by Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.
Is there a Breed of Dog that is Wrong for You?
Most people who own a dog can tell you why they chose to make it their pet. They probably did not just get any dog, they selected this dog. Many things may have influenced this decision. Perhaps it was because they knew a dog of this breed when they were children. Maybe it was a case of love at first sight with this little puppy in the pet store. Or it may have been the dog that seemed to select them when they visited the Humane Society. Fortunately, most times it works out that we choose the right dog for us.
But human to dog relationships are not always a perfect match. We don't always end up with matches made in heaven in our human relationships. Do you think we are guaranteed to do better in forming relationships with dogs? I doubt it. Therefore, is there a dog that is wrong for you?
Could we expand this and ask if there is a breed, even though you admire it and are attracted to it, that is wrong for you? Some people may believe that there are, but, I'm not so sure.
Well what about the size of a breed as a factor in this question. Suppose someone lives in a small apartment or condominium. Is it possible for them to own a St. Bernard, a Great Dane or a Newfoundland? Could such a breed live in such conditions? Absolutely, I have seen it happen. Some would argue such a large dog could never exercise enough in these conditions. I would counter that even a very small apartment is still a pretty good sized den for even the largest dog. I think the human inhabitants of such a spot likely will need to get more exercise than they get by moving around inside their home. It might require a little more ingenuity to St. Bernard-anize the living quarters, but certainly it's not impossible.
Let's consider temperament then. We know that some breeds are more nervous and high strung than others. If they are a bit unpredictable, startle easily, snap if alarmed, they couldn't possibly be considered as a pet for a family with young children, could they? That would mean a Spitz, a Yorkshire terrier, a Chihuahua would never make a good family pet, correct? I disagree. I believe the secret will be how a dog with such characteristics is socialized.
You need responsible adults in the home. They need to have good parenting skills. It would be best to start with a puppy. It is almost always easier to develop desired behaviour if you don't have to erase or eliminate undesirable behaviour traits that are already present when you begin. You can teach old dogs new tricks, but it will likely require a bit more work. With a pup you can start when they are in their primary socialization period, when they are less than sixteen weeks old. I think puppy classes and obedience training are a must. Every member of the family needs to be involved in the exercise. The children in the family will need to learn to be gentle with their pet and treat it with respect. With this kind of commitment and proper attitudes, it is not at all unlikely to expect a great pet from a breed with the previously noted temperament and nature.
What if we consider one of the working breeds in the dog kingdom? Say, a border collie, for example, or an Australian cattle dog. These breeds have been bred to work. To be happy and fulfilled it must be necessary for them to live on a farm, right? They will have to spend their days, herding sheep or nipping at cow's heels. If such activities do not fill their day, then surely they will go out of their mind with boredom, won't they? Really now, I'm very sure we can devise alternative means to challenge their intellect, occupy their time and keep them healthy and fit. These breeds thrive at obedience trials and excel at fly ball competitions. They can be great house pets.
My point is that dogs are very adaptable creatures. Don't be dissuaded, on the basis of breed stereotypes, from selecting an individual from a breed that appeals to you. I'll bet if you are willing to work at overcoming any obstacles that may appear to be in the way, so will the dog.