This is always a great question to me and I always respond the same way. Who are you? What do you like to do? How much time do you have to spend with your dog every day for the rest of it’s life? What use do you have for the dog? How is your home environment? Medical issues? Mental Health issues? What people really want to know when they ask this question is “how do I get a dog and not have to do anything with it, or at least for very long.
The hardest part of owning a dog is knowing what it truly requires. I own a Belgian Malinois, the worlds leading most mwd, or modern warfare dog, police use them, the eagles ruined my life when they used a Malinois as their underdog mask. The dog has become a national sensational hero on the news as of recently as well, this dog is severely emotional, the same as pit bulls or any other working dog. If you are a highly fast paced person and are active, consistent, driven, competitive, and also have absolute control of your emotions then by all means get a Malinois and make sure you immediately hire a trainer who HAS WON COMPETITION SPORTS or has a lot of experience with a multitude of dogs like myself. Malinois and working dogs take a lot of work and if not trained properly can become a physical, financial, and legal liability, and we do not want dog’s becoming rehomed or given up.
Dog’s do not deserve to be put down due to human negligence and ignorance. I’ve owned a pit bull, and I have a Mal, before these dogs I owned a chihuahua, a chocolate lab, and the biggest thing you never want to hear from someone as far as their experience as a professional trainer which is “I grew up with dogs”, in my scenario my family had labs throughout my youth. I understood play with thedog, understood how to rough house, understood how to do everything wrong more or less. After years of training I realize that when someone says “I’ve had dogs my whole life”, it usually comes just before the avalanche of old wives tales and fairy tales, and cousins told me to do this or that, or I get asked if I know of Cesar Milan. I proceed to let people know that having a dog in your house and beginning to train them and stop training but continue to force them into new experiences with no way to communicate or relieve stress is the same as never teaching a child more than their 1,2,3’s- A,B,C’s and then sending them out into the world as if they could handle that or even fully read or count.
The biggest issue with choosing a dog is that rescues and shelters are really good at creating stories for each and every dog. As a trainer, I hear the stories, take them, hold them, and tuck them away in the back of my mind if and only if it has to do with aggression or reactivity issues towards humans or handlers. Otherwise, I take them and throw those stories in the trash. I am a disabled Iraq/ Afghanistan veteran with a slew of acronyms for disorders and a book for medical issues. Believe me when I say your dog will take on your personality and your issues. This leads me to more questions for the client: How big of a dog can you handle? I have a 8 year old that we will call “Nora” for privacy of the client. Nora is the only person in the 6 person household than has been training their 160lb Great Dane for the past two years. Anything is possible in the dog world if you look at things through a different set of eyes and have a very skilled trainer by your side. My personal favorite dogs fit my lifestyle, and the amount of energy I want to put out during my daily routine and sometimes exhausting alter life being a business owner.
If you cannot guarantee your dog 15-20 minutes a day of training then you are not in the right place to purchase a dog. Dogs who aren’t trained and socialized right end up scared with no confidence which can turn into aggression or reactivity issues. I have worked with many breeds and through each breed I find dogs who learn very quickly, too quickly, slowly, super slowly, and super extra slowly, and I have found ways to speed up certain dogs by making them more interested in training. Be aware that sometimes the dog you want may not fit your family. Working dogs or protection dogs in my experience have not had a great time fitting into households with children, I’ve also seen dogs listed on the AKC’s “good for kids or family list” end up not being good for children at all.
No dog is like any other dog, just as no two people are the same. The dogs that I like sometimes require more grooming skills than most want to deal with but all dogs should be bathed, have their teeth cleaned, and have their nails clipped on a regular basis. Preventative maintenance is key with dogs with sensitive skin or hair or fur. What I can do is put my favorite top 10 dogs I like for families, making sure that these dogs come from reputable breeders who are breeding for genetics and temperament and not breeding for money. The list is in no specific order I love all dogs these are the top ten because the ten came immediately to mind.
1) Golden Retreiver
2) Boston Terriers
3) French Bulldog
5) Great Dane
8) Pembroke Welsh Corgi
No matter what do you get do not be frazzled. Dogs with more hair need more grooming, puppies nip and scratch. We are after all talking about animals, you know teeth- and claws and all that? Most of all, all dogs need training to make sure that the energy levels regardless of whether they are puppy or adult are under control. Training to me is more than just commands, it’s about building a relationship and having a bond with your dog from the get go. The best time to begin training is before the dog even comes. Research any breed you are interested in deeply – grooming, medical costs, food costs, time costs, boarding costs, training costs, and if the dog will thrive with you. If you are living in a 400-600 sq ft apartment in a high rise in Philadelphia where I am located, where there is rarely much grass around
then the Great Dane may not be the dog for you. Always think about things from the dogs perspective as if you were going to be living as your dog.