About two weeks ago I received an e-mail from someone struggling with their recently purchased “Miniature Aussie” (not purchased from a reputable breeder). In this email she admitted she had no intention on getting a dog but saw a photo of this amazingly beautiful, fluff-ball of a an Aussie with the most beautiful green eyes. Although she was an experienced dog owner, she had never owned a herding breed or working breed. Her choice of this dog was 100% based on the look–and superficial look at that.
There are certainly aspects of the look of a dog that are important considerations when selecting a new family member. Size, coat type, and body structure are certainly important things to consider when selecting a dog. Since I knew I wanted to compete in sport events with my dogs… I knew getting a short-squat dog like an English Bulldog would probably not be the best choice (I grew up with bulldogs and love the breed dearly).
Size: Are you prepared to lose an entire couch to a Great Dane or Greyhound (how about bed space)? Do you have the floorspace to be able to navigate around either of those dogs? Do you have young children (or are planning to have children) who may be overwhelmed by a 90lb lab (or be too much for a small Chihuahua)? Are you looking for a dog large enough to rough and tumble with?
There are a lot of things to consider when you are choosing desirable size for your dog. The bigger the dog, the more they eat and the more they poop–is one thing to consider 🙂 . I think it’s important to consider your fitness/age/strength–are you physically able to handle a dog of a certain size? Now, I’m not saying that a person who is perhaps older and less sturdy can’t handle a large breed, just something to think about–dogs age like we do and while I’d be able to lift or carry a 70lb elderly dog who has special mobility needs, I know my mother would not. There are some financial considerations as well–medications for lager dogs are often more expensive, items like crates, collars, food bowls are more expensive for larger dogs, and some medical procedures will cost more. How big is your car–if you are driving a two-door compact car, you may have to reconsider getting that English Mastiff (or get a bigger car).
Coat Type: Blowing coat, regular professional grooming, daily brushing, non-shedding, dense undercoat–these are all things to consider about the coat type of a dog/breed. Coat type really is something to consider when deciding what you’d like in a dog. There are financial implications, health implications, clean-house implications, and time commitment implications based on the coat type.
If you get a dog like a Husky, you should love to have clumps of fur covering your floor twice a year, when they blow their coat, and have an affinity for a general coating of fur (unless you like to vacuum daily and invest in an undercoat brush/comb). Don’t want to spend a pretty penny on professional grooming every 6-8weeks, a Shih Tzu or Lhasa Apso are probably not the best choices (unless you invest some time/money into getting the tools and learning to groom the dogs yourself). Don’t want to commit to daily brushing to prevent matting…. you may want to consider a smooth coated dog.
On this note, I wanted to add in there are no truly hypoallergenic breeds. There are breeds who tend to be less of an allergy irritant to some individuals but it’s not a guarantee. If you or someone in your immediate family has allergies, the best solution, before committing to buying a dog, is to go spend time with the actual dog you are interested in. Some people may have mild allergies but they are very sensitive–so even a dog breed that typically doesn’t cause allergic reactions would cause one in this person… other folks may have severe allergies but are not as sensitive–these folks have severe allergies but are not kicked off by breeds typically less of an allergy irritant. The number of dogs who end up in shelters because of known allergies is absolutely unacceptable–if you or someone in your family has an allergy you really need to take it seriously.
Body Structure: Once you figure out what you’d like to do with your dog, in terms of activities, you can use those desires to help choose a dog with an appropriate body structure. Like I said before, I knew when I got my own dogs I wanted to do some type of sport–at the very beginning, I was unsure exactly which, but I wanted to be active with my dog. Growing up with English Bulldogs, I loved the breed but knew they would not be the best fit for me. I wanted a dog who was lean, tall, and had an easier time breathing.
Once you think about and decide on the size, body structure and coat types you are interested in (of know what you don’t want), you can absolutely consider aesthetic features (like color pattern, ear set, or eye color) to make a final decision. I just think it’s important that these features be secondary in the decision making process–lest you be stuck with a Mini Aussie who does not fit your lifestyle at all, in any way shape or form, but is a real looker.
**This post was initially NOT supposed to be the first post in this series. I didn’t like the way the “purpose” post turned out so that one got put on hold momentarily.