There are hundreds of dog breeds out there and after we decided to get a dog, it was very important for us that we chose a breed that really suited our lifestyle. There are too many stories of people bringing home a dog because it was a cute puppy, but as it grows up are surprised to discover the temperament of the adult dog, even though their dog is reflective of the breed’s standard traits.
Neither P nor myself gave much thought to smaller breeds. P was looking for a dog who could join him in many of his favourite outdoor activities: running, hiking, swimming. I just couldn’t imagine bringing home a dog that wasn’t larger than our cat. We both vowed to keep an open mind and look into as many breeds as possible, but deep down we both were leaning towards labs from the start.
I don’t know why, but I have always had a soft spot for labs. They’re just such happy, friendly dogs! My family had a black lab, Domino, when I was born and although he didn’t make the move to Ontario with us, we would visit him every time we went to PEI during our summer vacations. Perhaps this had more of an influence on me than I thought!
In researching breeds, we put a lot of focus on ‘hypoallergenic’ dogs as well as dogs that are good with children and with other animals. While no dog is truly hypoallergenic, there are many out there that do not shed, and as a result many allergy sufferers are able to happily co-exist with them. As a kid P did suffer from dog (and cat) allergies, and we weren’t sure how he would respond should we bring a dog into our home.
There are so many resources on the web for researching dog breeds that it can be a bit overwhelming. Some of the ones that we found useful were:
- Wikipedia for looking up specific breeds,
- Animal Planet, especially their Dog Breed Selector,
- Canadian Living’s list of the Top Family Dogs,
- Canada’s Guide to Dogs has an excellent breakdown of breeds as well as breeders in each Province,
- Before and After You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar – a free pdf download of the book is available at Dog Star Daily.
A few interesting tidbits that we discovered in our research and influenced our decision:
- Larger dogs deal better with being left alone during the day than smaller breeds.
- Non-shedding dogs require grooming on a frequent basis that can cost you $600+ a year if you have someone else do it, or 3+ hours of your time each month if you do it yourself.
- When not sufficiently entertained / exercised, smart dogs become bored dogs which can equal destructive dogs.
- Regardless of the breed’s common traits, your dog’s behaviour will be most influenced by the amount of effort you put into their socialization and training when they are a puppy.
In the end, we narrowed our search to Portuguese Water Dogs and Labrador Retrievers. We arranged visits to breeders of both so that we would have an opportunity to spend time with each breed and see if their temperament was a good fit for us (and whether P had an allergy).
While we liked both breeds, we decided that labs were the breed of choice for us. Their temperament and energy level was a good fit for our lifestyle and they are known to make wonderful family dogs. Plus, P survived an hour in a room with 8 adult labs, 6 puppies of varying ages, and 2 cats and didn’t sniffle once. He was confident that he would be able to live with a lab, we were both smitten with the breed.
While we did not get a PWD, I would like to take this moment to tell you about Lorraine Wilson of Big Bay Kennel and 4 Paws Training. While she is a breeder of PWDs, she is also a trainer and groomer and a wonderful resource on dogs in general. We had the opportunity to meet with her and her dogs in her home. She gave us invaluable advice on not just PWDs but also on dogs and training in general. If you are looking for a PWD or a trainer in the Richmond HIll area, I would highly recommend contacting her.