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PetPourri: Mutt Matchmakers

Which Breed is Best (for You)?

By Ashlee Verba

If you’ve never owned a dog but have juggled the idea of buying or adopting, or have owned and just can’t seem to find the right fit, you probably know the difficulties inherent in figuring out which breed will best match your needs and way of life.  Certain breeds have certain innate characteristics that fit a range of lifestyles–whether you’re a family of four with small children or an active couple who hike every weekend. To help you find your perfect canine counterpart, start your search by checking out personality profiles of the American Kennel Club’s top five breeds of 2009, and let the mutt matchmaking begin.

#5 – Beagle

Beagles are amicable, mid-sized dogs with a short, manageable coat. Because they are a social breed, they are perfect for children and actually do better with other pets. They are not notably intelligent, but their likeability can easily overshadow their lack of smarts. Innately adventurous, they’re in it for the long haul on your weekend hikes, and require a home with a backyard, not an apartment, for ample stretching and exercise. As hound dogs, beagles turn off their ears once something catches their nose’s attention, so leashes and sturdy backyard fences are a must. (Beagles would walk into traffic if their nose led them that way.) Beagles are stubborn (think chronic howling), become bored easily and lack the drive to please, which makes firm, consistent training necessary, but well worth your while.

#4 – Golden Retriever

Family dogs to the core, Golden Retrievers are a great choice for companionship and safety around small children, mainly for their intelligence, loyalty and mild temperament (if you can handle moderate shedding). Unlike Beagles, Golden Retrievers have a tremendous urge to please, making training easy and fun. Yet, even with all the training in the world, retrievers get bored when left alone for considerable amounts of time, and may find entertainment via your antique table legs.

Large, agile and somewhat adventurous, retrievers can naturally handle any terrain, and are especially fond of water. They can withstand long hikes, but don’t necessarily require an above-average amount of exercise, although, they still need to be walked and/or ran relatively often. Since retrievers are innately peaceful, they will not act aggressively toward strangers (intruders included), but will certainly play the role of watchdog by barking upon hearing strange noises near their territory.

#3 German Shepherd

One of the most consistent breeds on the American Kennel Club’s list, a well-bred German Shepherd is intelligent, confident, fearless, incredibly loyal, athletic and one of the best guard dogs. However, because they’re loyalty and protective nature are so strong, shepherds require a lot of socialization as soon as possible, especially with small children or animals. Fierce guard dog status aside, German Shepherds love affection from the owners they so devoutly protect and can get bored easily without it; meaning, if you’re the single gal-on-the-go looking for protection but can’t commit to providing adequate exercise or physical attention, German Shepherd is not the breed for you. German Shepherds have a thick coat that sheds a lot, and require an above-average amount of exercise, making a backyard and frequent walking an integral part of your dog’s overall health and happiness.

#2 Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terriers, better known as yorkies, are the only small breed to make AKC’s top 5, probably because they are a great option for people with allergies due to minimal shedding. Yorkies tend to exhibit unique personalities and will usually find a way to be the center of your attention. It’s easy to baby this breed because of its small stature and urge to cuddle, but establishing some sense of independence is necessary to avoid separation anxiety. Naturally inquisitive, they love to scurry around scoping things out and generally reject being constricted by a leash. With consistency, however, they can be leash trained. Though they are fairly low maintenance regarding space, shedding and low exercise requirements, yorkies can be difficult to housetrain, making a doggy door or crate training highly recommended.

While sometimes requiring a bit of socialization, Yorkshire Terriers can co-exist with other pets, even larger dogs. But, this breed prefers to be away from large, high-energy things that may cause a ruckus. Yorkies are obviously not guard dogs, but they do have the watchdog instinct of letting you know when company arrives.

#1 Labrador Retriever

Innately friendly, enthusiastic and good-natured, Labrador Retrievers make an exceptional dog for families. This breed is obedient, level-headed and sociable–albeit a bit more cautious with their companionship than other retriever breeds.  Labradors are athletic dogs that require an above-average amount of exercise, which can include swimming since this breed loves water.  They also love to chew. Making an abundance of toys and/or bones accessible will keep them from seeking out other things to inadvertently destroy. As young puppies, labs are incredibly bouncy and, while never intending to cause harm, have been known to knock down very small children. Labs tend to maintain this bounciness well into adulthood, so patience with their varying and usually high energy levels is a must. This breed has notable susceptibility to health risks, ranging from joint problems to cancer, so finding a reputable breeder that administers healthy pups is in your best interest.

More Popular Breeds

Still haven’t found the perfect pooch for you? Here are five more popular dog breeds you might want to bring into your family fold.

Boxer: This breed is notoriously active and playful, exhibiting a unique zestful and often funny personality requiring sufficient exercise. They tend to do well with children and families, have a short, manageable coat and are innately alert, making them great guard dogs.

Bulldogs: Most bulldogs are kind and likeable as well as stubborn and bold. They’re not innately aggressive, but they are naturally destructive. Training and assertiveness are essential, as bulldogs easily get the idea that they run things. Bulldogs do well with humans, even children, but may require socialization with other pets. Expect moderate shedding, a lot of snoring, drooling and doggy odors, but also a lot of affection and personality.

Shih Tzu: Less yappy and insistent than other small breeds, Shih Tzus are plum happy with little more than some love and attention. Playtime is all the exercise they need, making them a great option for seniors. Generally, they’re good with people and other pets, though they may require a little socialization initially. They can be difficult to housetrain and don’t shed much.

Miniature Schnauzer: A small breed that’s solid and sturdy, mini Schnauzers adapt well to most environments. They’re good with people and keenly aware, making them good watchdogs. Obedient and quick (training will yield a wonderful companion), lively and brave, a Miniature Schnauzer’s biggest coo is simply being a part of the family; try including him where you can. Minimal shedding is a great plus for those with allergies.

Pugs: Pugs are generally a submissive, easy-going and funny breed. They require little space and can only handle limited exercise because of their short nose (especially in warm weather). They are demanding of your attention, love affection, and tend to be great with children. They are, however, difficult to train, hyper, and very easy to overfeed because of their big, sad eyes. Shedding is notable for such a short coat.

With any dog you choose, make sure to research the source from which you’re adopting. Not only are there some unscrupulous puppy millers out there, but bad breeding may result in a hyper, unintelligent, skittish or otherwise undesirable version of a great breed.

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