While it can be tempting to choose a dog on looks alone, there are many important factors to consider when choosing your next four-legged friend. After all, bringing a dog into your home is a commitment of 10–13 years if you take on a youngster.
Here, veterinarian Matthew Wheaton, co-founder of The Pet Rescue Center shares his insight into choosing a dog that’s a good fit for your lifestyle.
While no breed of dog is completely hypoallergenic, there are non-shedding and hairless breeds that produce less dander and are therefore better for people with allergies.
“The poodle breeds or poodle mixes are popular for those with allergies, but there are many other breeds,” Dr. Wheaton says. For example, bichons, wheaten terriers and schnauzers are considerations, he says. “Something that people may not think about are the hairless breeds, such as the Chinese crested or Xoloitzcuintli.”
“Grooming is an important thing to think about before you get a dog,” Dr. Wheaton says. “Any of the dogs that are going to have longer fur are going to need regular grooming. Some won’t need trimming but will have a ton of shedding, such as golden retrievers and Australian shepherds.
“Any of the lap dogs are going to be pretty high maintenance when it comes to grooming. You basically have to brush them daily because otherwise their hair will mat up, which is uncomfortable for them,” he continues.
“Short-haired dogs like pit bulls, pugs and French bulldogs need no grooming whatsoever aside from an occasional bath and ear cleaning. The mixed-breed terriers you often find in shelters shed very little and tend to be fantastic little dogs.”
If you’re looking for a lower-energy breed, Dr. Wheaton suggests basset hounds, bulldogs,
lap dogs – such as Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus and Pekingese breeds – or larger low-energy breeds such as greyhounds, Great Danes and bull mastiffs.
Of course, there are many variations within a breed or type. For example, some pit bulls – a popular type of dog in shelters and rescues – are real couch potatoes and love to cuddle (shelter or rescue staff can help educate you about a particular dog’s personality and energy level).
“The category of pit bull that is the mellow, couch potato kind of pit bull is a fantastic type of dog for older people,” Dr. Wheaton says. “They love cuddling and interaction, and they’re relatively low energy.”
If you decide to go the puppy route, be prepared for accidents, getting up in the middle of the night and puppy proofing your house!
“I see some of my retiree clients just on the verge of tears with their puppies, and I’ve had several people give them away because they thought they could do it, but it can be so hard with certain puppies,” Dr. Wheaton says.
“By adopting an adult dog, you potentially bypass all of those issues of potty training, chewing things inappropriately and breaking out of enclosures.”
Finding Your Dog
“There are rescues available for almost any breed out there,” Dr. Wheaton says.
And while people may believe buying a dog from a breeder will mean the dog will be healthier, Dr. Wheaton says this is not what he sees in his practice. “I can tell you that nine out of 10 dogs that I see that came from breeders have some genetic issue that came with the dog. It’s probably more reliable to get a dog from a rescue group that has already had the dog vetted with an independent veterinarian.”
Of course, health issues and accidents can come up with any dog, so Dr. Wheaton recommends you consider insurance.
Spend time with the dog you intend to purchase or adopt to make sure, as much as possible, that you’re the right match for one another. Then, enjoy your new best friend!