A few months after my old dog, Lloyd, passed away in January 2010, I started the search for a breed of dog I thought would fit in with my life. I knew that my new dog would have to have lots of energy, but above all would have to be a breed known for their good temperament. I often have young children in the house and my next dog would have to tolerate children running around making lots of noise. After months of looking into many different breeds our family decided that an Irish Setter would best suit our needs.
My expectations of this dog were always going to be different to the reason I got Lloyd. Lloyd was a wonderful obedience dog but not too much fun to have around. He was an ‘old man’ even when he was a puppy- always very serious, not up for too much fun. This was fine for me before children, but now I need a dog that knows how to play and remains playful for many years.
If I have caught you while you are considering adopting a dog that’s great! Spend time researching different breeds. You can visit breed websites, often there is a club associated with each breed. When you see people with your chosen breed in the street, stop and ask them what their experience has been having the breed. I have even been known to stop my car and approach people walking their dogs to get breed information. Given the opportunity, most people love talking about their dogs.
Always look at what your chosen breed was bred for. This will give you valuable (general) information on what sort of behaviours you can expect from your dog. For example, Border Collies are herding dogs, bred to round up sheep and other stock. Behaviours such as circle running and intense focus usually occur. This can be good if it is you (their owner) or your ball they are focused on, but it can also be less than impressive when they start ’rounding-up’ other dogs or children.
Much of successful dog training depends on measuring your expectations and needs in a dog. Different breeds have different needs. My Irish Setter will, at the least, be a companion dog and playmate for our whole family. He will also have to be able to go running with me while I ride and run (training for triathlons). The Irish Setter seems perfect for this. Think about the kind of life you lead, your experience with dogs in the past, and your physical abilities. If you are honest with yourself you should find a nice breed match.
The breed of dog you really want may not be the best one for you. My two favourite breeds of dog (and one day I will have one) are Great Danes and Akita’s, I love the way these dogs look. Great Danes because of their size, I love big dogs. Akita’s because they have such a presence about them, they are hard to ignore- just beautiful. However, I didn’t feel comfortable inviting either of these dogs into my life at this stage. Making a calculated breed choice will really help you live a more harmonious life with your dog. Some people choose Border Collies because of their intelligence level- they want a smart dog. Border Collies are very ‘switched on’ dogs. However, this can seriously backfire if you don’t have the time to train or exercise (mental and physical) them.
Enjoy this process, it is wonderful looking at all of the different kinds of dogs on offer. What makes this part so fun is the anticipation of bringing a new member into your family. Be honest with yourself and talk to the whole family about your chosen breed. This is only the beginning!
If you have any breed questions/thoughts please feel free to post a comment. I have worked with so many breeds over the years I might be able to give you some insight into what it is like to work with them.