Adding a Furry Friend: Breed Selection

IslaySelecting a pet, and in our case a dog, can be daunting and often it is entered into far too lightly and without proper consideration. The selection process can be based on a wide variety of considerations and the reality is, what may be important to you may not be to others.

Having gone through this exhaustive and rewarding process recently, I thought I would share our dog selection and adoption process in a three part series that looks at breed selection, breeder/lineage evaluation and preparation for adoption.

We consider the addition of a dog to our family in the same manner we considered having children. As such, the decision-making process for us begins first with a determination if our family is able to care for a dog in the same way we would be able to care for, love and support any new addition to our family. Once we have concluded that we have the capacity to do so, we evaluated which breed would be right for us, as well as what breed we believe would benefit from a life with us.

In selecting a breed, we used several criteria to help narrow and determine our selection. These are the ones we used.

  1. Family Dog – The breed had to be great with families, including young kids. We have two boys – 4 and 8 years old – and it was imperative that all breeds considered MUST be kid-friendly. There are many breeds that are family-friendly, and a great source of general information is the American Kennel Club (AKC) where they describe each breed’s traits and personalities. From there, you can dive deeper into each breed as you narrow your search. For our lifestyle, we need a social dog that loves being a part of the family. This is important, not only for our family but for the many families we socialize with. We previously owned a Labrador Retriever and she was the perfect family dog. We will own Labs for the rest of our lives but needed a break after Mulligan passed away this year. Read on to see what breed we ultimately selected for our next dog.
  2. Breed Health – While there are no guarantees that your dog will be healthy, you can improve your odds and go into the process informed and with eyes wide open if you are aware of the health issues that can, and have, affected the breed you are considering. While there are a lot of sources for this information, we leaned heavily on the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFFA) web site. Breeders of purebred dogs are required to report health evaluations to the OFFA that is then compiled online where you can look at overall breed statistics based on certain health criteria (hips, elbows, etc.). You can also access the health ratings of specific dogs in the line that you are considering (mom, dad, etc.). We looked at a number of sites like this which gave us a good idea of what health issues affect what dogs and they were very informative when deciding what dogs to adopt and what dogs should be avoided. Take a look at the OFFA breed stats and I bet you will be surprised at where certain dogs are ranked in overall health. Also read the stats closely – this is one list where you don’t want your breed to be at the top.
  3. Temperament – We wanted a happy dog (and NOT moody) with a strong connection to family. We are a family that derives constant joy from our dogs and, in turn, want the same for our dog. We didn’t want a pet that would ignore us since we won’t ignore it.
  4. Active – We are an active family, so the fourth criterion we considered was finding a dog that requires an activity level that matched ours’. For us, working and sporting dogs tend to be a nice fit given their desire to have a job to do and their affinity for participation in activities. We are very inclusive of our kids (dog included) in most activities.
  5. Size and Beauty – Both are equally as important to us. We are NOT a small dog family. We like big dogs. So we made sure our lifestyle could accommodate a large breed (or in our case, a giant breed). And finally, we wanted a dog that is beautiful and striking.

WP_20130726_002So, what breed met our criteria? The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Swissys are gentle giants with huge hearts and a strong connection to family. And they are pretty cute too. But they come with their own set of issues. We did our research and made our decision based on facts first (and then emotion) and feel very confident we made the right choice for our family.

Next up, Part 2: Selecting a Breeder and Being Selected

What kind of a dog do you have and what were your breed selection criteria?

Guest Post: Thinking About a Puppy?

We are out on our two week camping road trip, enjoying the summer sun in the Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. I have lined up some fun guest posts for you all.

This post is by our good friend and dog trainer Denise Stringfellow. We became friends after taking many training classes from her when Mulligan was a puppy and have enjoyed watching her grow her business, becoming the go to place for dog training and day camps in the area.

 

jimandmulliganAssuming that you are prepared to have a puppy in your life and that you have the time necessary for such a joy….er, challenge, then the next step is to go about getting one! There are many things to think about as you begin your journey, but the first and most important one is this: What type of dog matches my family’s lifestyle?

Why is this so important? Because dogs aren’t given up to shelters because they won’t ‘Sit’ or ‘Down.’ No, most often they are given up because that “adorable puppy” grew into an adult dog who became completely incompatible with the family’s needs, desires, and activities. For example, you might like the looks of an energetic Siberian Husky…but if you dislike dog hair, lead a sedentary life, and live in a small apartment – a Husky is probably going to be a disastrous choice for you. Or, you might love the beautiful red color and short coat of a Vizsla. But if you work full time, dislike cleaning flappy ears, and cannot commit to exercise the dog at least 1-2 hours daily (yes, even in the snow and rain) then this breed will drive you nuts.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help narrow down the breed options:

  • How do you live, are you active or not very active?
  • Do you have kids?
  • Do you work all day or will you be able to be home during the days?
  • What are your needs/wants?
  • What are your time /energy limitations? Are you able to take daily walks?
  • What are the reasons you really want a dog?

Once you have used these questions to narrow your choices, here are two things you can do that will help you to make an intelligent, informed choice:

First, run your breed preferences by someone you trust, and who knows you well. See if your breed choice makes sense to someone who can be objective, and if it doesn’t – be prepared to get a second opinion or reconsider your selection.

Second, read the book “Paws to Consider” by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson. Unlike most breed books, this one is arranged by owner lifestyle, rather than by dog breed. Among others, you’ll find good options for the City Dog, The Nine-To-Five Dog, and the Low Shed Dogs, including pluses and minuses for each breed type. There’s also a handy section I wish all my clients would read: The Not-For-Everyone dogs.

For more tips on getting ready for Rover, read more (link) https://www.riverdogk9.com/article/puppy-series-1-thinking-about-puppy

Denise Stringfellow is the owner of Riverdog Canine Coaching in Issaquah, WA. As Riverdog’s principal owner, and head of coaching and training, Denise has been improving the relationship between dogs and owners in the greater Seattle area since 1996. She shares her life with her husband, Scott, and a circus of three kids, nine sheep, six cows, two horses, four cats, and Doberman puppy, Kix.

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