Chapter 4
How To Know What Type Dog Is Best For You

Dog Traits


Behavior Traits

How Good a Dog is with Children. If you have a household with children or often host friends' or relatives' children, you would be well advised to strongly consider a child-friendly dog. The Breed Selector can be used to display dog breeds according to their level of friendliness with children according to the following five categories.

Naturally Excellent. These dogs are exceptional with children even if they have never been around them before. Dogs in this group are sometimes called "nanny dogs" because of they are willing to accept the poking, prodding, and other abuse that small children can deliver. These dogs may need to be protected from children rather than the other way around.

Excellent when Socialized with Children. These dogs can be just as child-friendly as the dogs in the first group, however for them to be this way they should be raised with children as a puppy. Unless breeds from this group are raised with children, as an adult they may not be as accepting of children as dogs in the first group.

Good with Older, Well-Behaved Children. These dogs will do fine with children older than about the age of 10 or who know how to treat a dog. But these dogs may snap or bite if they are teased or bothered when they are eating.

Questionable with Children. These dogs may or may not be good with children or they may be good with children in some situations but not others. Children should always be watched closely if they are around a dog in this group. An example of this group would be most terriers. Terriers are feisty dogs with an independent streak. Sometimes they are not interested in playing. In addition, they will not put up with being poked, prodded, or teased. They protect their toys and may defend them against a child who is only trying to use them to get the dog to play.

Not Recommended For Children. These are not child-friendly dogs. Children that are allowed contact with dogs from this group may be in a high risk situation.

How Loving a Dog is with Family. Some dogs like to spend time with the entire family. Other dogs are more aloof and almost cat-like or may prefer one family member to all others. They may still make good pets, but they prefer to have time to themselves or sit quietly in the next room while the family spends time together. However, some dogs are always interested in giving and receiving affection. Think about how much attention you want from your dog.

How Well a Dog Accepts Other Dogs. Some dog breeds like other dogs while other breeds are better off in a one-dog household. If you already have a dog and want to add another, look for a breed that gets along well with other dogs or you could have problems.

How Well a Dog Accepts Other Pets. If you already have a cat, a bird, or another small animal, you should think about a dog that is animal-friendly. Dogs with hunting instincts may not be a good option for households that have other animals.

How Well a Dog Accepts Strangers. Dogs bred to guard things do not trust other people very well; while some dogs are friendly with everyone. If you expect your dog to meet strangers regularly, look for a breed that likes people.

How Easy a Dog is to Train. Some breeds are easier to train than others. Dogs that are stubborn or independent will need more patience to train and a trainer with greater skill.

Intelligence Level. You may think a smart dog should be easy to train, but many times this is not the case. This is because many smart dogs like to figure things out for themselves rather than follow a trainer. Smart dogs may figure out how to open cabinet doors to get to their food. Most dog owners are usually best with dogs of average intelligence.

How Much Exercise a Dog Needs. A dog's exercise needs play a large role in how appropriate it is for your lifestyle. If you're a busy professional without a lot of time to devote to exercising your dog, you might already realize a high energy dog is not a good match for you. Conversely, if you're an active person who wants a jogging companion for your twice daily five-mile run, a dog with a high need for exercise might be a great match for you. Think about how much and what kind of exercise you currently enjoy and what, if any of it, you would like to share with your dog.

How Much a Dog Likes to Play. Some dogs are extremely playful, while others don't seem to know what to do with a ball or squeaky toy. If you're looking for a child's playmate or a dog for you to play with, look for an animal that has at least an average interest in playing. A dog that is always playful may seem desirable until you realize this means having a wet tennis ball dropped in your lap every time you sit down.

A Dog's Activity Level When Inside. Small dogs may be very active indoors, or they might be content with short exercise breaks throughout the day. Large dogs may be extremely active outdoors, but be relaxed or even sedate indoors. Size plays very little role in a breed's indoor activity level so don't equate the size of the dog with their activity level. Instead, look for dogs that match your lifestyle; and whether you want to spend the majority of your time with your dog indoors or outdoors.

A Dog's Activity Level Outdoors. Dogs need outdoor activity. Small dogs might be satisfied with a couple of short walks during the day, but high-activity dogs need space to exercise and play. A dog's activity level outside can range from short bursts to hours of sustained activity.

When outdoors, some breeds have specific containment needs. For example, large or medium-size breeds need taller fences than small dogs because large or medium-size breeds can climb or jump over low fences. The medium-sized Basenji, for example, can even climb trees. Small dogs need fences with no gaps because they can squeeze through very small openings. Most experts recommend a solid wood fence as best for a dog.

If you have a fence, consider the type of containment it can provide and whether it meets the needs of the breeds you're considering. Not only will some dogs climb a chain link fence, but some dogs will also dig under a fence that isn't secured at its base.

A Dog's Tendency to Bark. Some dogs are naturally vocal. Some hounds like to bay which may best be described as a bark with a little bit of howl mixed in. Many small dogs bark a great deal and are sometimes referred to as "yappy". Neither a hound that bays nor a small yappy dog is a good choice for an apartment-dweller.

A Dog's Watchdog Ability. Watchdogs can be great if you live in the country and want a dog to sound an alert when strangers approach. But for city dwellers, everything from the mailman to passing neighborhood kids can trigger a round of barking from a good watchdog. This can fray your nerves and annoy your neighbors. Think about whether you really need a watchdog or whether you'd rather have a dog that doesn't bark every time someone passes within 200 yards of your home or a squirrel 'invades' your yard. A watchdog will issue a warning but is rarely protective.

A Dog's Guard Dog Ability. Some breeds are naturally suspicious of people that enter their home or trespass on 'their' property. Guard dogs tend to be territorial and can be fiercely protective of their owner's property. This is a great behavioral feature in some cases, but may be inappropriate in a typical suburban neighborhood or other places where dogs interact with strangers on a regular basis. The instinct to protect their home and those it holds dear rather than just warn of a stranger's approach is the primary difference between a watchdog and a guard dog. A good guard dog will defent its family to the death carrying out its duties as a guardian.