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How to Select a Dog Breed by Temperament

by Susan Grindstaff
  • Overview

    Dog breeds come in many different varieties and they vary as much in temperament as they do in appearance. When considering the purchase of a new puppy, many people don't realize how much behavioral difference there is among breeds and they frequently assume that upbringing is the primary factor that will determine their dog's personality. Obviously, proper training does matter, but understanding a breed's basic temperament will tell you what kinds of issues you will likely face when raising your puppy. Temperament can often be a more important concern than size or anything else when determining if a puppy will fit in with your family.
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  • Step 1

    Take an inventory of what you are looking for in a new pet. Your own personal situation will be the most important factor in deciding what kind of dog you need. Do you have children? Do you have a large or small property? Some dogs are natural protectors, like Rottweilers and bullmastiffs, while others are friendly with everybody, like the Irish setter. Some dogs are extremely energetic, like the Australian cattle dog, while others, like the chow-chow, don't require much exercise at all. You'll also need to consider issues like barking and neighbors.
  • Step 2

    Make a list of the things you are looking for in a new dog. Make sure to include every possible consideration.
  • Step 3

    Research all the different dog breeds. You may want to try purchasing a book, or you may want to take advantage of the Internet. Animal Planet has a dog breed directory on its website that is very comprehensive, and the American Kennel Club's "Complete Dog Book" is a wonderful source of info. Look for breeds that match as many of your criteria as possible. You'll find that different categories of breeds have broadly similar temperaments. Working breeds--a broad group, including everything from guardians to sled dogs--tend to be a little more stubborn and tough-minded. Terriers are often bossy and a little aggressive. Hounds are usually quite laid back and friendly, but sometimes quite difficult to train. Each category--from toys to non-sporting dogs--has its own unique set of tendencies and that should help you narrow down your search.
  • Step 4

    Look into breed histories. Knowing what a breed was originally used for is usually a very good way to understand its behavior patterns. A dog that was bred to guard flocks will usually be more prone to protective behavior, while a breed that was mostly used for hunting may have a tendency to chase small animals. Different backgrounds can lead to very different kinds of pets, so this information is quite crucial.
  • Step 5

    Seek out personal testimonials on the breeds that seem to be the best fit. One good way to do this is to contact a breeder and ask them questions. Most of the better breeders are genuinely concerned with making sure their dogs are placed in good homes. They'll be very honest and straightforward about the kind of behavior you can expect. In order to verify your information, you should talk to more than one breeder. You'll find that different breeders have slightly different opinions, but you'll also see obvious patterns. Another way to get personal testimonials is to take advantage of the Internet. It's very easy these days to find personalized accounts of owning different breeds online.
  • Step 6

    Take all the information gathered from the previous steps and make your choice based on the breed that seems like the best match.
  • Step 7

    Buy your new pet from a reputable breeder or get it from a shelter.
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  • Phone Internet connection Book on dog breeds
  • Phone
  • Internet connection
  • Book on dog breeds
  • Remember that temperament isn't the only thing to concern yourself with. It's terribly important, but it must be balanced with other concerns like size.
  • Remember that temperament isn't the only thing to concern yourself with. It's terribly important, but it must be balanced with other concerns like size.

References & Resources