Getting a Dog

How to choose a dog breed that is right for you?

how to choose a dog breed

So you have already decided to get a dog, have thought about rescue or not as well as whether a mix breed, crossbreed or pure breed is right for you. How then do you choose the dog breed that is right for you? There are more than 200 breeds in the world, and that is before you look at crossbreeds!

It is important to remember that breed profiles are stereotypes. Individual dogs can vary substantially from that stereotype. This can be a mix of nature(genetics) and nurture(how they are raised).

It is not just looks, instant reward or fur

How to choose a dog breed is not mainly about;

  • They are just so darn cute!
  • There are puppies available right now!
  • They won’t shed their hair everywhere!

Just like with people, you need to look beyond good looks. This is super hard to do when puppies are so adorable! The most important considerations are temperament, lifestyle fit and health. There are lots of quizzes¬†you can take online they may help narrow down the choice. The best “how to choose a dog breed” quizzes are Pet Positives and DogTime¬†but don’t expect to get the¬†same results!

how to choose a dog breed
Golden Retrievers are renowned family dogs

Temperament of different dog breeds

Selecting a dog breed with the right temperament is the most important factor to consider.

  • How good are they with children and other pets? Golden Retrievers are renowned as being great with kids.
  • Are they independent or want to be with you every second of the day? Chow Chows are very independent, whereas Weirmaramas want to be leaning against you all day.
  • Are they large or stubborn and so need an experienced owner? Dogue de Bordeaux’s size¬†needs an¬†experienced owner, as can a Beagle’s¬†single-minded focus on smell.
  • Are they intelligent and require lots of mental stimulation? If Border Collies become bored, they can get destructive. Say goodbye to your favourite shoes!
  • Are they known to be aggressive to strangers or other dogs? Many of the Spitz type dogs were originally working or guard dogs. They need extensive early socialisation to avoid problems.
how to choose a dog breed
Border Collies need mental and physical exercise

Lifestyle factors important to choosing a dog breed

Make sure your lifestyle and your dog’s match now and in the future. This is an essential factor in how to choose a dog breed as a mismatch will create problems.

  • How active are you? Some dogs like Basset Hounds don’t need much exercise. Others like Koolies go crazy if they don’t get multiple workouts in each day. If you can not meet their¬†exercise requirements, are you going to get others to help satisfy their needs?
  • Do you live in a house with a large yard or an inner city apartment? While Boston Terriers are great for apartments, Cattle Dogs love a large yard.
  • How much time will they spend away from people and will they be with another dog? Whippets like to have another dog as company, but are happy to be alone for long periods. Miniature Poodles are prone to separation anxiety if left alone for long periods. If you will be away for long periods, will they get walked during the day, or attend doggy daycare?
how to choose a dog breed
Boston Terriers are popular apartment dogs

The health of different dog breeds

Pay close attention to the health problems each breed is more likely to get. You want to know all this in advance to make an informed decision.

  • Some breeds are inherently healthier than others. This can be expressed in different ways. Average life expectancy tells part of the story. Jack Russels live twice as long as Bernese Mountain Dogs who are plagued with cancer, arthritis and other joint problems.¬† Insurance premiums provide more information on the average health of breeds. A Chihuahua’s insurance cost is almost half that each month of a French Bulldog.
  • Some breeders are better than others. Each breed tends to have some specific health problems they are more likely to be susceptible. Pugs with eye and breathing¬†problems, Great Danes with heart and potential for bloat, Dachshunds with back problems. Good breeders consider these problems and select to minimise these risks. Genetic testing is growing in popularity to help breeders improve their dog’s health.
  • Some of the most popular breeds in Australia are squished faced(Brachycephalic)¬† like Pugs, Frenchies¬†& Bulldogs. Their flat faces tend to make them look more human, and they often come with lots of irresistible wrinkles. If you are interested in this type of dog, then check out RSPCA’s education campaign¬†as they can face some tough health problems.
how to choose a dog breed
Frenchies are gorgeous but tend to have breathing problems.

Once you have a Short-List

  • Join the breed specific facebook groups. This gives you a great insight into owning the breed as people share the good and the bad, and often ask for advice on issues they are facing with their dog. This will give you the inside information on if a breed is right for you.
  • Stalk dogs of that breed on Insta or In Real Life at the local dog park. This way you can meet dogs and have conversations with owners. This is a great way how to choose a dog breed.
  • Remember that owning a dog is a big commitment that can last 15+ years. So be prepared to invest time in research up front to choose the right breed for you.


The next piece in this “Getting a Dog” series will focus on how to choose the right breeder.

Check out other articles on getting a dog, rescue dogs and breed profiles.

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Written by Doug Spiegelhauer
Doug never had a dog growing up but as soon as he stopped moving around knew he needed a dog in his life. Enter Snoop the Beagle. Doug worked for 7 years designing and making dog treats and food for some of Australia's best brands. Now a Co-Founder of Scratch Pet Food.