INTRODUCTION: The relationship between humans and dogs is perhaps the most interesting and complex between any two species of animal known to exist. Dogs have truly been humankind’s most faithful and devoted companion during our long family history upon Planet Earth. Indeed, humans invented the dogs we know today, through trial-and-error genetic manipulation of their wild wolf forebears and the countless thousands of generations of domesticated animals that have lived since.
Dogs are part of most every human culture, and have been for over 10,000 years. They walked alongside our ancestors as they trekked to the far corners of the globe. Dogs pulled the sleds that conquered the poles. They even helped lead the way into outer space.
Unfortunately, dogs are in trouble in the modern world. Careless and ignorant humans have created a situation where now there are far too many dogs, millions of which suffer from neglect, abuse, abandonment, devastating disease, genetic faults and problems of temperament. The dogs themselves are totally innocent. Humans have caused these troubles, and only humans can begin to correct them.
Dogs are the pet companion of choice for many, and a wonderful choice it can be. Yet it is one that must be considered carefully so as not to add to the woes of the dog world, and also to ensure that you connect with the dog that is really best for you. There is virtually an infinite variety from which to choose, but somewhere among the plethora of pups is the match made in heaven.
WHY A DOG?: The decision to obtain a dog as a pet is one that is often not as well thought out as it should be. Many owners just seem to “wind up” with a particular puppy or fully-grown dog for a whole host of not-very-good reasons. Don’t get any dog until you’ve thought about it clearly over a period of some time, and considered all of the ramifications and alternatives.
NEVER buy or otherwise take a dog (or any pet) on impulse. That is not fair to you, your family, neighbors... and especially not for the pet. Every dog deserves to have a home where it is truly wanted, loved and cared for, not treated like yesterday’s news.
NEVER buy a puppy or dog as a gift for someone else... even someone in your own immediate family. Pets of any kind are not flowers or neckties to be given by some well-meaning individual to someone else who may not actually share the giver's enthusiasm for this gift over the long haul. Yes, it's precious to see the light in a kid's eyes when they are first surprised by that Christmas puppy, birthday kitten or Easter bunny. That warm feeling lasts a few hours... and then is followed (in a best case scenario) by years of having to take care of that pet. Everyone who is going to be expected to love and care for a pet should be given the full opportunity to research and learn about that type of pet... decide whether they truly want to take on such a responsibility... and also to have the great fun and challenge of making the selection of their very own pet. Giving a pet as a gift robs the prospective pet-keeper of all of these important factors that help to ensure the best matching of pet with pet-keeper.
Your local animal shelter may be the best place to start if you have carefully considered your desire to have a dog. Many dogs desperately await rescue by someone just like you, and upon acclimation to a new home will usually make an outstanding companion. With some searching most pure-bred types can eventually be found at a shelter, but don’t disparage the typical mixed breed, generally healthier and longer-lived than any pure-bred dog.
If you are certain that you want a pure-bred dog, then your challenge is greater. Actually, there is really no such thing as a “pure-bred” dog. Many of the so-called pure breeds have existed for less than 150 years, and each type began with some sort of “mixed” dog. All dog breeds are the result of human genetic experimentation, of which some must be considered gross failures when the animals are rendered into ridiculous forms and/or unhealthy physical specimens. Moreover, many “pure” breeds have been run to the brink of utter ruin by horrible breeding practices over the past four or five decades.
The advantage to a “pure-bred” is supposedly the “standards” in appearance, ability and temperament that its genetic engineering assures. Unfortunately, breeders have vastly over-emphasized the least important of these attributes — appearance — at the expense of the other two more important characteristics. The result is Irish Setters that can’t “set”, Collies with congenital eye, skin and hearing problems, and Rottweilers with the demeanor of a killer.
Therefore it is not enough to simply know the reputation of a particular breed. It is very important that you know what you want from your dog, and know what to look for to help ensure that you get just that. Then you will probably have to look long and hard before you discover your perfect dog. And even then, there are no guarantees.
Yet despite the difficulties, for millions of people there is no doubt about it — life is better with a dog.
WHAT TO CONSIDER: The first and most important consideration is your Expectation. What do you expect out of a dog? What is your motivation for acquiring a dog? How is it going to improve your life, and how committed are you to taking good care of the dog? If you possess the time, energy and love to give to a fascinating companion and are truly interested in the rewards — physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual — that dog ownership can bring to your life, then you are probably a good candidate for dog ownership.
Otherwise, beware! Many dogs require far more attention and care than some prospective owners at first realize. Please don’t buy a pet on a whim, or as some sort of ego-extension. Animals are not decoration pieces. Nor are they simply little love bundles. The thrill wears off and you are stuck with the pet — and worse, the pet is stuck with you.
The second thing to consider is your Living Conditions. If you live in an apartment, with other people, with children or with other pets you will need to carefully consider how a dog is going to affect your total situation. Are you home enough to care for a dog that needs extra attention? Do you really have time to properly train, play and interact with your dog? Are you prepared to deal with the mess that many dogs make? Are your neighbors the type who will accept a barking dog? Do you travel often? Some dogs may not be compatible with your style of living.
The third consideration is your own Personality. Some dogs are quiet, unobtrusive and hardly noticeable. Others can be loud, boisterous and bratty, sometimes all at the same time. A few dogs are downright scary. Many large dogs require a fairly stout person to keep them under control. Many require a strong-willed person to gently teach them their manners, or else the dog will end up dominating a very unhappy owner. Get a dog that is not going to clash with your essential nature.
Your fourth consideration is the Source of your dog. From where and whom are you buying your pet? Try to buy directly from a breeder recommended by others who own that type of dog. Check with local or regional dog clubs for referrals, and don’t be unwilling to drive up to a 100 miles or more to get the best dog. Assessing the parents of a puppy is your best strategy for selecting a good dog. It’s not fail-safe but pups usually inherit many of the parents’ characteristics, including personality. Ask to see the mother of the litter at least, preferably the sire also. If a breeder selling puppies is unwilling to allow you to see the mother, assume that the dog is either unhealthy or temperamentally untrustworthy, and keep looking. Breeders also should have official documentation of both parent dogs’ clearance of the congenital health defects most common in the breed. Make sure you know what these defects are in the breed you are seeking. Do not be overly impressed by so-called “championship” lineage; even a “champion” could be rife with genetic problems.
Buying from a pet shop can be far more dicey. It is far more difficult to determine what you are getting in a pet shop dog. At least select a shop that specializes in puppies bred in your immediate area, and one that backs up their animals with a health guarantee or a money-back policy if your vet discovers serious illness or genetic fault (though keep in mind that many of these faults do not appear until a dog is older). Avoid pet shops that are selling dogs shipped from hundreds of miles away — these are typically volume kennel, or “puppy mill”, dogs, often very poorly bred and socialized.
Then you must consider the Financial Investment you are making in this pet. Not just the initial purchase, which, of course, can be very significant, but also the on-going cost of proper pet care — food, inevitable vet bills, pet-sitting, etc. Some breeds could cause your homeowners insurance to rise, or possibly exclude you from some insurance companies. All of this can add up to a considerable continuing expense.
Now add this VERY IMPORTANT concept to your pondering: PetStation believes, wholeheartedly, that in most situations, dogs themselves need a companion dog! That's right, unless your lifestyle situation is quite the rare exception, you simply do not have the time and energy and attention span to spend with your dog. This species is directly descended from wolves, which live in social packs. Although they do wander about on their own, they almost always return to their pack. Keeping a dog by itself, alone much of the time, is entirely unnatural... and the precise reason for many of the "problems" which arise, such as chronic barking, whining, chewing, etc.
A great strategy is to acquire at least two dogs... preferably of similar breed, size, age, temperament, etc. But, of course, this doubling of the size of your pack requires even more thought, planning and effective decision-making.
The bottom line is that obtaining a great dog companion is a bit of a crap shoot these days. Yet the wonderful potential of just about any dog makes the risk worthwhile. The more you know about yourself and what you are looking for, the better it will be for you and your new dog. Many heartbreaking situations could be easily avoided if each prospective owner simply used a little common sense before taking on such a responsibility.
Unfortunately, dogs are like most pets... they cannot choose their human companions. Humans choose them. The least we can do is choose very carefully. Whatever you do, read as much as you can about the type of dog that you are thinking of acquiring. Talk to people who own — or better yet breed and raise — your kind of dog. Then step back into Life With Dog, a world we humans have long known to be greatly fulfilling.
THE MOST POPULAR BREEDS: The following short descriptions are meant solely as introductory information. Keep in mind that individual dogs of the same breed can greatly differ in personality. Some boosters of a particular breed may object to the portrayal of their favorite dog herein; yet these sketches are in accord with general breed profiles as provided by surveys of vets and breeders. This is only a list of the most popular breeds; dozens of other breeds certainly warrant consideration. Thoroughly research a variety of breeds before making any decisions. See the list at the end of this article for other family-oriented breeds.
CODE KEYS: A - generally OK in an apartment; B = often chronic or persistent barker; C = generally OK with children; E = often exuberant, highly energetic; F = firm discipline usually required; G = regular grooming required; L = generally laid-back, calm; O = must have regular outside exercise; S = often snappish toward unfamiliar children or strangers.
Special Note: PetStation does not condone the training or keeping of "protection" or "guard" dogs for the general public. See our article Why You Should Not Rely On A Dog For Protection for more information on this subject. We do, however, recognize that certain breeds of dog can be helpful as "warning" or "watch" dogs, and we have mentioned this capability in association with those particular breeds.
AFGHAN HOUND: Developed in the rugged deserts of Afghanistan as a hunter, this large but lithe dog with the silky coat appeals to many but should be owned only by those who solidly understand this breed’s attributes. A very loving and devoted companion to the firm and stable owner, the Afghan requires consistent outdoors exercise and regular grooming. It is generally distrustful toward strangers, and can be unpredictable around children. Sometimes stubborn and slow to learn. Not always good with other animals. Good early socialization a must. F, G, O, S.
AIREDALE TERRIER: The largest of the terrier group, Airedales were developed in England as tenacious hunters of badgers and vermin. Like many terriers this one can be feisty, and its size implies dangerous potential if its tendency toward aggression is unmoderated. It can also be very destructive in the home setting, and is not the best dog for households with children. This is an extremely playful and athletic dog that loves a romp in the park with its equally exercise-oriented owner, to whom it will be devoted and protective. B, E, F, O, S.
AKITA: With this dog as their symbol, the Japanese seem to be generally more attuned to what makes a good dog than their neighbors in China. The Akita is extremely territorial, which makes for a good watchdog type, and it can be aggressive toward other dogs. It’s not a particularly playful dog, but it also is not very destructive and learns quickly. It does need a firm but gentle owner who will bring out its best. F, O.
AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD: This breed was actually developed in the United States, and is certainly one of the most intelligent of dogs. Its fame, of course, was won on the sheep farms “down under”, and it remains one of the best at herding. As a pet this medium-sized dog offers a strange blend of characteristics: low on general aggression, but very protective of its home turf. It is one of the easiest dogs to housebreak and train, yet is still remarkably playful. Usually (though not always) good with other animals and children, and not generally a chronic barker. Needs a firm, energetic keeper. C, E, O.
BASSET HOUND: Talk about your dogs who are generally unobtrusive and you have the Basset Hound. Originally developed in France from bloodhound stock, these lovable slowpokes on the stubby legs are the epitome of the laid-back dog. They are perfectly content to lounge around the yard without a care in the world, sometimes needing to be coerced to get enough exercise. A very sweet breed that needs comparatively little regular grooming, the Basset is not always quick to learn or easy to housebreak, nor with its low energy level is it all that playful. Though most are thoroughly trustworthy with children, kids who want to romp and run with their pup should probably choose another breed. A, C, L.
BEAGLE: The beloved Beagle, a product of English countryside breeding as a scenthound, is one of the liveliest and most endearing of dogs, but is certainly far different from the Snoopy character in the Peanuts comic strip. Snoopy’s nonchalance is nowhere apparent in the typical Beagle, which is excitable, inquisitive, always active, often a bit destructive and never known to sleep on top of a slant-roofed doghouse. It is a playful breed and a bigtime barker, often slow to learn and difficult to housebreak. Though some make a kid’s best friend, they are not always completely trustworthy around children or strangers. B, E, F, O.
BOSTON TERRIER: Developed in Boston by crossing a Bulldog with an English Terrier, this relatively small breed is the companion of choice for thousands of dedicated owners. Like all terriers it is excitable, active and quite playful. It can be snappish toward children and strangers, and often is a barker. It does need frequent exercise, but adult dogs can settle comfortably into an apartment lifestyle. Usually long-lived. They are not always good with other animals. A, B, E, O, S.
BOXER: The medium-large sized Boxer is a descendant of European bulldogs, with perhaps some mastiff blood. This is a generally good-natured breed, but it is fairly territorial and sometimes eyes with suspicion any strangers intruding upon its turf. He is very protective of his family and is trustworthy with the children of its household. The Boxer is an athlete who needs consistent exercise; it is certainly not the ideal house dog. Boxers benefit from a gentle but firm owner who will bring out the sweeter side of their nature, not its inbred potential for combativeness. F, O.
BRITTANY: The happy-go-lucky Brittany is a product of France where it was developed as a fine companion and hunting dog. Long considered a “spaniel” the dog has always more closely resembled a setter in its hunting style. As with any breed a particular individual could be a complete disaster, yet generally the Brittany is a human triumph of animal engineering. It is energetic, playful, smart and usually mild-mannered and people-friendly. Not a good watchdog candidate. Does very well in obedience training and is easy to housebreak. It is happiest when it is on the run in a park or the countryside. Don’t dock its tail. C, E, O.
CAIRN TERRIER: One of the many Scottish-bred terriers that once were used as vermin hunters, the Cairn is one of the most playful of all dogs. Some are snappish, but a bit less so than many terriers and toys. It’s a barker, however, and sometimes enjoys seeing if it can dominate its keeper. Moderately destructive, and not the easiest to train. A, B, E, F, S.
CHIHUAHUA: The Chihuahua traces its lineage back to the Aztecs of Mexico, and to anyone who has been nipped on the ankle by this mighty mite the notion of “Montezuma’s Revenge” certainly springs to mind. It is the smallest of all dog breeds, yet apparently no one has successfully convinced the Chihuahua itself of this fact. It has forged a reputation as one tough little cookie. There are two varieties: longhaired and smooth. Both make good apartment dogs; indeed, they view the outside world and all strangers with great suspicion. They are very excitable, active and not easy to obedience train. Not usually a good pet for children. They can be snappish and potentially dominant over the owner who doesn’t earn their love and respect with a firm but gentle hand. A, B, F, S.
CHOW CHOW: The Chow Chow was developed by the Chinese as a wolf and bear hunter, so if you are engaged often in these pursuits this is just the dog for you. For the average family, however, this breed may not be the best choice. Individuals exist that are the exact opposite, yet in general the Chow Chow is often aloof, territorial, snappish, stubborn, not easy to train or housebreak, not overly playful, and sometimes dominant over its owners. It makes an excellent watchdog, but those looking for an affable pet should probably opt for another breed. A, F, G, O.
COCKER SPANIEL: There are two types: the American and the English, somewhat different in size, appearance and temperament. The American Cocker, the smaller of the two, has suffered enormously from poor breeding practices since the end of World War II. This dog’s once-dependable temperament has been degraded, and its doting show-dog fanciers have bequeathed the breed a wide range of debilitating genetic illnesses. Yet the incredible popularity of this dog is sustained by its cuddly appearance and amazing loyalty and affection for its owner. This affection sometimes does not extend beyond its immediate family. The Cocker can be snappish with strangers, especially children. The best Cockers are lively, playful, trusting and intelligent. Some tend to be barkers. A, B, C, G, O.
COLLIE: This one-time sheepherder from the Scottish Highlands is one of the most beloved of all dogs, thanks largely to the television appeal of “Lassie.” Two types are available — the shorthaired “Smooth” Collie and the longhaired “Rough” Collie. As amply demonstrated by Lassie, this dog has much to recommend it, including exceptional intelligence, beauty and a generally stable and gentle disposition. Of course, if you expect your Collie to emulate Lassie, you will need to become or hire a fulltime trainer. Once again, this breed has been severely damaged by modern breeders. The Collie is susceptible to a whole range of illnesses, and its once sterling temperament is not such a sure thing any longer. Some go entirely against the grain of the breed in general by becoming snappish. This is the exception, however, and the typical dog will become a treasured member of the family. The Rough’s coat does require regular attention. C, G, L, O.
DACHSHUND: There are a variety of different types of Dachshund:, including the Longhaired, the Shorthaired and the Wirehaired, along with a miniature version of each. The dog was developed in Germany as a little hunter who could go after badgers and rabbits in their holes. Only a pretty tough character will take on badgers, and some of that tenacity is still displayed in its personality. Many individuals are playful and affectionate, but some are not easily obedience trained and they can be one of the most difficult dogs to housebreak. They are often barkers, and they are stubbornly territorial, which makes them pretty good little watchdogs. They usually love their own family members, but are not always very social with strangers. A, B, E, F, S.
DALMATIAN: As Cruella DeVil of Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” knew, there is no mistaking a Dalmatian. The distinctive medium sized white dog with the black spots was developed in Austria and never quite found its niche as a working jack-of-all-trades until one hopped a firetruck and just seemed to somehow complete the picture. Despite the docile and dependable image it has acquired, the Dalmatian is a highly energetic and spirited animal. Some larger males can be a handful to control, and some can become moderately snappish, especially toward strange children. Many are barkers, most are difficult to housebreak, and they can be very destructive. The best, however, are playful and stable, with firm owners skillfully bringing out these desired attributes. B, E, F, O, S.
DOBERMAN PINSCHER: Named for Louis Dobermann, its German developer, the Doberman Pinscher (which in German means “terrier”) is a much-loved, much-feared and much-misunderstood dog. It was bred to be a guard dog, willing and able to jealously and aggressively defend its territory. Beyond that, not much can be said about these rather large and serious-looking dogs that applies across the board. Individuals vary greatly but they are usually extremely intelligent, readily trained and one of the easiest to housebreak. Many are docile and affectionate, even with children, yet there is no question that the breed carries that dose of aggression that could someday snap. Because of this, it is extremely important that buyers view the mother of the litter and assess her temperament. Also ask to see documents which prove both parents free of genetic illnesses. Do not purchase this breed from a puppy mill shop. F, O.
ENGLISH BULLDOG: Just think, some English squire spent years and probably a considerable sum on developing a dog specifically for the purpose of ... bull-baiting! The guy probably went through a lot of dogs, too, before he got it right. Some detractors maintain that he never got it right, and that it has been downhill ever since. The poor Bulldog is short-lived, often has trouble breathing, and is susceptible to heatstroke, heart attack and skin conditions. It’s a shame, because this calm, stodgy old dog is usually lovable as can be, and a faithful companion. This is not a particularly playful or active dog, nor one very easily trained. It is very content to hang out with its owner all day long, with the less to get excited about the better. A, C, L.
ENGLISH SPRINGER SPANIEL: The Springer is one of the larger and most stable of the spaniels. It is much less likely to snap at strangers and children than the American Cocker. This is a very affectionate and playful dog, easily trained, sometimes rambunctious and destructive but never mean-spirited about it. Often an ideal choice for families with children, the Springer would make the perfect running mate for an active kid. It does need ample outdoor exercise, and should not be kept confined indoors. Some are barkers. As with most breeds, the specter of abysmal breeding practices rears its ugly head with this gentle dog also: some have been known to develop strange phobias and vicious behavior. Check for impeccable breeding lineage. B, C, E, G, L, O.
FOX TERRIER: There are two types very similar in size and disposition but which look quite different from one another: the Wire and the Smooth, with the former being the more prevalent. This dog is not big but it can be a handful. Terrier to the bone, the Fox can be hyper, snappish, a bigtime barker, very aggressive toward other dogs, destructive and quite ornery when it comes to deciding who’s boss. Some are difficult to train and housebreak. It takes a dedicated owner to control the Fox’s rowdy nature and bring out its spunky best. A, B, E, F, S.
GERMAN SHEPHERD DOG: A long time ago this dog was developed in Germany as a sheep-herder, but it has since fashioned a reputation as the dog for just about any job — from heavy-duty guardwork to the critically difficult task of leading the blind. At its best this is the dog of all dogs, a completely trustworthy and adaptable near-replica of its beautiful wild forebear, the wolf. Yet getting one of the best German Shepherds is not that easy. As with all the most popular breeds, it has been downgraded by dubious breeding. Great care and caution must be taken in searching for an acceptable puppy. Insist on impeccable health and temperament credentials. This is a very strong-willed, active dog that needs the same in an owner. Do not buy from a puppy mill shop. E, F, O.
GOLDEN RETRIEVER: The original developers of the Golden Retriever certainly knew what they were doing, creating one of the classic canines of all time. Yet its breeder aficionados of the modern era have certainly not shown the same taste and intelligence. This dog, once sound and with the most wonderful of personalities, now comes with a complete dossier of potential genetic defects, is really a retriever in name only anymore, and often is far more flaky than its progenitors of a few decades ago. Yet even modern breeders can’t entirely ruin this beautiful, finely crafted companion dog. In temperament and personality the typical Golden is still the image of a family dog: playful but not destructive, smart, dependable and loving. C, E, G, L, O.
GREAT DANE: He may be great, but he is no Dane. This breed is yet another big guard-dog type developed by the security-minded Germans. Called the German Mastiff in Europe, this is one of the largest breeds of dog, and it was specifically bred to be territorial; these twins factors must play a supreme role in one’s decision to acquire this dog. Though most are smart, trainable and many are exceptionally sweet, the power and explosive potential of this dog render it completely unsuitable for anyone other than a very fit, firm and stable owner. Owning a Great Dane is a very serious public responsibility; an out of control dog could easily put someone in the hospital and land its owner in serious legal trouble. Don’t crop its ears. F, O.
IRISH SETTER: Have potted plants? After this puppy gets through with them, neither the pots or the plants may be recognizable. But what a small price to pay for one of the happiest dogs in the world. And certainly one of the most beautiful. On the playfulness scale, this dog scores 11. Some are barkers and all are hyper, yet they are not the hare-brains some try to make them out to be. Their learning rate and problem-solving skills are high. They just like to learn what they want to learn, potty training not usually among the preferred subjects. This dog needs lots of outdoor exercise, and a sturdy kid who is into hard playing might just fit the bill. Lots of potential health problems. Long coat needs regular attention. English and Gordon Setters are related breeds with somewhat less exuberant personalities. C, E, G, O.
LABRADOR RETRIEVER: The Labrador differs from the Golden in being stockier and heavier, with a shorter coat, and a generally more active and athletic demeanor. The Lab still retains much of its hunting instincts and easily outpaces the typical Golden in the field. It also is more territorial, a bit more destructive and often a tad less playful. Yet like the Golden it is very easy to train and excellent with children. As always, watch out for genetic problems in the parents, though this breed is probably sounder across the board than the Golden. A wonderful all-around family dog that does need exercise and access to the Great Outdoors. C, E, L, O.
LHASA APSO: Developed in Tibet, the Lhasa Apso is full of contradictions, which probably vastly pleased the Buddhist monks who invented the breed. For an indoor-type dog it is very high in excitability and general activity. The Lhasa is a smart dog but often doesn’t like to learn much, including potty training. It craves affection but also will dominate the less-than-firm owner. It is not overly playful but will get into mischief. The Lhasa Apso can be quite territorial, a big barker, and not always sociable toward strangers or children. A, B, E, F, G, S.
MALTESE: Developed on the Mediterranean island of Malta, this breed is somewhat more stable than many small dogs, yet also comes packaged with some of the unruly traits shared by many toy breeds. These are quite often reinforced by silly owners who insist on treating their dogs like helpless infants. Maltese are less destructive than some toys and fairly easy to train and housebreak. Some, however, are overly excitable and prone to snapping at strangers, particularly children. A, B, F, G, S.
MINIATURE SCHNAUZER: Another German breed, this one developed as a rat-catcher, the Miniature Schnauzer is now one of the most popular dogs in the U.S. Many make excellent, playful companions, especially for the active, training-oriented owner. This breed is not recommended for anyone unwilling to work extensively with the dog. Left to fend for themselves, they can become extremely excitable, destructive, snappish, territorial, aggressive toward other dogs, and a major league barker. The breed makes an excellent watchdog. As a family dog it must be firmly controlled and trained. A, B, E, F, S.
NEWFOUNDLAND: The “gentle giant” of dogs, this affable Maritime Canadian breed has two faults only: it is a bigtime drooler and perhaps could be a bit more playful. Otherwise the Newf has much to recommend it, especially for the young, active, outdoors-oriented family. This is no apartment dog; it needs access to the outdoors, and particularly water, its second home. Its dense coat needs regular attention, and its 140 pounds mandates a physically-fit owner. Easily housebroken and, like Nana (of Peter Pan fame), amazingly trustworthy with kids. Should not be kept in very hot climates. C, F, G, L, O.
OLD ENGLISH SHEEPDOG: Though not often used as a sheepherder any longer, this breed retains the instinct, herding the owner and visitor on occasion. Despite its affable appearance, the English Sheepdog can be demanding on the undisciplining keeper. Sometimes destructive; often a bit aggressive toward other dogs, and sometimes snappish toward strange children. Owners who gently but firmly insist on obedience, however, will be rewarded with one fine companion. F, G, O.
PEKINGESE: Another breed developed by the Chinese, who are famed for their skills in many areas but rather schizoid in their approach to dog-breeding. In this case they have assembled a prototypical lapdog, tiny in size but huge in personality. If worked with diligently by a loving and not over-protective owner the Pekingese can be a sweetheart, but often the little dog is allowed to set the rules of the house. Dogs like this can be difficult to housebreak and train, and may become snappish, excessive barkers, aggressive toward other dogs, and generally unsociable. A, B, F, G, S.
POMERANIAN: Supposedly a descendant of Icelandic sled-dogs, this breed was more recently developed in the German province of Pomerania. Weighing in at around five pounds it is now only fit to pull the sleds of brownies and leprechauns. Certainly one of the most lovely of the toys, the Pomeranian also shares many toy-breed attributes. Without diligent handling, it can become hyper, destructive, a barker, hard to train and housebreak, somewhat territorial and a bit aggressive toward other dogs. Not generally a good choice for homes with children. A, B, E, F, G, S.
POODLE: Developed not in France, as many suspect, but in Eastern Europe as, believe it or not, a retriever, three separate types of Poodle are available, looking simply like different sizes of the same breed but also differing somewhat in temperament. The smallest, the six-pound “Toy”, is predictably the most reactive, though it is often better behaved than many toys. The 16-pound “Miniature” has slightly moderated reactive tendencies. The 50-pound “Standard” is markedly more stable, less destructive and better with children. All are playful, intelligent and generally easy to train and housebreak. A, B, F, G, E.
PUG: The Pug is an example where the Chinese came closer to getting the dog-thing right. This little charmer with the smished-in, Mastiff-like face is unusual in many ways for a toy-breed. As in the classic children’s film “Milo and Otis”, the Pug can be an endearing little imp, and is generally less reactive and territorial than many toys. However, others can be snappish, sometimes destructive and can be difficult to train and housebreak. Some are barkers. Many are wheezers and can be gassy. A, B, E.
ROTTWEILER: Yet another German-bred security dog, this muscular dog was developed in the town of Rottweil and became common in neighboring towns as “the butcher’s dog”, a 100-pound deterrent to would-be meat thieves. Like its guarding countrymates — the Dobie and the German Shepherd — the Rottie is extremely territorial, and thereby an excellent watchdog choice. It is generally less playful than the Shepherd, but also far less destructive. It is somewhat harder to train than either the Dobie or Shepherd, yet markedly less excitable as well. It is slightly less likely to snap at children, but if and when it does the result could be disastrous. This breed is sometimes more likely than the other two to exploit any opportunity to dominate its owner, therefore it is imperative that this dog be kept under strict supervision and gentle/firm obedience. Do not even think about buying from a puppy mill store. F, O.
ST. BERNARD: This massive dog, which can tip the scales at over 160 pounds, is a load in more ways than one. Two types are available: the longhaired and shorthaired. Both can be difficult to handle for anyone who has not carefully disciplined their dog from puppyhood. Reportedly developed by monks living near St. Bernard’s Pass in the Swiss Alps, this breed is well known for rescue heroics. Yet some Saints can be unsociable, aggressive toward other dogs, and quite territorial. It is not an extremely playful breed generally. Almost all drool, and many wheeze. The longhaired dog does not thrive in hot climates. F, G, O.
SAMOYED: This beautiful white (or beige) dog was developed in Siberia as a sled dog and shares many characteristics with both the Husky and Alaskan Malamute. All of these dogs require firm leadership because they tend to be territorial, destructive, quite aggressive toward other dogs and likely to try to get away with dominating their owners. The Samoyed is usually more of a barker than the other two sled breeds, and is sometimes a bit snappish. This dog requires discipline and will need to have outdoors access to redirect its destructive tendencies. B, F, G, O.
SCOTTISH TERRIER: Developed in Scotland as a hunter of vermin, this little 20-pound bundle of excitability appeals to many people but is appropriate only for a select few. Like most terriers the Scottie is usually hyper, territorial, aggressive toward strange dogs and a barker. Indeed, the Scottie can be one of the most moody of all dogs. It can be sullen and stubborn, and many will attempt to dominate their owner. On other days it can be the perfect little Scottish diplomat. The breed ranks quite high on tendency to snap at children, and though playful it can also be very destructive. A, B, E, F, G, S.
SHETLAND SHEEPDOG (SHELTIE): This dog that looks like a quarter version of the Collie was indeed developed from the same herding stock that eventually produced the larger dog. There are other similarities between the separate breeds, including ease of training and general amicability with other animals. Yet the Sheltie is far more high-strung than the Collie, much more of a barker, and more likely to snap at children (though still far less likely than most terriers or toys). It is a breed that tends toward timidity, which can lead to unsociable behavior. Work long and hard to develop its confidence and trust in people and you will have a good companion. A, B, E, G.
SHIH TZU: Having been bred in China and with a name meaning “little lion” we might immediately suspect big trouble, but the Shih Tzu is actually a tad more sociable than many toys and terriers. It is certainly hyper but is less snappish and less of a barker than most of its fellow apartment/lapdog types. Moreover, the Shih Tzu is often comparatively easy to train and housebreak, a distinct advantage where many small breeds are usually lacking. It can be stubborn and feisty, but with firm handling and not too much coddling, could be one of the better small dog choices. A, E, G.
SIBERIAN HUSKY: The arctic is no place for wimps, and the Siberian Husky is no dog for the faint-hearted. If you think you’re going to be top dog around this breed, you’d better be prepared to prove it. The Husky ranks high in aggression toward other dogs and tendency to try to dominate its owner. If you happen to live in the northern wilderness it won’t bother you that this breed is also extremely destructive and difficult to housebreak, but these could be serious concerns for the urban dweller. Some are howlers and diggers. This beautiful, energetic and athletic dog needs a fit and confident human “pack leader” to keep it in harmony with the modern world. The Husky is probably not the most trustworthy around children. Do not buy from a puppy mill store. F, O.
SILKY TERRIER: Developed in Australia as a cross between the Australian Terrier and Yorkshire Terrier, the Silky is a typical terrier in many ways, quite active and excitable. This fun-loving breed is usually easier to train and housebreak and less destructive than most small terriers and toys. Yet some are prone to barking, aggressive toward other dogs, and unsociable toward children and strangers. One of the healthier pure-breeds. A, B, E, F, G, S.
WEIMARANER: A German hunter in background this breed is gaining in popularity in the U.S. Temperamentally the Weimaraner is somewhat like a larger version of the Dalmatian. The Weimar is an athletic dog that loves to romp through a park or countryside. It needs sound training and discipline because it has a tendency toward stubborn independence and is certainly not the most laid-back dog around. Some can be destructive and snappish at times. Others become chronic barkers. Not the easiest to train. B, F, O.
WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIER: This spunky little white dervish from Scotland is about as active and excitable as they come. Like most small canine packages, the Westie comes with an array of personality quirks that require attention right from the start. The West Highland is certainly cute as a bug and can make a loving pet, but undisciplined Westies tend to be demanding and domineering. Some become barkers. As usual with toy breeds, the Westie is not the best choice for homes with children. A, B, E, F, G, S.
YORKSHIRE TERRIER: The Yorky is one of the smallest terriers, usually weighing no more than seven pounds. But there is nothing small about its personality. The Yorkshire fully expects to be treated like royalty, and the owner who merely obliges can find themselves with a little tyrant: excitable, demanding, snappish and an incessant barker. The Yorky needs an owner who will gently bring out its playful but devoted and trustworthy character. Avoid the tiny “teacup” variety. A, B, E, F, G, S.
OTHER FAMILY COMPANION POSSIBILITIES: American Water Spaniel, Australian Terrier, Bernese Mountain Dog, Bichon Frise, Bloodhound, Border Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Clumber Spaniel, English Setter, English Toy Spaniel, Field Spaniel, Flat-Coated Retriever, Foxhound, Gordon Setter, Great Pyrenees, Harrier, Jack Russell Terrier, Keeshond, Norfolk Terrier, Papillon, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Pointer, Vizsla.
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