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
Once you have made your choice, you might enjoy this one.
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.
had relatively few breed-specific illnesses; they were not subject
to skin problems and were relatively plentiful on the market.
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.
Blue Blood Bulldog
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.
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.
Bouvier des Flandres