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Friday, October 12, 2012

Column: Lake tails

Finding the breed to fit your need

Dogs make life more fun.

They can put a smile on your face when you get home with their enthusiastic greeting. They can make you laugh as they run around playing. And they can amusingly annoy you as they constantly attempt to get your attention by following you around the house.

Dogs should add a ton of enjoyment to our lives, and most of the time, they do. But if you get a dog that does not fit your lifestyle and personality, joys of ownership can feel like a chore.

To avoid living with a dog that is likely to be less than perfect, it is wise to understand different breeds and choose one that fits your personality. It is important to try to make a good match.

Sometimes, we have no control over our pets as they adopt us when they show up at our homes and are kind enough to allow us to stay there with them. Most of these pets work out great because they are so grateful to have a home, and regardless of breed, these dogs will adapt to us.

However, if you choose to adopt a dog from a shelter (great idea) or as you search for a breeder to purchase a dog, it is wise to understand what different breeds have to offer.

There are more than 150 dog breeds registered with the AKC, and there are hundreds more that exist worldwide. Dogs were bred over the years, sometimes centuries, to suit a general purpose. Whether it is hunting, retrieving, companionship or protection, dogs were selectively bred for a specific task and temperament.

These inherited traits are now instinctual for each breed, which makes choosing the right one for your desired function essential to making a long-lasting relationship enjoyable.

The AKC divides dogs into seven groups; Sporting, Working, Hound, Terrier, Toy, Herding and Non-Sporting, which are relatively self-explanatory. Knowing what group a breed falls into should help give you an idea what personality a breed will have.

For example, if you are looking for a companion to watch TV with all day, getting a herding breed, which was bred for working long days, might not be the best choice. Similarly, it is probably not a good idea to get a toy breed to take on hunting trips in cold weather (although my Shih Tzu might argue that point). Doing a little research and understanding a breed's natural tendency is necessary to help decide which specific breed is right for your lifestyle.

The difficulty nowadays is the large number of designer-breed dogs available. It's also hard to determine which parent's personality a dog will display. Additionally, the pounds are full of mixed breeds that are produced from dogs that are not spayed or castrated. In spite of the fun of guessing the types of breed they came from, figuring out the personality types is difficult, but essential.

This is where a trained professional is extremely helpful in deciding if a specific dog is the right one. Your veterinarian's office and staff might be able to assist you. Also available at most pounds is a foster coordinator whose job is to help to ensure that the dog's personality will be a good fit for your home.

One of many reasons our pounds are full is that owners will relinquish their pets because they can not "handle the dog." Often this is because owners saw a puppy that is too cute and took it home without realizing what they would look like or act like as an adult dog. That's a shame because not only does one dog lose a home and get put in the pound, but another potential "perfect" dog also loses out on a good home from owners not understanding personalities of different dogs.

If you are looking to add a four-legged family member, do some research and get some advice from a professional. Knowing a dog's breed will help you better understand its natural instincts, which will help you successfully manage their behavior. This is vital to ensure that you keep you and your dog happy.

Dr. Brian Weitzman practices at Smith Mountain Lake Animal Hospital. He can be reached at 297-9188 or smlahospital@aol.com.