When choosing the right dog for you and your family there are several different factors you will want to take into consideration.
- Basic Instincts (Jobs they were originally breed for) “Group Class”
- Energy Level / Drive
- Biddability / Trainability
- Coat Maintenance
- Right Breeder / Rescue
What are the different “Groups” of dog classification
There are 8 current “groups” of dogs based on their “jobs” that they were originally bred to do. I have added in some of our more popular breeds in these groups, though there are quite a bit more!
Herding – Bred to be able to control movement of livestock
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Australian Shepherd
- Border Collie
- Belgian Malinois
- Border Collie
- Cardigan Welsh Corgi
- German Shepherd Dog
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Hound – Used for hunting via their scent work, stamina, and eyesight
- Basset Hound
- Bluetick Coonhound
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
Toy – Bred to be companion dogs and lap warmers
- Brussels Griffon
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Shih Tzu
- Yorkshire Terrier
Non – Sporting
- Bichon Frise
- Boston Terrier
- Chow Chow
- French Bulldog
- Shiba Inu
- Tibetan Terrier
Sporting Group – Naturally active and alert used for hunting and other field activities
- Boykin Spaniel
- Cocker Spaniel
- English Setter
- English Springer Spaniel
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador retriever
Terrier Group – Small feisty dogs that were bread to hunt and kill vermin.
- Airedale Terrier
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Cairn Terrier
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Parson Russel Terrier
- Rat Terrier
- Smooth Fox Terrier
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
- West Highland White Terrier
Working Group – Bred to perform jobs such as guarding, pulling sleds and water rescue.
- Anatolian Shepherd Dog
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Doberman Pinscher
- Great Dane
- Great Pyrenees
- Portuguese Water Dog
- Siberian Husky
- Biewer Terrier
- Dutch Shepherd
- Teddy Roosevelt Terrier
Within each of these “groups” there are basic instincts and behaviors that have been specifically bred within these different dogs to help benefit their jobs. Which needs to be taken into consideration. Each type of dog will be more inclined to do behaviors that might be problematic for your lifestyle. Herding breeds are more likely to herd your small children by nipping at their heels or hands as well as being more natural guard dogs and will bark at movement and noises. Hounds are extremely vocal and can cause noise complaints and their noses often lead them astray. Working breeds are larger and might be more difficult for smaller apartments or homes. Some are lazy while others have high energy. Sporting groups have large amounts of energy and require a good amount of exercise and mental stimulation to tire them out. Terriers and toy breeds usually require quite a bit of grooming and that is an added expense that will need to be taken into account.
If you are looking for a dog that is willing to go for long hikes, runs, adventures it would be best to go with an active breed from Herding, Sporting, Working, Hound or Terrier groups. These are dogs that are meant to be out and about. If you are looking for more of a cuddle dog and one that is more of a couch potato than perhaps think about specific dogs in each group: mainly toys, non-sporting, or hounds.
Part 2: Factors to Consider
When choosing the right breed for yourself, you need to take the size of the dog into consideration. Especially for those that live in apartments or rentals. Different rental companies have different size and weight requirements in their dog friendly housing. A Great Dane or English Mastiff can fit within an apartment, but be aware of how much space they will need to take up, elevators, stairs, etc.
Also, think of what traveling and activities you like to do with your dogs. If you like outdoor activities, indoor activities, flying with your dog on vacation, size can be very important. Smaller dogs are able to travel on planes in the cabin via a kennel where larger dogs would have to be placed in the underbelly of the plane with luggage. Smaller dogs can sometimes be at risk for winged predators. So leaving a smaller dog unattended in a back yard or when camping has its dangers. Larger dogs will take up more space when traveling in vehicles vs a smaller dog.
I personally like to do a lot of hiking, paddle boarding, camping with my personal dogs. I know my limitations as to how much weight I can carry out of the woods, lift out of the water, or space in my car for when traveling to camping spots. So my personal preference is dogs under 50 pounds.
Energy Level and Drive
What is energy level and drive? Energy level is what it sounds like, how active does the dog want to be? How much energy are they going to need to expend to be fulfilled. Drive is talking about instincts and grit. How dedicated are they to their jobs? There are several different types of drives that come into play depending on different breed jobs.
Take a herding dog for example, how committed are they in their “Prey Drive” to stand up to livestock animals? Will they go toe to toe with a sheep to a full grown bull? Parson Russell Terriers were bred to hunt rats and other small vermin around farms, so they have a very dedicated job of hunting and killing small game with fast movements. They will want to chase small critters around your house and might ignore you in favor of trying to catch them. They are tenacious and stubborn enough to kill an animal that might fight or bite back. Great Pyrenees are livestock guardians who were bred to be raised within their flocks that they are to keep safe from predators such as wolves and coyotes. They have a much larger instinct to guard their territory and while their energy level might be low, their drive to defend is not. Labrador Retrievers were bred to retrieve waterfowl from water or land and return it to their handler. They love the water and will want to be in it and will love a great game a fetch! Have a dog that wants to play ball constantly? He has a higher drive and energy level!
We need to be aware of what energy level and drive we are looking to get. Depending on the activities you are willing to put the time and dedication into. Make sure that you are matching a dog’s activity and drive level to match your own lifestyle. This is one of the number one reasons dogs are either returned to their breeders or to shelters, is due to the dogs activity level not matching that of their owners.
Personally, my latest dog is an Australian Cattle Dog. They are in the top 5 dog breeds to have a lot of drive and energy. She has medium to higher drive and wants to herd other dogs, children, and livestock. I knew what I was undertaking by being exposed to several and knowing that I wanted a dog to do sports with. We compete in FastCat, Dock Diving, and Scentwork. We are currently doing frisbee disc and herding as hobbies to keep her brain working and fulfilled. Sports are a great way of channeling your dog’s energy and drive. There are multitudes of different sports that are designed for different types of jobs for your dog.
Biddability / Trainability
What is trainability or biddability? It is a dog’s willingness to work for their owner and look to them for direction. There are dogs that are more genetically disposed to paying attention to their owners for guidance vs dogs that are bred to work independently. Oftentimes you will hear people say how “stubborn” their dog is. This is more due to their biddability vs being “stubborn.”
Livestock guardians are bred to be completely independent workers from their owners as they are bred to spend their whole lives with their herds and protecting them. They don’t need much direction from their owners once they have been trained for their jobs, which is usually best taught by an older dog. They will work their lives without any direction from their owners.
Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are bred to be very biddable to their owners and look to them for direction. They are also two of the “Fab Four” breeds for service work for this very reason. They are dedicated to their owners and are willing to learn many different behaviors to assist.
Australian Cattle Dogs are more independent and less biddable due to their desire to work independently as well as with the owners direction. The running joke is they take their owner’s commands, but they want to put their own twist on it. They require consistent and firm direction to ensure they listen to commands. They are bred to boss around 1500 lb animals all day and so require a dedicated owner.
Terriers such as the Jack Russel or Rat Terrier are usually described as hard headed or stubborn. They were originally bred to hunt and kill vermin on the farm and so they were bred for independence and tenacity. So while they are very smart, agile dogs and can learn alot of behaviors, it takes time and consistency to do so.
Grooming and Coat Maintenance
Grooming aspects are one of the major considerations you need to analyze the dedication you are willing to put into maintaining their coats is one of the most time consuming aspects of husbandry when it comes to some breeds. Different coat types have different requirements.
Smooth Coats are the shortest and close to the body, it lies flat to the skin making it smooth and shiny with no texture. Although easy to maintain, this coat type is high shedding. As the coat is short and continually growing it sheds in weekly to twelve weekly cycles. So might require deshedding baths every 8 – 12 weeks. These breeds would include Pit Bull Terriers, Frenchies, German Shorthaired Pointer, Smooth Jack Russel Terrier, Rat Terrier, Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, Dalmatian, and Great Dane.
Short coated dogs require the least amount of maintenance and are really kinda “wash and wear” type dogs. This will be any coat length that is below an inch in length. They are high shedding along with the smooth coats and so might require deshedding baths every 8 – 12 weeks. Some breed examples will be, Labrador Retrievers, Pudel Pointer, Australian Kelpie, Beagle, Basset Hound, Australian Cattle Dog, and Greater Swiss Mountain Dog are just a few.
Wire Coated Dogs require a little more maintenance. They are grooming using a process called “hand stripping” which is removing the dead hair from the root of the coat to allow new hair to grow in. This is done by hand with certain combs or stones to help keep the coat in top performance. You can “clip” or shave your wire coated dogs, but it will just remove the top layer of hair and can cause the coat to become dull and does not remove the root which stifles the new growth. Some of the breeds that require this are Airedale Terriers, Affenpinschers, Cairn Terriers, Wire Fox Terrier, Wire Jack Russel Terrier, German Wirehair Pointer, Schnauzer, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, and Wirehaired Dachshund.
Combination coats are a combination of long, silky coat and short, smooth coat. Coat is short around the face, front side of legs and body. The coat is longer on undercarriage, rear sides of legs, tail and some breeds ears. Seasonal shedding can occur with these coat types. They will need minimal brushing on their longer sections of their coats to keep them from having tangles and mats. Some of these breeds are Brittany, Flat-Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever, American Water Spaniel, Sussex Spaniel, Australian Shepherd, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Papillion.
Double coated breeds consist of straight and short to moderate, long hair.
They have a harsh outer guard coat and a soft undercoat that is thick and dense to protect them in extreme weather conditions. Seasonal shedding occurs year round with these breeds and can be profuse when blowing coat. Natural body oils can create ‘doggie odor’ in some breeds with this coat type. Some of the breeds within this coat type are Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Anatolian Shepherd, Siberian Husky, Collie – smooth coated, German Shepherd, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Finnish Spitz, Schipperke, Shiba Inu.
Heavy Coat is a combination of long, thick, silky hair and some short, smooth hair. Prone to mats, knots and tangles this coat type requires daily to weekly brush. Regular grooming ever 8 – 12 weeks would be best to maintain their coats. Several breeds include: Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland, Saint Bernard, Samoyed, Collie – rough coated, Shetland Sheepdog, American Eskimo, Chow Chow, Keeshond, Pekingese, Pomeranian.
Silky coat breeds have a combination of long, silky and short, smooth coats.
Coat is very short and tight around the face, front of legs, body and rear of legs. Long, silky coat on undercarriage, rear of front legs, front side of rear legs and tail. Again, long, silky coats can mat, knot and tangle if not groomed daily to weekly. Doing routine maintenance is vital to keep them from matting in sensitive areas. All of these longer length areas can be clipped shorter for easier maintenance. Breeds include English Setter, Gordon Setter, Cocker Spaniel, Irish Setter, Clumber Spaniel, Field Spaniel, English Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Welsh Springer Spaniel.
Long coats or drop coats are continually growing and considered non-shedding.
Breed standard for long coated breeds is as is, requiring only a trim. Brushing/combing is required at least three times a week otherwise mats, knots and tangles will definitely form. Granted if this type of maintenance is not feasible for your family, you can clip them shorter for less maintenance every 6-10 weeks. Afghan Hound, Bearded Collie, Briard, Old English Sheepdog, Skye Terrier, Lhasa Apso, Lowchen, Tibetan Terrier, Chinese Crested – powderpuff, Chinese Crested – hairless, Havanese, Maltese, Shih Tzu, Silky Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier.
Curly/Wavy/Fleece coat type is also considered non-shedding and is soft, curly, wavy or fleecy.Regular brushing/combing is required, at least 3 times a week to prevent knots, tangles, mats from forming. Grooming every 7- 10 weeks is highly suggested. Breeds include: Irish Water Spaniel, Afghan Hound, Skye Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Bedlington, Portuguese Water Dog, Lhasa Apso, Lowchen, Tibetan Terrier, Bichon Frise, Poodle, Chinese Crested – powderpuff, Havanese, Maltese, Shih Tzu, Silky Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier, Bouvier des Flandres, Old English Sheepdog.
Designer crosses are a different type of coat texture within itself because it is taking one of two if each of these coat types and combining them. This leads to even more difficulty when managing their coats due to them being a wide range of textures from almost straight with double coats to tight curls of the poodle. Doodles are a combination of our Curly coat and short coat which means it has the double layers from the lab and the curly texture of the poodle which makes it mat far quicker than either individual breed. They require daily brushing throughout their whole coat and require professional grooming every 6-8 weeks. Examples would include: Labradoodle, Goldendoodle, Cavapoo, Cockapoo, Aussiedoodle, Bernedoodles, Maltipoos, Sheepadoodles, etc.
Part 3: How to Choose the Right Breeder
What are some green and red flags for breeders? What questions to ask? How do I know if they are ethical?
We know that when looking for a new family member, you want to enjoy your furry companion for as long as possible. A responsible breeder will do all they can to help preserve the health and longevity of their breed. Not only will you be getting a wonderful new family member, but you will also be getting lifetime support from your breeder in case any issues arise.
Contract and First Right of Refusal
Ethical breeders will do everything that they can to make sure none of their puppies never land themselves in a shelter. They will require a contract to be signed between the breeder and the main owner of one of their puppies. One of the main clauses in their contract is to return the puppy back to them in case you are no longer able to care for the dog, no matter how old the dog may be, or what issues they have. They will then either keep the dog for the remainder of their life or will be responsible for finding them a new permanent home. Therefore helping to ensure that less dogs are landing in pounds, shelters and rescues.
Puppy Raising Protocols
Personally, I would suggest a breeder that follows some sort of puppy raising protocol such as Avidog or Puppy Culture and ENS (Early Neurological Stimulation). This helps create a puppy who is confident to take on the world. The litter is introduced to new smells, sounds, and textures daily. Introducing potty training as well as crate training. They are handled and separated from their littermates for small intervals to have more independence as well as being prepared for when they come home with you.
A responsible breeder will not home a puppy before the age of 8 weeks. Puppies learn so much from interactions with their littermates and mothers between the ages of 6 – 8 weeks. It is also illegal to home a puppy before 8 weeks in some states. Breeders are now more likely to hold puppies until 10 weeks of age.
Temperament Testing / Picking a Puppy
While we all want to pick out our own puppies, most of the time it is best to actually let the breeder decide which puppy is going to be best for your family. They will ask what you are looking for in a dog, what plans you have for the future and will be evaluating all of the puppies as they grow to get an idea of what their temperaments will be once they grow up. Usually they will give you a choice between two or three that might fit your needs, depending on how many puppies have been born.
A lot of breeders do the Volhard testing at 7 weeks of age. This is a test done at exactly 49 days of age and has been the most accurate test to test puppies for their developing temperaments. The criteria tested are; social attraction, following a handler, restraining the puppy, social dominance, elevation dominance, retrieving, touch sensitivity, sound sensitivity, sight sensitivity, and stability. The scores are from 1 – 6; 1 being more independent or having more determination and 6 being more submissive or sensitive. Depending on what you want to do with your pup, different scores are better!
Also, no ethical breeder is going to send more than one puppy home with you. They are very well versed in Littermate Syndrome and will not want to set any of their puppies up for what could potentially be failure.