Choosing The Right Dog For

You And Your Family -

From A Veterinarian's Perspective

Beauty is only skin deep. Read about choosing a dog whose temperament fits you and your family's needs here

 

You can read more about choosing a new pet through this link and this one.

Once you have made your choice, you might enjoy this one.

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What Does My Dog's Breed Tell Me About Its Health ?

Ron Hines DVM PhD

Lots of my articles are plagiarized and altered on the web to market products and services. There are never ads running or anything for sale with my real articles. Try to stay with the ones that begin with http://www.2ndchance.info/ in the URL box or find all my articles at ACC.htm.

This article was written by a very practical veterinarian. I have received many e-mails from people who differ with my opinions. My chief concern is that you have a healthy, well adjusted pet that will be a joy to you and your family for many years to come.

My clients tend to bring me their pets when they are sick or have other problems - so my outlook and experience with dogs is not the same as that of breeders or kennel clubs.

Also, you probably did not have your physician pick your wife or husband. And the Love your and pet share is not dependent on good health, longevity or temperament.

That said, my favorite family dog is a Labrador retriever.

When I was a child, it was easier to choose a dog – because so few of the “rare” breeds were available. Labradors represented the working breeds – dogs that were bred for a cheerful nature, outgoing personality good health, a will to please and a love of children.

They had relatively few breed-specific illnesses; they were not subject to skin problems and were relatively plentiful on the market.
This is because breeders of hunting dogs are not sentimental -they only breed dogs with attributes they want. Labs and other water dogs strongly imprint these positive traits when bred to another race of dog. So many of the dogs you see at animal shelter share lab attributes. Golden Retrievers are very similar in nature to labradors. My only concern with them is their long hair coats in hot climates.

A dog’s personality is highly influenced by their family genetics. That is, the most important factor in obtaining a loving pet is that it was bred from a dame and a sire that had these characteristics. This is why it is so terribly important that you choose your puppy after observing both the puppies’ parents.

If the breeder will not let you spend time with both parents, do not purchase that puppy! This is why you should never purchase a dog through a third party such as a pet shop. A conscientious breeder will be more than willing to introduce you to the puppy’s parents. All puppies look cute, but they will grow into adults whose temperament and health are quite like their parents. If a parent is aloof, shy, aggressive, fearful, dominant or submissive, hyperactive, mentally dense, or forgetful then the puppy will grow up to share these traits.

The same rules go for a dog’s health. If a parent has bone or joint disease, allergic skin disease, bad teeth and gums, ear infections, eye problems, separation anxiety, destructive behavior, tender feet (cutting toe nails), oily musty skin odor, coprophagy, liver, heart or kidney disease, bladder stones, asthma, fatty tumors, poor physique or coordination, umbilical and other hernias or another disease, then the puppy is at least ten times as likely to inherit these problems than a puppy from healthier parents.

Equally important, is the historic temperament of the bred of dog you select. It is easy to fall in love with a puppy the instant you see it. Often the weakest pup in the litter is the most appealing. But remember, you will have 12-18 years with this animal as member of your family. Do you want the vet bills that puppy will generate? Do you want the family tension it may provide? Do you want the guilt associated with owning a sickly pet? These are the reasons I never suggest a child be taken puppy shopping.

Choosing a dog is a decision best left to the most practical member of your household. I also do not recommend buying a puppy for as a present for special occasions such as Christmas and birthdays. Christmas and birthdays pass – but the puppy becomes a dog and remains with you. So when you go puppy hunting, spend more time with the parents of the pups than with the pups themselves.

Once you decide you would be happy with either parent, begin looking at the pups. Do not pick puppies from a litter where the first half have already been sold and left the premises - the best pups usually sell first. Do not buy puppies from a bitch’s first litter. ideally it will be her third litter by the same stud and you can visit some pups from her first two litters.

Do not buy the largest or smallest puppy in a litter. Look for litter size – generally the more puppies in a litter the healthier they will be. So when you have satisfied yourself on these general points, start looking at the pups themselves. I generally keep some cockleburs in my pocket that I can stick on the puppies I like so I can pick them out again.

Look for puppies that are playful and curious about your presence – not forlorn and apathetic. The puppy should come up to you and begin to play. It should be clean. There should be no fleas or tapeworm segments on the pup. The owner should willingly supply the name of her/his veterinarian and satisfied customers from prior litters.

Look at the general cleanliness of the operation. Don’t pay attention to awards, show circuit medals, excuses for problems (“her skin broke out yesterday because she got into some fire ants” etc).

The puppy should remain calmly in you arms for thirty to sixty seconds and not attempt to squirm away. The puppy should not vocalize, nip or scratch because you are holding it. Do not buy or accept a free puppy from anyone who apologizes for its behavior by stating that it or its parents were abused. Abuse does not account for an animals innate traits. Some of the most loving puppies and dogs at your humane society came from atrocious conditions.

Breeding animals conscientiously is not a very profitable business. If it is, it is because the owners are marketing the pups, or scrimping on something such as the quality of their diet, breeding a bitch too often, breeding dogs whose health or temperament is undesirable, ignoring medical conditions, buying their drugs at a feed store and administering them themselves, or going to the least thorough veterinarian in the community.

Because most puppy mill operations are seedy, their owner often try to wow you with brick-a-rack shelves of trophies and long A.K.A. pedigrees on their dogs. Or see them through third parties. I personally would not want a pet that would stand motionless for hours on a table before a group of dog judges. Paradoxically, some of these breeders refer to their cull puppies as being of “pet quality” and of lesser value that “show quality” stock.

I would not purchase anything from a breeder who shows this attitude. I particularly like to find breeders that still work their dogs in the dogs traditional role. Such as field trial Labradors, and working breeds that still work in the area they were intended. Show judges never look for the signs of a quality pet. They judge based on arbitrary, perfidious and trendy criteria that are often antithetical (backwards) to good health and temperament.

I am going to make a pitch now for adopting your next young dog from your local SPCA. First, what you see is what you get. Dogs that have their permanent fangs halfway down are approximately 6 months of age. By then, the cuteness of puppy hood has worn thin and you will see the dog you will end up with. I would insist that the shelter allow you to have a pre-adoption examination by a veterinarian of your choice. I would disregard most information provided to you by the shelter – their job is to place all animals in homes so that they are not destroyed. Their job is not to find the best pet for your household.

What follows is a list of many breeds of dogs that you can choose from. The list can never be complete because new breeds of dogs - like new fashions -are being thought up daily. Generally, the “rarer” the breed, the more subject it is to health concerns. This is because the gene pool of these rare breeds is too small. That is they are all inbred and closely related. They are often plagued by the same inbreeding-related diseases that plague small human communities – such as the Amish. My list does not include all dog breeds. But it gives you a good starting point for your search.

Asiatic Terriers :
These dogs generally have loving personalities. I personally do not find them as intelligent as non-Asiatic terriers but then people do not have pets for their intelligence and their owners love them dearly. My biggest concern with this group is that their life span is often shorter than other terriers (10-13 years) and that virtually all of them go blind. They also have a higher than normal propensity (likelihood) for ear infections and seborrheic dermatitis.

Pekingese
Lhasa Apso
Shih Tzu
Pug (Mopshund)
Japanese Chin

Fighting Dogs:
This is a perplexing group of dogs to comment on. The majority of them are loving pets with adults and children. The problem is that when they go awry, there are exceptionally dangerous because when they bite, they lock their jaws and will not release. They also have the inclination to loose their loving nature when they enter a pack of dogs more aggressive than themselves.
Exceptions are boxers bulldogs and Bostons who seem to have lost their fighting and negative traits. Do not purchase puppies when either parent is aloof or distrusting! Do not purchase them from owners who fight their dogs. If you purchase one of these breeds, accept the fact that it may never get on well with other dogs and may eat cats, birds, etc.

Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog
American Pit Bull Terrier (Pit Bull Terrier)
American Staffordshire Terrier (Bull Terrier, Pit Bull)
American Bulldog
Boxer
English Bull Mastiff
English Bulldog
Olde Bulldog
Boston Terrier
French Bulldog

Guard Dogs:
These dogs are just what their name implies. They guard you and your children from perceived threats by biting. A good-tempered dog of this class will differentiate the mailman, garbage man your guests, relatives, your children’s wild playmates and veterinarian from burglars, unfortunately some make the wrong decision. You need to be strongly assertive and in charge with these breeds so they look to you for decisions regarding strangers. If your wife or husband is passive or submissive to dogs, do not purchase one of these breeds. Passive or submissive people rarely overcome this problem by attending dog obedience school.


The German shepherd is one of the most intelligent of dogs. When purchasing one of these breeds, try not to obtain a pup from parents that are too large. Play close attention to the gait of the parents because all of these breeds have a tendency to hip displasia or better yet, from parents that have been certified dysplasia free. Some of these dogs have aggressive temperaments that make them undesirable as pets.

Chow Chows, Akitas Great Danes and large Rottweilers are not known for their long life span. With the exception of Danes and Alsatians, these dogs are also prone to eyelid defects. Be sure to check the parent’s eyes for mattering, inflammation squinting and infection and ask if corrective eyelid surgery was performed on either parent. Be sure the parents hair coats are glossy, no bald patches are present and the coat is odor free.


German Shepherd (Alsatian)
Great Dane
Rottweiler
Chow Chow
Akita Inu
Akita
Asian Mastiff
Deense Mastiff
Great Dane
English Mastiff
Malinois
Pyrenese Mastiff
Shar-Pei
Tibetian Mastiff
Argentinean Dogo


Giant Breeds:
I would not purchase a puppy of this group from any operation with over six females. I particularly like breeders that work their dogs in field trials, search and rescue, etc. Giant breeds that do not come from puppy mills or through pet shops tend to have wonderful personalities. The size of these dogs can make them a poor choice if you do not have adequate room for them. Be sure that the parents are not aggressive! My biggest concern with giant breeds that that they age so rapidly , reach senility sooner than smaller breeds and have such an abbreviated life span. If this doesn't’t bother you, purchase one.


Great Dane
Great Pyrenees
Saint Bernard
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog

Several readers have inquired why I did not mention Neapolitan Mastiffs. This is because, although it is an ancient breed, it was an uncommon pet in the US until quite recently. First, I must say that their are great individuals within any breed - but these individuals may not be the norm for the breed. Also, bloodlines within a breed differ greatly in personality. No matter what breed you choose, insist on interacting with both parents of the puppy that you are considering. Accept NO excuses from the breeder. Never purchase any dog sight unseen. Be cautious of dogs that were sold and then returned to the breeder. Neapolitan Mastiffs were bred to be aggressive guardians and protectors of their owners and their possessions. Unfortunately, the limited experience I have had with this breed has been negative. However, the dogs I examined were brought to me because of aggression and dominance problems as well as for quarantine after biting strangers. They may not have been characteristic of all Neos. I had to destroy two of these dogs when I could not modify their behavior and I hate to put down animals. My chief concern is the temperament of the breed. They were specifically bred to be large, powerful, threatening and suspicious. They have an enormously powerful bite. When they attack they can be lethal to other pets or humans. Some kill cats - or dogs of their same sex. Secondly, I have found that among larger breeds, the more the breed differs from the shepherd/wolf norm, the more likely it is to have health problems and a shorter life. I also do not suggest that pet lovers ever purchase a breed that is currently trendy and in vogue. Often these "hot" breeds have "feet of clay" and rapidly fall out of favor. Tried and true breeds are true for a reason. Minor problems with Neos are shedding, snorting, snoring, slobbering, drooling, gassiness and eye problems associated with loose and excessive facial skin. Like all giant breeds they die quite young and are prone to arthritis. They do not tolerate heat well. If you have your heart set on this breed, realize that you may loose some of your friends, have problems obtaining home liability insurance and incur the animosity of fearful neighbors. Definitely do not purchase or accept a Neo if you and your spouse are not dominant assertive personalities. You will be safer purchasing a Neo that is three years old or older because you can evaluate its adult personality before you accept it.

Miscellaneous Toy Breeds:
These are all intelligent, loving breeds with a propensity to become spoiled rotten. More than half my clients sleep with their toy breeds and most share their meals with their owners. They make wonderful companions – but will take advantage of you if you let them. They quickly learn the limits and borders of their behavior and generally mature out they way you want them.


American Hairless
Pomeranian
Maltese
Chihuahua
Papillon
Miniature Poodle
Toy Poodle
Schipperke
Bichon
Keeshound
Chinese Crested

Pinchers:
These are very intelligent and very emotional and active dogs. They tend to good health but may be snappy around children.
They do not do well when both owners work and the dog is forced to spend its days alone. They tend to have good coats with minimal oil and a minimum of breed-related diseases.


Affenpinscher

Doberman Pincher
Manchester Terrier
Miniature Pinscher
German Pinscher
Miniature Pinscher


Pointers:
Pointers are often kept by owners who hunt them. Hunters tend to be practical people who do not put up with bad behavior or poor health. If you can, purchase from a hunter, hunting club or field trial aficionado. Pointers are not the worlds most intelligent dogs, but they go the extra mile to please their owners and are loving and affectionate.


German Pointer (Deuch Staande Hund)
English Pointer (Engelse Pointer)
Portugese Pointer (Perdigueiro)

Scent Hounds:
The same general points that were made for Pointers apply to Scent Hounds. These are hunting dogs that follow the scent or spoor of game. Unless purchased from hunting sources, they tend to have more allergic skin diseases than other breeds so be sure that both parents are over 2.5 yrs old and have good coats. They tend to be very vocal so be sure your neighbors are either deaf or understanding.


Basset Hound
Blue Tick Hound
Walker Hound
Beagle
American Foxhound
Catahoula Leopard Dog
Dachshund
Deerhound
Blood Hound
English Foxhound
Swedish Foxhound

Schnauzers:
These are exceptionally intelligent, long-lived and desirable pets. They shed very little and do not have oily coats.
Certain lines do have more allergic skin disease and allergies to vaccinations than dogs in general. So be sure to check the status of both parents. They tend to be closely attuned to their owners. When the owners are nervous or depressed, these dogs will be too.

Miniature Schnauzer
Standard Schnauzer
Giant Schnauzer

Setters:
Because setters are used to flush game birds, they tend to be hyperactive. This is not a problem if you are a “setter or spaniel person”. There is just a lot of tugging at the leash, jumping up on the owners and slobbering going on. Setters, pointers and spaniels have similar intelligence. They have slightly more that the average number of allergic skin complaints. Some of these skin problems are food allergies but more relate to dusts and pollens in the air. They require a lot of skin care and grooming.


Irish Setter
English Setter
Gordon Setter

Sight Hounds:
These tend to be happy, affectionate, non-aggressive pets. The long-haired varieties such as Afghans, require a lot of grooming time. Many result from small show-circuit gene pools so the health of the parents is doubly important. Of the group, greyhounds obtained as “racing culls” have the best health and sweetest nature.


Afgan Hound (Afgaanese Windhond)
Basenji
Borzoi (Russian Wolf Hound)
Elkhound
Irish Wolfhound
Whipet
Italian Greyhound
Pharo Hound
Saluki

Spaniels:
See my comments on setters. Spaniels are quite like setters. They do tend to suffer from chronic ear infections so check both parents out for reddened, musty-smelling or discolored ear canals. Again, the “rarer” spaniels have small gene pools which makes them more susceptible to genetic diseases.


American Cocker Spaniel
English Cocker Spaniel
American Water Spaniel
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Toy Spaniel)
Brittany Spaniel
Field Spaniel
Irish Water Spaniel
English Toy Spaniel
Sussex Spaniel
Springer Spaniel ( English Springer)
Springer Spaniel (Welsh Springer Spaniel)
Tibetian Spaniel
Welsh Springer Spaniel

Terriers:
Like schnauzers, these are exceptionally intelligent, long-lived and desirable pets. They shed very little and do not have oily coats. Also like schnauzers, certain lines do have more allergic skin disease and allergies to vaccinations than dogs in general. They also seem to have a greater incidence of epilepsy. So be sure to check the status of both parents. They tend to be closely attuned to their owners. When the owners are nervous or depressed, these dogs will be too. Most of mine have trained their owner into giving them people rather than dog food. These dogs will loose their teeth and develop strong bad breath unless you brush their teeth or have a veterinarian clean them every year.


Aberdeen Terrier
Airedale Terrier
Australian Terrier
Dandie Dinmont Terrier
Fox Terrier
Wirehair Fox Terrier
Silky Terrier
Maltese Terrier
Yorkshire Terrier
Jack Russell Terrier
Kerry Blue Terrier
Lakeland Terrier
Manchester Terrier
Pit Bull Terrier
Patterdale Terrier
Portugese Terrier Pointer
Rat Terrier
Scottish Terrier (Aberdeen Terrier)
Sealyham Terrier
Tchiorny Terrier
Tenterfield Terrier
Skye Terrier
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Tibetian Terrier
Welsh Terrier
West Highland White Terrier
Black Russian Terrier
Cairn Terrier
Irish Tgerrier (Terrier)
Norfolk Terrier
Bedlington Terrier

Upland Retrievers:
Because these dogs are still often hunted, their general health and temperaments are good. They have great stamina, mellow dispositions and make great pets.


Weimaraner
Vizsla
Dutch Partrige Dog

Water Retrievers:
Like the upland retrievers, they are often still hunted so their general health and temperaments are good. I would not purchase any of these dogs from show breeders – they are selecting for the wrong traits. The exception would be the Standard Poodle because these are rarely hunted.


Flat Coated Retriever
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Labrador Retriever
Golden Retriever
Newfoundland
Standard Poodle
Portugese Waterhound (Water Dog)
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German Short Hair Pointer

Work Dogs:
My suggestion is that anyone living south of Kansas purchase only shorthaired dogs. Many of these breeds were bred for cold climates. They suffer greatly in my portion of Florida. A second alternative that few of my clients accept is to have the dogs sheared three times a year. Dalmatians can be shy and distrusting so check their parents out well. All these breed really try to please their owners. They are quite intelligent but do not live as long as the terriers.


Siberian Husky
Alaskan Malamute
German Shepherd (Alsatian)
American Eskimo Dog
Spitz

Samoyed
Dalmatian
German Shepherd Dog
Samoyed
Finnish Spitz
Caucasian Mountain Dog
Neapolitan Mastiffs
Belgian Malinois
Old German Shepherd Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog
Appenzeller Mountain Dog (Cattle Dog)
Finnish Lapphound

Bouvier des Flandres

Sheepdog Herders:
Again, many of these dogs have long, oily hair coats, which are unsuitable for hot climates. All the sheepdogs are very active and attune to their owners. They love to please. They are inquisitive and brave. They make excellent pets for children – worrying about them constantly as they formerly worried about the sheep in their charge. Do not pick puppies from parents that are oversized or near the maximum allowable size for the breed.


Atlas Sheepdog
Australian Shepherd
Queensland Blue Heeler
American Tkundra Shepherd
Anatolian Herder (Analolian Shepherd)
Atlas Sheepdog (Aidi)
Australian Cattle Dog
Australian Shepherd
Azores Cattle Dog
Dutch Shepherd Dog
English Shepherd Dog Ainu Dog
Icelandic Sheepdog
Belgian Sheepdog
Lancashire Heeler
Old English Sheepdog
Picardische Herder
Pyrenese Shepherd
Pyrenese Shepherd
Old German Shepherd Dog
Sheltie (Shetland Sheepdog)
Collie (Schotse Herder)
Bearded Collie
Border Collie
Tervuerense Herder (Tervueren)
Polish Tatra Sheepdog
White Shepherd Dog
Yslandse Herdershond
Akbash
Australian Kelpie
Karelian Bear Dog
Briards