It’s the time of the year when Christmas lists are written and many children put a puppy on their wish list. According to the ASPCA, out of the 3.3 million dogs entering shelters each year, approximately 1.6 million are adopted, 670,000 are euthanized and 620,000 are returned to their owner. According to the American Humane Association, the most common reasons why people relinquish or give away their dogs is because either their place of residence does not allow pets (29%), they don't have enough time, divorce/death, and behavior issues (10% each).
With the relinquishing and euthanasia rates unacceptable to many, it’s a good idea to research as much as possible before obtaining a dog. Dogs should be a friend for life, not a temporary companion.
Evaluating one's lifestyle and doing research on what type of dog breed that will be a good fit can be a challenge. However, there are online quizzes that help match a breed of dog to a specific lifestyle. These quizzes usually look at owner needs, size of dog desired, energy levels, care needs, temperament, and train-ability. Those quizzes and some prior knowledge of potential breed types can greatly assist in the search for a compatible match.
Dogs are available through pet stores, breeders, animal shelters, and sites including Pet Finder, ASPCA, and others that link potential pet parents to animal shelters and rescue groups. There is even an app for the iPhone called BarkBuddy that lists 250 thousand available pets from 2500 different rescue organizations.
According to the American Kennel Club, there are 339 internationally recognized dog breeds. Purebred dogs tend to be more expensive, but it’s easier to know the characteristics and behaviors for those breeds. It is harder to determine behavior for mixed breeds (generally called mutts), but with a basic knowledge of breed characteristics and a veterinarian’s or shelter’s determination of the dominate breed within the dog, potential behavior issues may come to light.
Before purchasing or adopting, learn more about the background of the dog, if possible. Training, living conditions, and parental temperaments are all contributing factors to a dog's behavior beyond natural breed characteristics. Abandoned, abused, and neglected animals will behave differently than a pup raised in a loving, safe place. Purebred dog breeding in the USA is a multi-billion dollar business every year and although many cities have recently cracked down on puppy mills and those who over-breed dogs, knowing a dog’s background will help with potential training or behavior issues.
Refer to the infographic below, for some top common breeds and their characteristics.