Finding your ideal canine companion: Exploring the pros and cons of different dog breeds

Dogs are for life, so choosing the right breed to join your family is a big decision – a mismatch could spell disaster!

When it comes to welcoming a furry friend into your home, choosing the right dog breed is crucial (and it’s not an easy decision given the choice of ~340 different dog breeds)! Your lifestyle, property and personal preferences all play a significant role in this decision. In this blog post, we will delve into the pros and cons of various dog breeds at a category level, helping you discover the perfect dog to align with your unique lifestyle.

Toy and small dog breeds: Pros and cons

Small dog breeds offer numerous advantages for specific lifestyles. Their portable size makes them perfect for apartment/city living and convenient to travel with. They also require less exercise compared to larger dogs. And happily, small dogs tend to have the longest lifespan of all breeds. However, it's important to consider the possibility of little dogs developing ‘small dog syndrome’ if they are not properly trained and socialised (where this ‘syndrome’ is the dog compensating for their small size by displaying undesirable behaviours such as excessive barking, possessiveness and over-protectiveness). Finally, it is also important to consider that certain small dog breeds may have greater grooming needs and potential health issues, such as dental problems. Examples of small breeds include the Pomeranian, Chihuahua, Pug, French Bulldog, Miniature Schnauzer and Shih Tzu.

Medium dog breeds: Pros and cons

Medium-sized dog breeds strike a nice balance between small and large breeds, offering versatility and adaptability. They often fit well into families and can be reliable companions and watchdogs. Nonetheless, medium-sized dogs still require regular exercise and mental stimulation to prevent behavioural issues. Proper training and socialisation are crucial to ensure their development into well-rounded pets. Examples of medium-sized breeds include the Irish Terrier, Beagle, Cocker Spaniel, and Border Collie.

Large and giant dog breeds: Pros and cons

For those seeking loyal and protective companions, large dog breeds can be an excellent choice. Their size and presence often make them great watchdogs and family pets. They can even be trained for specialised roles like search & rescue or assistance work. However, it's important to consider the higher exercise needs and space requirements of large breeds. Additionally, larger dogs generally come with increased food and veterinary costs; their grooming needs can be significant; and they can suffer from health conditions associated with their large size (i.e. joint problems). It's also worth noting that larger breeds tend to have shorter lifespans compared to smaller breeds. Examples of large breeds include the Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, and Golden Retriever.

The upsides and downsides of active dog breeds

Active dog breeds (including working dogs, sporting dogs, herding dogs, and terriers) are perfect for individuals with an energetic lifestyle and a love for the outdoors. They make exceptional exercise partners and can join you on hikes, runs and adventures. However, it's essential to understand that active breeds require a significant commitment to meet their exercise needs. Without sufficient physical and mental stimulation, these dogs can become bored and exhibit destructive behaviours. Further, because of their high energy levels and natural working, hunting or herding instincts, these breeds can prove to be difficult to train, making them better suited to people who have previous dog ownership/training experience. Examples of active breeds include the New Zealand Huntaway, Australian Blue Heeler, Australian Shepherd, Siberian Husky, and Jack Russell Terrier (and almost all other Terriers!).

Low energy dog breeds: Pros and cons

On the opposite end of the spectrum, low-energy dog breeds (also known as companion dogs) are well-suited for individuals with a relaxed lifestyle (think couch potato) or limited physical capabilities. These breeds can be wonderful therapy dogs or companions for the elderly. However, despite their relaxed energy and lower exercise requirements, it's still important to provide them with adequate mental stimulation and enrichment. Without proper mental engagement, they can also become bored and destructive. Examples of low-energy breeds include the Basset Hound, English Bulldog, Great Dane and Shih Tzu.

Special considerations: Allergies and shedding

For individuals with allergies or a preference for low-shedding dogs, hypoallergenic and low-shedding breeds can be a suitable choice. Because these breeds typically have hair rather than fur, they produce fewer allergens and shed less, reducing the risk of triggering allergies or excessive cleaning. However, it's important to weigh the pros and cons of hypoallergenic breeds, as some may require more grooming or have specific care requirements. Examples of hypoallergenic and low-shedding breeds include the Poodle (and most ‘oodle’ cross breeds), Bichon Frise, and Maltese.

Special considerations: Health problems

When selecting a dog breed, it's essential to consider potential health problems associated with specific breeds. Different breeds may have predispositions to certain genetic or hereditary conditions. Some breeds are prone to joint problems like hip dysplasia or patellar luxation (i.e. large and giant breeds), while others may be more susceptible to respiratory issues or eye conditions (i.e. Brachycephalic breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and Shih Tzus). Breed-specific health concerns such as heart conditions, skin allergies or neurological disorders should also be considered. Understanding the common health problems associated with different breeds allows you to make an informed decision and take necessary precautions to ensure the well-being of your chosen dog.

Rescue dogs: Pros and cons

Considering a rescue dog can be a rewarding experience for both you and the dog. Rescue dogs come from various backgrounds and may have experienced neglect or abandonment. By adopting a rescue dog, you give them a second chance at a loving home. One of the major advantages of rescue dogs is the opportunity to make a significant difference in their lives. Many rescue dogs are already house-trained and have basic obedience skills. Moreover, adopting a rescue dog can be a more cost-effective option compared to purchasing a purebred dog. However, it's important to note that rescue dogs may come with unknown histories and potential behavioural challenges. Patience, understanding, and proper training are critical in helping them adjust to their new environment. Working with reputable rescue organisations and seeking guidance from experienced professionals can greatly aid in the successful integration of a rescue dog into your family. Some of the many reputable New Zealand dog rescue and adoption organisations include: SPCA New Zealand, Dogwatch Sanctuary Trust, Retired Working Dogs NZ, Humane Society of New Zealand, Dog Protection Society and HUHA.  

Answer these questions to help you choose the right breed

Finding the perfect dog breed for your lifestyle requires careful consideration. Choosing the wrong breed could spell disaster for both you and your dog. To help you narrow down the list of suitable breeds, we recommend you answer the following questions:

  • How active is your lifestyle?
  • How much space do you have and is your property suitable/safe for a dog?
  • How much time do you have to dedicate to grooming?
  • Are allergies a concern or issue in your household?
  • Do you have children or other pets?
  • What is your experience level with dog ownership?
  • How much time can you dedicate to training and socialisation?
  • What is your preference for temperament (e.g. ‘snuggler’ or a protector)?
  • Does the breed in question have any typical health problems?
  • What is your budget for dog care?

Thorough research, meeting the breed and considering adoption options can also help you make an informed choice. By understanding the pros and cons of different dog breeds, you'll be better equipped to find a loyal and loving companion that steals your heart and enriches your life. For further assistance in your search, consider using online breed selectors (such as, talking to local breeders & dog trainers and connecting with local rescue organisations.

- July 2023

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