Best Dog Breeds for Families.
5 Common Mistakes in Choosing a Dog

Choosing the best dog breeds for families is not rocket science but sound advice is not easy to come by, which is why I wrote this guide.

When you buy a puppy, you are committing yourself ..and your family.. for the lifetime of your dog, however that unfolds.  And it’s
a big decision – bigger than you might realize! 

Will your dog give you 16 trouble-free years of health and vitality, or will it have an abnormally short life marked by ongoing expense and worrying illnesses or aggression? 

From my own Veterinary point of view, I am also concerned not only with your family’s welfare, but that of your dog.  All dogs deserve a happy, forever home and a long, healthy life in which they will not be a major risk to their family or other people or animals. After all, there are enough dogs given up to dog pounds because they are dangerous as it is.

You deserve a healthy and safe pet!  And you can choose the best dog breed for your family wisely if you avoid the 5 tragic mistakes
that commonly haunt puppy buyers who aren’t so well informed.

The 1st
Tragic Mistake – Doggy Design Matters!

Would you buy a car with wonky wheels, or a house whose doors and windows didn’t fit properly?  No, most people would not! 

But it’s amazing how all that natural good sense goes out the windo when it comes to choosing a dog!!!

Sadly, a lot of dog breeds are actually derived from the chance birth of a puppy with a genetic malformation. 

Some enterprising person thought “that looks novel” and viola!  –  it was deliberately perpetuated and a new breed was born! Trouble is, these malformations are really mistakes in God’s natural design for the dog. Dogs have a proper shape that functions well – being the result of millions of years of evolutionary improvement.

<< If you want know what that looks like, examine the wolf or dingo.

When I was training to be a Veterinarian we were taught that poorly designed dogs are prone to massive health problems.   

Once you read this, you may even think – like I do – that it is in fact cruel to breed dogs with bad design…  and certainly inadvisable to own any!  

The Chondrodystrophoid breeds

The abnormality of being chondrodystrophoid has been established as the breed standard for many dog breeds.   “Chondro” means cartilage and “dystrophoid” means abnormal growth – basically the cartilage in the growth plates at the ends of these some of these dogs’ bones doesn’t grow properly, resulting in short, deformed legs.

Affected breeds have angular deformities of the limbs and include the Dachshund, Pekingese, French bulldog, Beagle, Basset hound, American cocker spaniel, Shih tzu, Lhasa apso, and generally any dogs with short thick legs.

Degeneration of the intervertebral disk at an early age is just one unfortunate disease that goes with this trait.  

In these breeds, there is degeneration of the disks within the first few months of life.   A slipped disc in the spine can occur as early as 1-2 yrs of age causing acute pain, lameness and paraplegia.

Disc prolapsed dachshund
permanently paralyzed from the waist down – destined to a life in a wheelchair

Their abnormally short and twisted legs are also more prone to slipped or broken ligaments, and to the development of arthritis.

The Brachycephalic breeds

Here’s some more Greek for you: “brachy,” means short, and “cephalic,” means head.  So the Brachycephalic breeds are
marked by having pushed in, short faces, for example:  Pug, Boston terrier, Pekingese, Boxer, Bulldog, and Shih tzu. 

They might look “cute” but these poor dogs are prone to a whole suite of health issues you don’t want to have first hand experience with or have to pay to manage for the lifetime of the dog!

·They can’t chew their food properly

While their upper jaw is squashed, in these breeds the lower jaw is usually in proportion to the body size resulting in a characteristic underbite.
The poor dog can’t chew its food properly and is destined for  lifetime
of suboptimal health  caused by poor digestion.  

The Brachycephalic dog has less space to fit its teeth into so they are crowded and tend to grow at odd angles, trapping food and predisposing these breeds to periodontal disease at a young age. 

·         Prone to various eye problems

With most of the bones of the nose squashed up, the eyes of these breeds often don’t sit neatly in the head but tend to bulge.  As
a result the eyes are prone to fall out after a minor blow to the back of the head, or even from straining on the lead.

The eyelids might even have trouble covering the eye, exposing it to drying, irritation and trauma.  The eyelashes often even brush
against the eye itself, causing damage. Tear drainage can also be impaired, giving the eyes a perpetually wet appearance.

·They can’t breath properly

The squashed upper jaw compresses the respiratory system of the nose too!  Brachycephalic breeds may suffer from
abnormally narrow nostrils that make breathing difficult, and a bee sting on the nose life threatening.

The soft palate inside the mouth is normal-size and so has difficulty fitting within the compressed space.  Normal breathing results in snorting sounds and excess panting or barking can cause the throat
to swell resulting in respiratory distress.

Even the
windpipe can be dangerously narrowed in places, making the dog susceptible to dying under anaesthesia if it needs an operation.

·         They can’t pant properly

Dogs don’t sweat and can only cool themselves down by panting. Panting in the brachycephalic breeds is inefficient, predisposing them to heat stress and even heat stroke.

·         Skin fold infections

Having the normal amount of skin over a smaller area produces lots of skin folds on the face of these dogs.  These folds trap moisture and bacteria so that skin fold infections are common.   

· Problems giving birth

The broad headed nature of these breeds makes reproduction a tricky matter and Caesarean section is frequently needed.  Difficult labor is common and, as surgical assistance is often necessary.

 

The 2nd
Tragic Mistake – Size Matters!

Why you are
getting a dog?  Most people want their
dog to be a great companion, and a good watchdog too.  This leads some people to go for the larger
breeds… 
Well,
unless you actually want a dog that is aggressive and physically capable of
hurting someone, this is a very expensive mistake! 
 Apart from
the fact that a lot of the smaller breeds are great watchdogs, big dogs equal
bigger problems and expenses on all levels. 

Some of the BIG ones…

·         For a start they cost more to feed.

A dog weighing 40 kg will naturally cost three to four times as much to feed as one that weighs 10 kg.  Over the lifetime of your pet this difference can really add up!
A dog food bill of $30 a week instead of $10 a week will cost $15,000
more by the time your dog is 15 years old!

·         Routine medicines are more expensive

The doses of routine medicines needed for regular control of heartworm, fleas and intestinal parasites depends on the size of the dog.  For example, while it may cost $10 to worm a small dog, you could be looking at $40 for a big one!  And that’s over and over again…

·         Veterinary bills are higher

The cost of just about every veterinary procedure is worked out by the dog’s weight.  That’s because bigger dogs need higher doses
of anaesthetic and medicine, have to be housed in larger kennels, and use up more suture material during surgery. 

·         Some diseases are peculiar to the really large breeds

Because of their abnormally large size, really big dogs grow rapidly.  As a result they are highly prone to joint problems (especially the hips e.g. hip dysplasia), and even bone cancer.

·         They cost more to kennel

Kennel accommodation is more expensive for bigger dogs.  And you’ll need a larger property with a bigger backyard, higher fences and bigger kennel to house them too!

·         They are capable of doing greater damage

A big dog digs bigger holes, is more apt to knock people over, can inflict a more severe bite on other dogs or people, and is more capable of killing livestock.  

·       They are harder to control

It’s a lot easier to win a disagreement with a little dog than it is with a big one!  And while a small dog that pulls on the lead is annoying, a large dog that pulls can dislocate your shoulder!  I’ve seen big dogs on leads attack other dogs – their owner was still hanging on but had no hope of controlling the situation.

·         They do more poo!

Years and years of cleaning up Shetland-pony sized poos just might get you down after a while if you own a big dog!

·         It’s less ethical to own a big dog

In a world where many people don’t get enough to eat – smaller breeds are a more ethical choice. 

If you are going to have a dog – and you deserve one; the health and social benefits of dog ownership are well-known – choosing a smaller breed has less ecological impact on the planet and uses up less of the resources that should rightfully be available to the world’s hungry.

 The 3rd
Tragic Mistake – Inbreeding Matters!

You’re probably aware that every purebred dog breed has particular diseases lurking in its gene pool. 

Why is this?  Well purebred dogs derive from a very small number of original ancestors – the whole breed is sometimes based on just a
single dog when you go back far enough! 

So purebred dogs tend to carry more “defect” genes than the average mongrel, and each breed has particular “favorites” peculiar to itself. As a result purebreds tend to live shorter, less healthy lives and have poorer reproductive performance than mongrels.

Why is that a problem to you? 

Because the genetic pool for purebred dogs is rather small – the rarer the breed, the smaller the pool – individuals have a high chance of inheriting the same “defect” genes.  These genes only cause
problems when a dog inherits two of them – one from mom and one from dad. If a dog only has one of the “defect” genes it will often appear completely normal – even when tested.

Some of these genetic diseases are screened for by reputable breeders and some aren’t.  But even if you buy a puppy
whose parents have both passed their screening tests, these genetic diseases can still crop up, especially where there’s inbreeding
 going on.

So when bred together, the chances that purebreds of the same breed will pass the same “defect” gene onto their offspring is much, much higher than it is for crossbreeds…especially if they are closely related.  The more closely related the two parents happen to be, the more genes they’ll have in common and so, the higher the risk
of breeding genetically defective pups. 

I’ve been a registered breeder of Miniature Schnauzers for 22 years.  In that time I’ve been truly shocked at the level of inbreeding that goes on by so-called “reputable” breeders of purebred dogs. 

Does “line breeding” = “inbreeding”?

While most of us can understand the logic here, many “professional” breeders seem to miss the point.  They exacerbate the problem
by practicing “line breeding” which is where the same dog might appear several times in a three generation pedigree record.
They’ll routinely mate granddad to his granddaughter, half brother to half sister, or even mother to son!

Why do they do this?  They do this to “fix” certain show winning characteristics into their breeding lines (and sometimes simply
because they are too ornery to share bloodlines with each other!)  However, it is basically inbreeding by another name, with all the associated dangers to innocent puppy buyers
investing in the offspring of such breeding practices. 

So ask to look at the pedigree of any puppy you are considering buying. And insist on a Health Guarantee of at least 2 years that covers any serious inherited health issues that may arise.

If you see the same individual dog’s name appear more than once in the ancestry, my advice is to find your puppy elsewhere!  It
might be a fine example of the breed, a potential show winner even but as your pet it could be a ticking health time bomb waiting to go off!

The 4th
Tragic Mistake – Shedding Matters!

It is estimated that around 10% of the human population suffers from allergies to animals.  Because they live inside our homes, dogs and
cats are the most usual triggers for these allergies.

This can be a real tragedy… 

Imagine investing money, time and love into your new puppy only to realize, a few months down the track, that she is causing a health problem for a family member! 

Often it is the very person most attached to your new puppy – and constantly cuddling up to it – who is most affected.  Then you are faced with the distress and heartbreak of having to find a new hom for your beautiful dog.  

Allergy causing allergens can be present in dog
saliva and skin cells (dander).  A person
who is allergic could suffer nasal congestion, sniffling and sneezing,
conjunctivitis, contact dermatitis (skin rash) or even asthma.
So, while
there is no totally non-allergenic dog, fortunately some breeds do seem to
cause fewer allergies.  

It’s typically because these breeds don’t shed as much fur.  And the smaller breeds also produce less saliva than the bigger breeds.

The most hypo-allergenic breeds are: 

·Poodles (and poodle crosses like the Cocka-poo, Labradoodle
or Snoodle),

·Schnauzer,

·Portugese water dog (a close relative of the poodle),

·Maltese,

·Soft-coated wheaten terrier,

·Lhaso apso,

·Kerry blue terrier,

·Irish water spaniel,

·Shih tzu and

·Yorkshire terrier.

The 5th
Tragic Mistake – Aggression Matters!

And this leads us to the last tragic mistake people make when choosing a puppy – they pickan aggressive breed! 

Did you know that aggression is the number one reason owners give up on their dogs and surrender them to welfare agencies?  And it’s the biggest problem preventing those dogs from successfully being placed in new “forever” homes.Aggression can take many forms – aggression towards other dogs or animals, aggression toward strangers (especially children) and even aggression towards you, the owner.

Research has proven that, while you can’t paint ALL dogs of a certain breed with the same brush, there are particular breeds in which aggression is a much more common problem than others.

Most owners say they want their dog to be affectionate, obedient and safe with other dogs and humans, particularly kids.  Even if its important to you that your dog is an effective watchdog no-one in their right mind would deliberately choose a dog that has a high chance of actually turning on them, the owner.

So here are breeds that have been tested as being at risk of attacking their own human family:

  • Beagle
  • Chihuahua
  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Dachshund
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Jack Russell Terrier

Luckily none of them are very big!

Breeds that are often brave watchdogs but tend to be family-safe are:

  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Brichon Frise 
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • German Shepherd

Contrary to popular belief, Pitt Bulls score below average on both counts!  Go figure…

Of course, individual differences in personality between puppies of the same breed do exist so that many will not have the “average” temperament of their breed. This is why I personality test all my puppies before allocation and adoption to improve the compatibiity of their match with prospective families.

And just as importantly, the way you raise, train and socialise your dog will have a major influence on how it behaves towards you and others. 

Even the conditions under which your dog was raised before you adopted it have been proven to influence later behavior.  Puppies raised in puppy mills and acquired directly or from pet shops are more likely to suffer behavioral problems down the track so be careful where you get your puppy from, and raise it right!