One of the most important decisions you can make about your new puppy is which one to bring home with you. Whether you’ve decided on a breeder or a shelter, a purebred or a mixed breed, you still have many decisions to make. Do you want a male, or a female? Do you want the biggest, or the runt? What breed are you going to decide on? And can you predict the adult personality from a puppy’s temperament, or are they truly “blank slates”?
Let’s start first of all with the question of breed. Different breeds were designed to suit different purposes. For instance, if you want a lap dog happy to lay at your feet the entire day with a single 30 minute stroll, you do not want to be considering a border collie. Likewise, a pug is not going to be very well suited to driving cattle all day. There are several different groups of breeds, according to the American Kennel Club. These groupings are supposed to reflect the dog’s original type and purpose. They are: the Herding Group, the Hound Group, the Terrier Group, the Working Group, the Sporting Group, the Non-Sporting Group, the Toy Group, and the Miscellaneous Group. Sometimes by narrowing down what category might fit your lifestyle best, you can narrow down the breeds that best suit your needs.
The Sporting Group (or the Gun Dog Group) was designed originally to hunt alongside man for food and for sport. Sight and Scent hounds were originally both included in this group, along with terriers, until the Hound group and Terrier group were seperated out. Examples of this group include the much loved Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever, the Cocker Spaniel, and lesser known breeds such as the Sussex Spaniel, the Vizsla, the Spinone, and the Kooikerhondje from the Netherlands.
The Hound Group is often subdivided into sight-hounds and scent-hounds, with a third grouping of ‘primitive dogs’. Some examples of this group inclue the Greyhound, the Afghan Hound, the Canaan dog, the New Guinea Singing dog, and the Bloodhound.
The Terrier Group was designed to ‘go to ground’ after their prey- and this is how they got their name as ‘terriers’. Dachshunds are traditionally classified as scent hounds, but as they were designed to go to ground after badgers, I think they should be classed as terriers. Most terriers originated in Britain, bred from various hounds. Some examples are: the Airedale terrier, the Yorkshire terrier, the Cairn terrier, the Jack Russell terrier, Scottish terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the West Highland White Terrier (the Westie).
The Toy Group was bred to be companions and pets as opposed to working dogs. Even so, many toy dogs also earned their keep as pest control and watch dogs (alerting with fearsome barking as opposed to physically stopping intruders most of the time). Examples of this group include the Pekingese, the Miniature Pinscher (which is not a derivitive of the Doberman Pinscher, as Min Pins predate Dobies by some 200 years!), the Papillon, the Maltese, the Pomeranian, and the Chihuahua.
The Non-sporting Group (also known as the Utility Group) which was originally supposed to be a “catch-all” group for those breeds that didn’t exactly fit the parameters of other groups. Obviously this ultimately failed, as we have the Miscellaneous group now, but it shows the ever-changing nature of the classification of breeds. Some well known members of this group at the Poodle, the Dalmatian, the Boston Terrier, the Bulldog, the French Bulldog, and the Lhasa Apso. Some rarer examples include the German Spitz, the Akita, the Schipperke, and the Tibetan Terrier.
The Working Group was designed to classify the breeds that worked for man in other ways than Hunting. The Herding Group was split off from the Working Group. Some examples of this category include: the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Newfoundland, the Rottweiler, the Husky, the Doberman, and the Boxer.
The Herding Group is the newest group to the AKC. This group includes those breeds bred to herd animals for man, and includes: the Border Collie, German Shepherd, Swedish Vallhund, Briard, and Australian Cattle Dog.
The Miscellaneous Group was designed to categorize breeds not fully recognized by the AKC and who have not yet been categorized into a group officially. Some examples of these breeds include: the Boerboel, American English Coonhound, Pumi, Finnish Lapphund, Rat Terrier, and Dogo Argentino.
The best thing you can do when narrowing down breeds is to do your research on breed tendencies and origins. Keep an open mind- don’t get set on one particular breed, especially if it’s a rare breed! Instead, try to narrow down your breeds to four or five acceptable choices. From there you can narrow down by individual, shelter, or breeder. Keep in mind your wishes- would you like a dog that practically trains itself, or one that challenges you a bit more? Do you want a dog who is stuck by your side all day, or a dog who is more independent? How about grooming requirements? How protective would you like your dog to be, and how would you like the dog to perceive children?
If you’re stuck, I would suggest taking a quiz of sorts to help narrow down your choices. If you have an iDevice (iPhone, iPod, or iPad) I would recommend DogShow from the Apple Appstore. Otherwise, you can try a breed selector on the Internet. I love Animal Planet’s breed selector, because it’s short, to the point, and also allows you to ‘opt out’ of answering questions that don’t apply to you or that you have no preference on. SelectSmart‘s breed selector has some questionable accuracy, but could be used with other questionaires and some good old research to help suggest some breeds you many not think of. One good thing about this selector is that you can determine how important each question is to you. However, to get your results you need to scroll down a bit, and it’s a little less than intuitive. Purina has a good selector (they also have a cat breed selector). I really like how you can opt out of questions and even more how it gives you immediate results an compare the breeds.
Take a look through some of the selectors. Did the results surprise you? If you already have a dog, was that breed suggested to you by the selectors? How did you decide on a breed?