Choosing a dog breed can be overwhelming considering we have at least 250 registered purebred dog breeds in Australia. And new breeds are being introduced every year. One of the lesser known dog breeds introduced to Australia in recent years is the hairless Xoloitzcuintli.
So what to choose? It’s particularly important not to choose a dog breed because it’s fashionable or it looks cute or macho. Instead, choose a dog based on key aspects of your lifestyle and the characteristics of various dog breeds. However, all dogs are individuals and their behaviour can still vary greatly within the breed.
7 things to consider when choosing a dog breed
- Breed traits – Purebred dogs are classified into seven dog breed groups. Research the breed’s original function of the breed to better understand its natural traits. Think and think again about the heritage of the breed when choosing a dog breed. If you take on a breed originally bred to alert, guard, tear things, dig underground, herd sheep or chase, you can get frustrated when the dog starts doing these things.
- Genetic health disorders – you need to research the potential genetic disorders of the breed. For example, Pugs, Bulldogs and Boxers, for instance, have significant genetic health disorders that could become a heartache and financial burden to you, not to mention suffering for the dog. Make sure your pet insurance policy has sufficient cover for common conditions affecting the breed!
- Energy level – all dogs need daily exercise, however, different breeds have different exercise needs. Having researched the original function of the breed, you will have a better understanding of the breed’s energy level and exercise needs. Animal behaviourist Dr Joanne Righetti says ‘one of the most common mismatches relates to energy. Some breeds, such as Labradors, are more adaptable when it comes to the energy scale, but a working dog breed or some of the small energetic breeds, such as Jack Russells, will not be content lying around watching TV!’ If you are not a very active person, then a Greyhound that sleeps 20 hours a day and only requires a short run daily could be for you. Originally bred to chase, don’t let a Greyhound off the lead in an unfenced dog park. If you live an apartment then an active working breed like a Kelpie or Border Collie is unsuitable. You might want to think about getting a retired Greyhound or low shedding breed like a Cavoodle (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel x Poodle). Check out six dog breeds suitable for apartment living.
- Trainability – all dogs can be trained but some are more inclined to learn good manners quicker than others. This relates to the original function of the breed. Working breeds such as Border Collies and Kelpies will learn quickly because they were bred to follow human instructions. Gundogs were bred to work in a group of people or dogs and remain under voice or whistle control even when far away from their owners. Different dog breeds will enjoy different dog sports. When training your puppy or adult dog, use positive reinforcement dog training methods.
- Feeding and nutrition – does the breed need a special diet? Some dog breeds have a tendency to develop food and environmental allergies, or have a serious disease, such as heart, kidney, liver or urinary tract, and require a lifelong special diet.
- Coat and grooming – does the breed shed or need regular grooming? Think about how much time you want to spend grooming. Low shedding breeds usually need grooming done by a professional groomer around every six weeks.
- Purebreed or crossbreed – around 50 percent of owned dogs are purebred and the remainder 50 percent are crossbred. There are pros and cons for purebred and crossbred dogs.
Tips on choosing a dog breed
- Most popular dog breeds in Australia
- Talk to a dog behaviourist or a professional dog trainer about your lifestyle and needs
- Talk to a veterinarian about potential breed health issues
- Visit your local shelter where the staff know about the pros and cons of different breeds. If you are adopting, ask if the dog has had a behavioural assessment. Download our Fact Sheet: Questions to ask a re-homing organisation.
- Go to a dog show and talk to the various dog breed clubs
- Find a dog club near you by contacting ANKC‘s State member bodies
- Search for a breed specific rescue group or contact dog clubs if you want to adopt a particular breed