy home one day, and for a while, that pup went everywhere with him. But, as the pup grew into a gorgeous young adult dog, the neighbor decided he was too much trouble: he would become destructive when left alone, and that family was gone a lot. They would frequently leave the dog alone for hours. If he had read up on the breed, he would have discovered that Weimaraners are notorious for having separation anxiety, something that requires training to resolve. His solution was to take him to the pound, but we rescued him before that could happen.

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Do not be like that neighbor: do your research and find a dog breed that fits your lifestyle. To help you figure that out, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. 1
    Do you want a show quality animal or companion pet
    ?
    Show quality purebred dogs are typically used for breeding purposes and therefore must closely match the breed standard. They are more expensive than companion quality animals who, while conforming broadly to the breed standard, may have features that would disqualify them from showing/breeding. For instance, an ASCOB Cocker Spaniel that has a brown nose instead of a black one would make an awesome pet but is not one that should be bred because of the chance that its genes will not contribute to the ideals of the breed standard.
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  2. 2
    How much time can you devote to your pet
    ?
    All dogs, regardless of breed, are pack animals; that is to say, they do best when surrounded by their "family." No dog does well when left alone for long periods of time.They require walks, pets, cuddles, and playtime to be well-adjusted canine citizens. Carefully think about it: do you have the necessary time to devote to caring for your new family member? Does your job require you to be away from home a lot, do you work long hours? If so, then perhaps a dog is not the right pet for you.
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  3. 3
    Do you have a yard
    ?
    Some dogs require more room than others and don't do well in apartments. They need a yard to run around in and therefore do best in houses with fenced yards. Although many large-breed dogs fall into this category, not every large dog requires a lot of space and not every small dog makes a great apartment dweller. For instance, Greyhounds make great apartment dogs because they don't need a lot of space and aren't yappy, while the tiny Jack Russell Terrier needs space to run around and expend its boundless energy.
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  4. 4
    Do you have small children
    ?
    Young children aren't always careful when treating a pet, so make sure that the breed you choose is sturdy enough to handle playful roughhousing, has an easy-going temperament and is friendly and gentle. Dogs that are high-strung may lash out at overzealous children, and small, fragile breeds are at a higher risk for injury. Examples of kid-friendly dogs include American Staffordshire Terriers (Pit Bulls)(yes, I'm serious), Golden Retrievers, and English Springer Spaniels
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  5. 5
    Do you have other pets
    ?
    Some dogs don't play nicely with other species or even other dogs. Some dogs have a strong prey instinct, which makes them dangerous to cats, rodents, and birds. For instance, Terriers and Sporting breeds all have high prey drives and are not suited to households with other pets while members of the Toy group are good for them.
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  6. 6
    Are you an active person
    ?
    Do you have an active lifestyle? Do you jog every morning or play a sport? If so, a high-energy breed will fit well with your lifestyle. On the other hand, low energy breeds suit couch potatoes better. For instance, a Basset Hound is a good low energy pet who will happily curl up at your feet while you are watching television while breeds such as the Weimaraner and Visla require copious amounts of exercise to be happy and healthy pets.
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Breed Groups

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The American Kennel Club divides the dog breeds into seven groups according to the role each breed was bred to fill. For instance, the Doberman Pinscher is in the Working Group because it was bred to work as a service animal while the Cocker Spaniel is in the Sporting Group because it was bred as a hunting dog.

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  1. 1
    Working Group
    .
    This diverse group includes the dog breeds that were bred to work alongside their masters, from guard dogs such as the Doberman Pinscher to the Saint Bernard. Most of the dog breeds in the Working Group are medium to giant breed dogs that are very trainable but require a firm hand and plenty of early socialization with other dogs and people to be good canine citizens. If this is your first dog, then you'd best pass up on dogs from this group
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  2. 2
    Sporting Group
    .
    The Sporting Group includes breeds that were bred to hunt birds on land and in the water. Some, such as the Cocker Spaniel, were bred to flush out birds from bushes and other brush while others, such as the Golden Retriever, were bred to fetch the downed quarry and return it to their master. Either way, Sporting Group breeds are lively, affectionate dogs that make excellent family pets.
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  3. 3
    Toy Group
    .
    The Toy Group contains miniature versions of larger breeds that were bred to be the companion dogs of nobility. Examples of breeds in this group include the Pomeranian, Shih-Tzu, Toy Poodle, and the Maltese. Toy breeds don't tolerate children and tend to be quite vocal, so although they are tiny, they may not be good apartment dwellers.
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  4. 4
    Hound Group
    .
    Hounds were bred for hunting, like the Sporting breed, but their quarry has fur rather than feathers. They are further subdivided into two additional groups according to how they hunt: sight and scent. Sight hounds, as the name implies, are sharp-eyed hunters with long, lean lines that can spot a rabbit haring off from yards away. Examples of sight hounds include the Greyhound, Borzoi, and Whippet. Scent hounds, on the other hand, were bred to sniff out their prey. This subgroup includes the dog with the nose of noses, the Bloodhound, as well as the lovable Beagle and Basset Hound. Hounds of either type are difficult to train, either because they were bred to work independently, or their noses are so sensitive that they are easily distracted from the task at hand.
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  5. 5
    Terrier Group
    .
    Terriers were also bred for hunting, but their prey is vermin: rats and other rodents. Terriers are tough dogs, that pound for pound, can take on much larger animals and win the fight. They are high-energy dogs that can be difficult to train because they tend to be stubborn and have their own ideas about what they ought to be doing (and what you should be doing, too). Breeds in the Terrier Group include the Miniature Schnauzer, Welsh Terrier, and the diminutive but scrappy Jack Russell Terrier.
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  6. 6
    Non-sporting Group
    .
    The Non-Sporting Group is a catch-all for breeds that don't fit into the other categories. These breeds are companion dogs and include the Dalmatian, the English Bull Dog, and the Chow Chow. Careless breeding of Dalmatians has damaged the integrity of the breed, and thus, if you are considering buying one, be sure to buy from a reputable breeder.
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  7. 7
    Herding Group
    .
    As you might guess from the name, breeds in the Herding Group were bred to herd sheep or cattle. Included in this group are breeds such as the Collie, German Shepherd, and the English Sheepdog. Herding breeds are intelligent dogs that are easy to train and make solid companion animals. They make excellent family pets that will gently keep the youngsters from straying too far.
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If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.

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