In the weeks since the U.S. presidential election, President-Elect Joe Biden’s German Shepherd Dogs, Champ and Major, have been making national news as they prepare to move into the White House.
But when a celebrity dog begins to get a lot of attention, it isn’t always a good thing. Too often, people will like the look of a dog and decide they want to add one to their family without researching what that breed is like to live with. Many times, they’re entirely unprepared for life with that breed as a result. The Bidens’ dogs are beautiful but German Shepherds are large, confident, intelligent, and active dogs—not the right fit for every family.
Just because a TV dog appears to be the perfect family pet, it doesn’t mean they’ll fit well in your home. Here’s what you need to consider.
Finding the Right Dog For You
Falling in love with the appearance of a breed is one small part of determining if a dog is the right fit for your home and family. When you’re thinking about getting a dog, it’s important to do your research. Since 2020 has been an unusual year, if you’re considering adding a dog to your home, think about what your lifestyle is like outside of a pandemic. This will ensure that when your family goes back to work or school, you’ll still have time to meet the grooming, training, and exercise needs of your breed of choice. When thinking of getting a dog consider these questions:
- What do you want to do with your dog? So many challenging relationships between dogs and their owners could be prevented by being honest ahead of time about what you want to do with your dog. Select a breed that has a similar temperament and approach to life to you, instead of expecting a Pug to be a Border Collie or a Great Pyrenees to act like a Golden Retriever, for example.
- How active are you? Are you someone who spends every weekend out hiking, and finds the idea of long, daily walks daily appealing? Or do you prefer to spend your weekends at home on the couch watching movies?
- Where do you live? Think about your home—do you live in a high-rise apartment in the middle of a major metropolis? On a farm? In an inner-city house with a small yard? Or in a house in the suburbs with a large backyard? Some breeds tend to be noisier than others or need more space, so it’s important to find one that will be comfortable with your living situation
- What is your family life like? Is your home quiet or do you have a large family with lots of kids running around? For example, some guardian breeds are naturally more wary about visitors and generally won’t be as comfortable in a home with a lot of people and bustling activity.
- Does grooming sound fun? Be honest about how much time you are willing to devote to regular grooming. Even if you intend to take your dog to be professionally groomed, some amount of grooming should be happening on a weekly basis at home. For heavy-coated breeds, daily grooming may be required to keep their coat in good condition.
- What do your finances look like? All dogs are expensive when you factor in high-quality food, veterinary care, toys, and training, but some breeds are more expensive because of their size (large dog medication, food, and supplies are always more expensive than the equivalent for small dogs), or because the breed may be predisposed to certain health conditions that are expensive to treat.
Know the Breed
Confused about what dog might be the right fit for your home? The AKC’s Dog Breed Selector can be a helpful way to learn about different breeds and find options that might be a good fit for your family. You can even compare up to five breeds of dogs side-by-side to see how they are different and similar. Once you’ve narrowed down some breeds that you are interested in, closely read breed standards and pay special attention to aspects of care like grooming requirements, temperament, and energy levels to make sure that the breeds you are interested in match your lifestyle.
Talk to Experts
When you’ve narrowed down your interest to a couple of breeds, the next best step is to contact your national breed club for any breed you are interested in. Most will have designated members or committees that are ready to talk with prospective dog owners about what life is really like with a breed. They’ll be able to provide you with training information and explore both the positives and the negative aspects of their breed. The national breed club will also be able to connect you with a local chapter of the breed club and (when COVID-19 restrictions allow) you can attend a club event to meet local people involved in the breed—and, of course, their dogs! Spending time with breeds you are interested in before bringing one home will help you to be as prepared as possible and give you a more accurate perspective of what life with your new dog will be like. This is also a fantastic way to get connected with responsible breeders, and/or breed rescues.
Attend/Watch Dog Shows
In a normal year, I would encourage anyone who is uncertain about what breed is right for them to find a local AKC dog show to attend. Dog shows offer a unique opportunity to not only see dogs of various breeds in action, but also a great way to meet people involved with those breeds. Because of COVID-19, and most shows being canceled or closed to spectators, that isn’t really an option. That said, dog shows on TV are a wonderful opportunity to stay safe at home, but also learn a little bit about many AKC recognized breeds, and get a clearer picture about what these dogs are like. You can watch past dog shows on-demand at any time on AKC.tv.
Don’t miss the action! The 2020 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin will air on ABC on Sunday, January 17, 2021, from 2 to 5 p.m.