Choose your breed carefully

Your pup’s breed can determine whether or not you will dig your dog. When choosing a pooch, don’t be impetuous.

Through selective breeding, humans have created an incredibly diverse canine species. Breeds from the cheeky Chihuahua to the massive mastiff were custom-tailored by humans to serve a unique purpose. It’s no accident that German shepherds guard, dachshunds burrow and shih tzus melt in your lap.

Today, dogs are usually valued for the companionship they provide. That said, it can be satisfying to have a pooch that can perform some function, even if it’s just retrieving your bunny slippers. This may explain why Labrador retrievers have been the most pawpular breed for over a decade.

Unfortunately, that same beagle bay that effectively alerted hunters to the location of far-away prey may not endear you to the rest of your subdivision. So it’s important to establish what breed will best fit you, your family, your lifestyle and your accommodations rather than giving into the first puppalicious temptation.

In general, small dogs are cheaper to feed and care for, and easier to exercise (unless you have a Jack Russell terror, I mean terrier). Many big dog aficionados are won over when they realize that what some canines lack in size they make up for with personality.

Breeds like pomeranians, collies, lhasa apsos and chows may need professional grooming. It’s a good idea to check with a groomer about a possible pooch rather than splitting hairs about the fees later. Of course, you can also tackle the hairy task yourself.

Perhaps it’s dog dander that has your spouse’s knickers in a twist. No worries. bichons, poodles and yorkies are less likely to inspire an allergic reaction.

Or maybe you’re just allergic to large vet bills? A 2011 study by the University of Georgia found that golden retrievers and boxers have some of the highest rates of cancer. Chihuahuas and Maltese have high rates of heart disease. Check it out and consider pet health insurance if you fall in love with an at-risk breed.

Speaking of risks, be aware that your home insurer may object if you choose a pit bull, rottweiler or doberman pinscher. Many companies won’t provide coverage for households with breeds that are more likely to nibble the postman.

Be realistic about your pooch’s space needs. Aussies and border collies were bred to herd animals over large distances. Apartment living can make them stir-crazy. Also, Aussies herd by nipping, which can be misinterpreted when Fido efficiently rounds up the kids at a birthday party.

If you’re a triathlete, you may be disappointed that your bulldog can’t keep up with you past the doormat. Flat-faced pups like Bostons, pugs and bulldogs often have difficulty breathing (and an adorable tendency to snore). It’s also important to take into account the climate when determining whether or not a breed will do well in your locale.

Finding a breed or mix that is a good match will give you and your pooch the best chance for a long and healthy relationship. Although it is very important to keep in mind the unique character of each breed, don’t be a breedist. Mix it up. Mutts rock.

Not willing to gamble on the personality of your mature pooch? Not prepared for the pleasures of potty training? Get an older dog. Visit your local shelter to find a dog that complements you. 

Do your research first and you won’t bite off more than you can chew (and your dog won’t either). Josh Billings said, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”  Whatever you adopt, I’m sure you’ll fall in wuf.

• Moksha McClure is the founder of Whiskers Resort, a pet hotel in Lihu‘e offering doggie day care, grooming and overnight boarding for cats and dogs for more than a decade. Visit www.whiskersresort.com or call 241-PETS.

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