Every family is unique, so when planning to introduce a new (canine) member it is a good idea to sit down and write out a list of qualities you are looking for. What ages are any children in the house? How much exercise can you give a dog? How friendly does the dog need to be and, importantly, how friendly are you?
The American Kennel Association and the Breed Rescue organization have provided a handy shortcut in surveying pet owners on their experience on the traits of each breed. The survey found that the sleepiest dogs are Climber Spaniels and Grayhounds, brainiest are Yorkies and Scottish Deerhounds (followed closely by Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Icelandic Sheepdogs); the silliest are Fila Brasileiro; Bulldogs and Greyhounds are loners; McNabs are the most playful; Newfoundlands are the calmest and the most anxious breed is the Kerry Blue Terrier. The top ten friendliest breeds in the survey are, counting down, Lowchen, Belgian Malinois, Chinook, Parson Russell Terrier, Karelian Bear Dog, Thai Ridgeback, Biewer Yorkie, Entelbucher Mountain Dog, McNab, and Texas Blue Lacy.
There is, however, no such thing as an unfriendly dog, and as a potential owner you need to be specific: do you want a dog that loves people, or gets along well with other animals? Do you want a dog that loves to play, or is quietly affectionate? Are you worried about how the dog will react to your children, or whether they will go off and bite fellow joggers in the park?
Breeds that are considered generally friendly to strangers include the Beagle, Bloodhound, most varieties of Spaniel and Retrievers. These breeds are also generally happy around other dogs. Terriers, in all their variations, are known to be slightly high-strung and anxious. They can be quite friendly to strangers in a boisterous way, and are also energetic and loving pets. Hound dogs, whether they be Bloodhound, Basset Hound, Coonhound or Fox Hound, are loners, which makes them good company in a single-pet household.
Remember that when it comes to children, there is no absolutely safe breed: each individual dog, much like humans, has its own personality. Take your child’s own disposition into consideration when deciding – a bookworm is probably going to have more of a connection with a quiet Pug than a bouncy Boxer.
That said, there are certain breeds of dog known for their child-friendliness. Golden Retrievers and Labradors are by far the most popular family dogs, because of their gentleness and loving nature – particularly their tolerance when it comes to children. Shih-Tzus and Boxers, who are playful and devoted, are also popular, as well as Beagles, who have a particularly sweet nature, and Cocker Spaniels, who are gentle and affectionate as well as intelligent.
When picking out a purebred dog, keep in mind that the breeding process does create some problems down the track. Certain breeds have a lot of health problems that aren’t helped by the lack of genetic variety in being pure-bred. When selecting a dog, research the breeder thoroughly (talking to other owners who have purchased from that breeder is best) and find out the sort of health issues your chosen breed commonly has.
Further info: A great website to visit when trying to decide on a breed is Selectsmart.com for a ‘breed calculator’ to select the breed with the traits you most want, and also the Online Dog Encyclopedia at www.dogsindepth.com.