Other than serious behavioral problems, such as aggression, the reason most dogs wind up in shelters is because their owners find out that they have just chosen the wrong dog for the way they live. Dogs have evolved with humans over the course of thousands, maybe tens of thousands of years, and as they shared our homes and lives, they have been bred to fill specific roles.
Besides the innate personality of the breed, there is also the dog’s adult size to take into consideration. That fluffy little St. Bernard puppy that fits so well on your lap now could grow into a 200 pound giant in over a year. If your house or apartment is simply not big enough, at some point your dog is going to outgrow its living space.
Regardless of the breed, all dogs require some exercise during the day. While some breeds can have their exercise requirements met with indoor play or a short walk, other breeds will need to run every day to satisfy their energy demands. Another thing to consider is the grooming needs of the dog; some dogs have a carefree coat that requires no maintenance to keep it looking good, while others (especially those with long hair) will need intensive grooming to keep the coat free from tangles, debris, and external parasites.
If you are unfamiliar with dog breeds in general, and are considering adding a puppy or dog to your life, do some research not only into the different breeds. You also need to determine why you want a dog, and how much time you will have to spend with the dog. Always keep in mind that nearly all dog breeds will want to interact with their humans – dogs have emotional needs, too.
If you are looking for a lapdog or companion, choosing a smaller breed is often a good idea, but make sure you understand the different energy level of different breeds. Jack Russell terriers and Westies are small dogs, but they require enormous amounts of exercise, otherwise they can develop personality problems. Breeds such as French bulldogs, English bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Japanese Chins, and Papillons are all excellent choices as well, although all of these dogs will need a lot of attention from their owners.
Hunting dogs combine great personality with the high energy needed for hunting. Those who enjoy taking to the field and woods during hunting season will want to focus on such dogs as Labrador or Golden retrievers or one of the spaniels, such as English or Cocker Spaniels. A laid back hunting dog that works well even in an apartment is the Clumber Spaniel. Vizslas and pointer breeds also are a good choice for hunters. Remember that these breeds will still need plenty of exercise outside of hunting season so be sure to take them for walks or runs daily.
Many people are worried about home security and will use a dog to guard the home. In one respect, nearly every dog breed is a guard dog, but some breeds are more protective than others. When you looking for a guard dog, you should look for a breed that will be easy to train, passive with the family, and have a defensive rather than an aggressive nature. Dogs like English Mastiffs, Bullmastiffs, and Schnauzers are good with members of the family, but do not possess the hair-trigger attacking instincts of dogs like Dobermans, Pit Bulls, and German Shepherds.
Flock guardian dogs are often important to those who live in rural areas and keep livestock. These dogs tend to be more aloof with people than other breeds and tend to concentrate their attention, and affection, on the sheep or cattle they guard. These dogs can be difficult to train as they have been bred to think independently and are best employed in more isolated situations where they will not have to interact with people.
Being a responsible dog owner isn’t restricted to how your dog gets along with other people and animals, it also means that you have chosen a dog that you will be able to take care of properly and that will be able to live out its life with you in comfort and dignity.