Dog Breed Specific Traits & Why You Should Consider Them

by Sydney Hess

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy laying on a blanket

Should aesthetics be the primary deciding factor when looking to adopt a new dog?

For a lot of dog owners, aesthetics are a top priority when picking out a new pooch. The color, length of hair, and size of a dog are all important factors to consider when deciding on what breed you want to welcome into your home. But should aesthetics be the primary deciding factor? 

It is undoubtedly important for every owner to genuinely enjoy the look of their dog. You want to be filled with joy every time you look in your dog's direction! However, an unfortunate reality for many rehomed or shelter pups is that their owners didn’t look past the dog’s appearance before deciding whether or not their lifestyle would match the breed of dog they desired. 

High energy breeds like Huskies, German Shepherds, Border Collies, and even Australian Shepherds are frequent flyers at local shelters. A similarity between all these breeds is that they were all bred for a purpose, and that purpose wasn’t just lounging on the couch all day. Huskies were bred to work in sub-zero temperatures and have incredible endurance to be able to pull a sled for miles, so a new husky owner should expect that loose leash walking will be a challenge and that their dog will have high exercise requirements to keep them from being destructive. 

The term “need before breed” is often used within the dog community to reiterate how important it is to consider your own lifestyle and potential limitations before deciding on a dog breed. If you want a couch potato, a border collie likely wouldn’t fit the bill. If you want a hiking or running partner, you probably don’t want to choose a breed prone to heat exhaustion like a bulldog. Of course there are always going to be exceptions to the rule within breeds, and you could get a border collie who is a couch potato or a bulldog who wants to be an agility star. Rather than crossing your fingers and hoping for an anomaly, it is helpful to look at what each breed of dog was originally bred to do. 

Dog breeding, when done responsibly, is breeding for specific traits to match the breed standard. Desirable breed traits like this could be the natural ability to point, as a German Shorthaired Pointer would need to point to be a successful hunting partner. It could also be traits like being extra affectionate and easy to live with, as the purpose of a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel was originally bred to warm laps in chilly castles. Even some less-desirable traits are almost guaranteed when getting a specific breed, so if you decide that a Shetland Sheepdog is your breed, you can depend on them herding your guests and also probably your coffee table too. 

If you are interested in a specific breed, the best way to find out if a breed would be a good match for your lifestyle is to - 

  1. Extensively research the breed! Look at grooming requirements, exercise requirements and everything in between. 
  2. Find a reputable breeder or breed-specific rescue and talk to them about their dogs! Reputable breeders should be open and honest about their dogs and program, and they should be an expert on the dog breed they are producing. 
  3. Meet as many dogs of the breed as possible! This could be by joining local breed groups on Facebook and attending a meet-up, or going to a local dog show and speaking with specific breed handlers and owners. 

The American Kennel Club has a breed selector tool that will help suggest breeds based on a series of questions. If you are not set on a specific breed already, this tool is especially great to start getting ideas of what breeds might be a good match! 

Every breed has a history, and we can’t just ignore that history because we like the way a breed looks. Being a responsible dog owner starts before you even own a dog!

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