Find the right dog for you
PUBLISHED: 12:03 25 September 2012 | UPDATED: 09:46 11 March 2019
Jo-Rosie Haffenden,training and behaviour counsellor at East Sussex Dog Behaviour Clinic explains how to ensure your canine companion is your perfect match
Finding the right dog may be harder than you think. Research published by The Blue Cross in 2008 revealed that women seek the same qualities in a canine companion as when searching for a human partner.
As a dog behaviourist, I see many dog-owner relationships flounder due to poorly chosen dog breeds. Only a month ago I had to recommend that an 84-year-old client re-homed her 18-month-old husky who was so frustrated he had destroyed her home.
Though I think we can all safely agree on some basic ground rules for all types of companion – good toilet training, no leg-humping and so on – I believe that in order to find our perfect match, we need to think much more carefully about exactly what we want from a dog and exactly what we can provide.
The key is not to be sold on looks. In the real world with kids, jobs, cleaning and food shopping all contending for time and attention, the right dog has to fit in with your existing likes, dislikes and daily activities.
Toys: Pugs, King Charles Cavalier, Chihuahua, Chinese Crested Water Dogs...
Small and often not-quite-so perfectly formed, these dogs are often smarter than we give them credit for.
Match made in heaven? If you’re after a cute pooch and you have money to burn, a toy is the type for you. What you save on food, you often spend on vet’s bills due to their poor genetic make up. Even so, this type of dog often appeals as they are generally not as needy as other types.
Common problems? These dogs don’t need quite as much exercise as other larger dogs, but they do still need to be dogs (i.e. run, play, sniff and get dirty). Whilst often happy in a handbag, a lack of mental stimulation and poor socialisation leads to fierce guarding.
Bull terriers: Staffordshire Bull Terriers, English Bull Terriers, Pit Bull Terriers...
Excitable, tenacious, strong-willed and energetic, bull terriers are fun dogs to have around.
Match made in heaven? If you’re after a dog to make you laugh, bull terriers are comical, smart dogs who’ll keep you on your toes. Perhaps the most affectionate type of dog, cuddling and playing are their two highest priorities.
Common problems? The bull terriers do have a tendency to be aggressive with other dogs, which comes from an insatiable play-drive and a genetic predisposition to use their mouth to explore the world. Good, calm training and carefully structured socialisation can prevent this from occurring.
Gun dogs: Cocker Spaniels, Labradors, Golden Retrievers Springer Spaniels, Weimaraners
Energetic, excitable, agile and friendly, gun dogs have a reputation for making brilliant family pets.
Match made in heaven? Extremely energetic, gun dogs like to be involved in everything you do. A perfect match would be with an owner who wants a dog involved in all aspects of their life.
Common problems? If you are after a new family member and not a working gun dog, choose a dog with non-working parentage. Working gun dogs require more than family life can provide and under-stimulation can manifest in destructiveness, guarding tendencies and separation anxiety.
Hounds: Beagles, Bassets, Rhodesian Ridgeback as well as the Sight-hounds: Greyhounds, Whippets, Lurchers...
Although laid-back when relaxing, hounds are driven by their noses and eyes - when they catch wind of an interesting scent or sight their focus is immense!
Match made in heaven? Laid-back owners unite in their love of hounds.
Common problems? Tempting sight-hounds away from chasing small furry mammals can be a challenge, as can finding the right motivation for recall.
Guarding breeds: Poodles, Shepherds, Mastiffs, Dobermans, Schnauzers, Rottweilers...
Protective, loyal and intelligent, the guarding breeds bond very closely with their chosen people or person and are extremely eager to please...
Match made in heaven? Affectionate and loving, they can be quite needy and the right person will be around most of the day. They are extremely alert and need a predictable home environment where they can feel safe.
Common problems? Barking is very common in these breeds. A natural tendency to guard and to feel suspicious of strangers can be tempered with good socialisation, counter-conditioning and reward-based training.
Working breeds: Huskies, Border Collies, Bearded Collies, Australian Kelpies, Australian Cattle Dogs...
Jobs-worthy and high maintenance, these dogs don’t make the best pets. They were bred for a purpose and will need some form of job to do.
Match made in heaven? The ideal owner will have tons of energy, a love for dog training and lots of time to spend doing more than just walking.
Common problems? Working dogs in homes that don’t work them often suffer with anxiety-related issue which can manifest in many different ways but often in human aggression, suspicious and fixation behaviours (including car chasing).
Terriers: Jack Russells, Scotties, Westies, Borders...
Smart, intelligent and active, these dogs are the life and soul of the party and although sometimes small, they have a larger than life personality.
Match made in heaven? If you want a dog that’ll get you outside or if you work in the great outdoors and would like a full-time companion, you’re in for a treat.
Common problems? As little hunters these are dogs with a strong prey and chase drive. A good recall is worth investing in from the get-go! Dog-dog, and human aggression can occur and is sometimes the result of resource guarding.