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Dog breeds: choosing the right pet for you, your family and your lifestyle

There are so many dog breeds that it can feel like an overwhelming task to choose your perfect pet, whether as a puppy or at a rescue centre. You need to feel confident that you will meet your new friend’s needs and that you can enjoy spending time together in a way that suits your lifestyle. All dogs need care, exercise and training but there are definite breed differences so here are some top tips to consider.

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

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1. Best family dogs

Some breeds are known to be patient, tolerant and loving towards the younger members of the family. Famously, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Flat Coat Retrievers are an excellent choice. Some Terriers mix well with children too such as the Border Terrier, and Boxers are traditionally a loving companion for the whole family.

2. Size

Choose the right size of dog to fit your lifestyle. Whether some of the important factors to consider are your home, car, children, garden or access to outdoor spaces for exercise, the breed size that you choose will have to fit all of them. Consider who else might need to spend time with your dog, or provide care, if you are away on holiday, for example. There is often a lot of size variation within breed groups, so be sure to do plenty of research to make sure that you have seen them all.

3. A breed to match your activity levels

If you are looking for a sleepy Sunday then the Greyhound or Whippet is your breed of choice. They are known for their laid back nature and love nothing more than a ‘duvet day’. On the opposite end of the spectrum are some of our working dog breeds. Border Collies and Springer Spaniels are full of energy so, if you love the great outdoors, then you will find they are a willing companion.

4. Grooming

Some breeds need a lot of grooming whilst others are very low maintenance by comparison. Grooming may involve frequent brushing at home, or regular appointments with your dog groomer. Most breeds have their own individual needs; for example, Alaskan Malamute’s have a very thick coat, which is shed twice a year. Shar-Pei’s have lots of skin folds, which require regular and careful cleaning to prevent skin infections. Newfoundland’s have droopy lips and therefore dribble a lot.

When you have shortlisted your favourite breeds, try to meet those breeds in person. Discover Dogs and Discover Dogs at Crufts are great ways to meet different dog breeds and talk to their owners who know them best. Alternatively, visit your local rehoming centres to meet a wide variety of dogs that need a new and loving home!

5. Hypoallergenic breeds

Human pet allergies can be really difficult to manage and may prevent dog ownership. In this situation, Poodles and Poodle crosses (Labradoodle, Cavapoo etc.) may be just what you are looking for. They don’t shed much hair, are good family pets, and come in all shapes and sizes, including miniature breeds. Use the Kennel Club’s Breed Information Centre to find out which dogs do and don’t shed their coat.

6. After high intelligence?

For those looking to train their dogs to do a special job, intelligence is key. Mountain rescue dogs, drug sniffer dogs, agility champions and working farm dogs are some examples of the jobs that man’s best friend can undertake alongside us. Border Collies are very clever and also really enjoy working with their owners, however, Spaniels, German Shepherd Dogs and Pointers are also top of the class.

You may also want to think about what level of training you want to reach with your dog because some dogs learn agility or fly ball easier, whilst some prefer CaniCross or showing, amongst many other activities that you can do with your new canine friend.

7. Worried about health risks?

Some breeds are predisposed to certain diseases and, unfortunately, have a shortened life expectancy because of this. Brachycephalic breeds (those with short noses), such as Bulldogs and Pugs, suffer with breathing difficulties and a variety of other conditions. Giant breeds are more likely to encounter joint and bone problems, and many purebred dogs have inherent risk of certain diseases because of their genetics. The winner of the healthiest dog category must then go to cross-breeds. Our adorable mongrels are often the fittest and longest lived of all dogs.

8. Keen to stand out from the crowd?

If you are undecided, why not support a rare breed? Red Setters, Otterhounds and Lancashire Heelers have all fallen out of fashion in recent years and these breeds, amongst others, are under threat. A real individualist's choice. The Kennel Club has lots more information about vulnerable native breeds on their website.


Please follow the links for more guidance from the Kennel Club about buying a puppy or getting a dog.


Do you have more questions about dog breeds, or any other aspect of pet care?

Book a video appointment to have a chat with one of our vets.

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