You’ve already fallen in love with that puppy’s sweet face, her beautiful fuzzy coat, the way she licks your face. But before you give in to those big brown eyes, is this pup really the best dog breed for you?
“Nothing takes the place of planning, preparation and research by a family getting a dog,” says Clark Fobian, DVM, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association and a veterinary practitioner in Sedalia, Missouri. “It’s important to match a dog to your lifestyle and your environment—and then think about breed.”
Although dogs within certain breeds share characteristics, training goes a long way in shaping almost any dog to be the companion you’re after, says Fobian. Nevertheless, to begin narrowing your search for the perfect hound, here are suggestions of breeds that may fit one lifestyle better than another.
The best breed for runners, hikers, outdoorsy people:
“Look for a dog that’s meant to be active—herding breeds and hunting dogs,” says Nancy Scanlan, DVM, executive director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. “A Whippet is good, but you have to keep it on a leash. Labradors and retrievers are more reliable than Whippets off a leash.”
The best breed for swimmers, fishers, beach goers:
When you think beach, think about the dog’s coat, says Fobian: “Labs and Golden Retrievers shed sand and water. You want a high activity dog that requires regular and extensive exercise. The whole line of retrievers and setters would make good water dogs.”
Standard poodles like to swim too, says Scanlan: “But they’ll need a short kennel clip because their fur can mat if it’s waterlogged, and then it’s hard to get dry.”
The best breed for frequent travelers:
Think small and quiet, says Scanlan: “Dogs that can fit into small spaces are the ‘toy’ dogs: Toy poodles, a small Lhasa Apso, or Shih Tzu.” Chihuahuas are the right size, but they can be yappy, she says.
“It’s hard to imagine a breed that could not be trained to travel comfortably,” says Fobian. “You have to accustom them to honking horns and sirens and make sure they can settle down in a car.” You can help your dog do that by exercising him before a trip, making sure he’s not overfed or watered before the trip, and crating him with a favorite chew toy.
The best breed for grown-ups with kids:
“Labs and Golden Retrievers are great because they are so tolerant you can even poke them,” says Scanlan. “Newfoundlands are tolerant too and good at guarding kids, but they are huge so you have to consider the size of your household.”
The best breed for older adults:
“A large dog can pull an elderly person over if she is unsteady, so smaller dogs are better,” says Scanlan. “But if someone is older and active, a Jack Russell Terrier or a Schnauzer is a good choice. Miniature or toy poodles are intelligent, people-oriented lap dogs. But poodles and Schnauzers require grooming, so if a person can’t take them for that, a short-haired terrier is a good choice.”
The best breed for apartment or city dwellers:
For small spaces, smaller breeds are better, unless you like to walk a lot and are close to a park, says Scanlan. Otherwise, think toy or miniature poodles, or Lhasa Apsos. “A Cocker Spaniel is good choice too, although it has to be groomed.”
Fobian’s choice is a Boston terrier: “They are so adaptable.”
The best breed for people with allergies:
You could go with the Obamas’ choice: A Portuguese Water dog, says Scanlan: “The best dogs for allergies are hairless guys—the Chinese Crested that has a fuzz ball on top of its head, or a Mexican hairless dog–because they don’t have hair or dandruff, but [aesthetically], they take some getting used to.”
The next best are dogs with curly hair that don’t have a longer outer coat: a Bedlington terrier or a poodle.
The best breed for stressed or depressed people:
Some service dogs are trained to help people who have anxiety and/or depression, says Scanlan: “Research shows that people with either of those conditions are helped by having a dog they can touch. And dogs pick up on those feelings and comfort them. Labs and Great Pyrenees make really good service dogs.”