Adding a Furry Friend: Breed Selection

IslaySelecting a pet, and in our case a dog, can be daunting and often it is entered into far too lightly and without proper consideration. The selection process can be based on a wide variety of considerations and the reality is, what may be important to you may not be to others.

Having gone through this exhaustive and rewarding process recently, I thought I would share our dog selection and adoption process in a three part series that looks at breed selection, breeder/lineage evaluation and preparation for adoption.

We consider the addition of a dog to our family in the same manner we considered having children. As such, the decision-making process for us begins first with a determination if our family is able to care for a dog in the same way we would be able to care for, love and support any new addition to our family. Once we have concluded that we have the capacity to do so, we evaluated which breed would be right for us, as well as what breed we believe would benefit from a life with us.

In selecting a breed, we used several criteria to help narrow and determine our selection. These are the ones we used.

  1. Family Dog – The breed had to be great with families, including young kids. We have two boys – 4 and 8 years old – and it was imperative that all breeds considered MUST be kid-friendly. There are many breeds that are family-friendly, and a great source of general information is the American Kennel Club (AKC) where they describe each breed’s traits and personalities. From there, you can dive deeper into each breed as you narrow your search. For our lifestyle, we need a social dog that loves being a part of the family. This is important, not only for our family but for the many families we socialize with. We previously owned a Labrador Retriever and she was the perfect family dog. We will own Labs for the rest of our lives but needed a break after Mulligan passed away this year. Read on to see what breed we ultimately selected for our next dog.
  2. Breed Health – While there are no guarantees that your dog will be healthy, you can improve your odds and go into the process informed and with eyes wide open if you are aware of the health issues that can, and have, affected the breed you are considering. While there are a lot of sources for this information, we leaned heavily on the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFFA) web site. Breeders of purebred dogs are required to report health evaluations to the OFFA that is then compiled online where you can look at overall breed statistics based on certain health criteria (hips, elbows, etc.). You can also access the health ratings of specific dogs in the line that you are considering (mom, dad, etc.). We looked at a number of sites like this which gave us a good idea of what health issues affect what dogs and they were very informative when deciding what dogs to adopt and what dogs should be avoided. Take a look at the OFFA breed stats and I bet you will be surprised at where certain dogs are ranked in overall health. Also read the stats closely – this is one list where you don’t want your breed to be at the top.
  3. Temperament – We wanted a happy dog (and NOT moody) with a strong connection to family. We are a family that derives constant joy from our dogs and, in turn, want the same for our dog. We didn’t want a pet that would ignore us since we won’t ignore it.
  4. Active – We are an active family, so the fourth criterion we considered was finding a dog that requires an activity level that matched ours’. For us, working and sporting dogs tend to be a nice fit given their desire to have a job to do and their affinity for participation in activities. We are very inclusive of our kids (dog included) in most activities.
  5. Size and Beauty – Both are equally as important to us. We are NOT a small dog family. We like big dogs. So we made sure our lifestyle could accommodate a large breed (or in our case, a giant breed). And finally, we wanted a dog that is beautiful and striking.

WP_20130726_002So, what breed met our criteria? The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Swissys are gentle giants with huge hearts and a strong connection to family. And they are pretty cute too. But they come with their own set of issues. We did our research and made our decision based on facts first (and then emotion) and feel very confident we made the right choice for our family.

Next up, Part 2: Selecting a Breeder and Being Selected

What kind of a dog do you have and what were your breed selection criteria?

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