Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Top Dogs: Which Breed Is Right for You?

Top Dogs: Which Breed Is Right for You?

The White House just got a little busier with the arrival of Bo, the Obamas' new Portuguese water dog. But it wasn’t Bo’s cuteness that sealed the deal. He’s allergy-friendly for daughter Malia. The breed you choose is as important as the man you marry, so which dog is right for you? Read on to find out…

You might be ready to take that adorable pup home, but are you sure it fits your lifestyle?

“You’re making a commitment for the life of the dog, which can be 10 to 15 years," says Lisa Peterson, director of club communications at the American Kennel Club.

Like a good marriage, dogs can bring many benefits: improved mood, and lower blood pressure rates and stress, according to many studies. But, as with a spouse, it’s all about compatibility: Are you active or a couch potato? Do you have small children or an elderly relative living with you? Are you willing to shell out for grooming or a daily dog walker? Do you have allergies, like the Obamas’ 10-year-old daughter, Malia?

As you search among local animal shelters or breeders, here are some breeds to help you get the best match:

The Sneezer
Do you have allergies that keep you from owning a dog? Some breeds can help accommodate your health issues.

Dogs to avoid: People with dog allergies aren’t allergic to the animal; it’s the protein in saliva and dander that trigger reactions. So stay away from any dog with a double coat (huskies, Samoyeds, Akitas, Pomeranians): They shed a lot, Peterson says. Avoid droolers, too, such as bloodhounds and Saint Bernards.

Best dogs: Poodles and poodle crossbreeds (Labradoodles, for example) are an option for allergy sufferers. Although no dog is 100% hypoallergenic, some, like poodles, have minimal dander. Plus, they’re outgoing, easy to train and come in many sizes. “Poodles are an old breed and are great family dogs,” Peterson says. Portuguese water dogs, like Bo Obama, are also great choices.

Runners-up: The bichon frise, the Chinese crested, schnauzers, the Soft-Coated Wheaten terrier.

Celebrity dogs: Ivana Trump has a toy poodle; Maria Menounos has a regular-sized poodle. Schnauzer fans include Bo Derek, Bob Dole and Tommy Lasorda.

The Time-Crunched Professional
For you, lunch is a frozen meal at your desk. “After work” means post 8 p.m. When you finally get home, playing catch with Rover for an hour takes a back seat to chores and phone calls.

Dogs to avoid: The Border collie, and most other herding dogs. “They need a lot of attention and exercise,” Peterson says. Other dogs to avoid: sporting dogs (golden retriever, Irish setter) and working breeds (Greater Swiss mountain dog, Akita). These were bred to do certain jobs, like pull sleds, work with fishermen or help on hunts. “Without a job, they get bored very quickly – much like the time-crunched professional,” Peterson says.

Best dogs: Smaller dogs such as a French bulldog or Lhasa Apso are lower-energy options, needing only one or two walks per day. “They don’t require an hour of Frisbee playing or anything,” she says. Want a bigger dog? Peterson suggests English bulldogs, which also don’t require much exercise. You also might consider getting an older dog; it won’t have the energy levels of a younger pup.

Runners-up: Lap dogs (Maltese, bichon frise) may work, but watch out – many small dogs, like the Jack Russell, need a lot of exercise.

Celebrity dogs: English bulldog devotees include Michael Phelps, Adam Sandler, Kelly Osborne and Anna Kournikova. Martha Stewart and Fred Durst have French bulldogs.

The Jock
Nothing sounds better than a weekend in the great outdoors and you’d love a furry companion to keep up with you.

Dogs to avoid: Those looking for a jogging or hiking buddy should steer away from toy breeds or anything under 20 pounds, Peterson says. “They’re small and they may get underfoot.” They like brisk walks, but they’ll handle flatter terrain or dog parks better. Also, as a general rule, “push-face” dogs (such as bulldogs, Boston terriers and mastiffs) can overheat and suffer from exhaustion.

Best dogs: Sporting breeds would be the best match for the hiker: the German shorthaired pointer, the flat-coated retriever, the Labrador (recently named the most popular dog of 2008) or golden retriever. They’re meant to be with their master, Peterson says. “And they’re always wondering ‘What are we doing now? What’s next?’” For jogging buddies, look to herding dogs such as the German shepherd, Border collie, Lab and even some feisty terriers, like an Airedale.

Runners-up: Working breeds, such as the Samoyed or Boxer. Peterson also recommends hounds, which have a lot of stamina and can follow a trail – Scottish deerhounds, whippets, and greyhounds are all good choices. Doberman pinschers and Rottweilers are also up for a jog, plus they’ll scare the heck out of potential muggers.

Celebrity dogs: Labs have fans in Candace Bushnell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mary Kate Olsen, Sarah McLachlan and Minnie Driver. The All-American golden retriever is owned by Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Buffett, Kristin Davis, Matt Lauer, Renee Zellweger, Sheryl Crow and Tom Cruise.

The Fashionista
You enjoy splurging on great hairstyles and cute clothes. You also don’t mind doing the same for your furry friend.

Dogs to avoid: Some dogs – like the Pomeranian or Newfoundland – just have too much hair to be comfortable wearing clothes or sweaters. Also, dogs in the working breed – genetically geared to be busy – probably won’t have the patience for costumes or primping, Peterson says.

Best dogs: Toy pooches work best for a hand-held lifestyle. “Yorkshire Terriers are called a ‘bag breed’ because they don’t mind being carried around in little bags,” she says. Want a well-coiffed dog? Try the Pekingese or toy poodle – both require regular grooming. Well-dressed dogs don’t have to be small. Bigger dogs such as greyhounds and Dalmatians also need sweaters for cold weather.

Runners-up: Other portable pooches are Chihuahuas, miniature pinschers and Tibetan spaniels. For dogs with a distinctive mane, try the borzoi, chow chow or puli. And if you like to dress up your canines, check out the miniature pinscher, Italian greyhound or dachshund.

Celebrity dogs: Paris Hilton, Christina Ricci, Hillary Duff and Madonna have Chihuahuas. Yorkshire terriers are toted around by Venus Williams, Naomi Watts and Missy Elliot.

Check out our Top Dogs slideshow.

The Carpool Mom
With kids around and their friends at the door, your house is overflowing with activity and energy. You want a child-friendly dog that’s easy to discipline.

Dogs to avoid: If you have little children who aren’t fully coordinated, stay away from fragile toy breeds like the Italian greyhound, Pekingese or miniature pinscher, Peterson says. “A toddler might fall on them or pull their hair. These dogs are especially vulnerable [to rough handling].”

Best dogs: Sporting and herding breeds. Sporting dogs include Labradors and golden retrievers. Herders include corgis, bearded collies, collies (like Lassie) and Shetland sheepdogs; all are good with kids and love to hang out with their people, Peterson says. Even intimidating-looking dogs can be wonderful friends to children – check out the Newfoundland and bull terrier.

Runners-up: Old English sheepdogs, beagles and boxers are all intelligent and good with children.

Celebrity dogs: Paul McCartney once owned a sheepdog. David Duchovny has a collie/terrier mix; Edie Falco has a Labrador/shepherd mix; and JC Chasez has an Akita-shepherd mix.

The Empty Nester
Your kids are out of the house and you’d love a companion for walks, bike rides or just to watch TV.

Dogs to avoid: Some dogs, such as the Pekingese or kuvasz, may be more aloof than you’d like. Also, puppies and very active dogs might be more than you want to handle at this point, Peterson says. Some active dogs become more difficult to manage as you get older.

Best dogs: Many in the non-sporting group are ideal for the empty nester: the Boston terrier, the French bulldog, the bichon frise or, Peterson’s pick, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel. “They can be as active as you want,” Peterson says. “They’re as happy taking long strolls as they are watching TV from your lap.” Some dogs are so attached to their owners that they may “shadow” them. Kerry Blue terriers and Vizslas fall into this camp.

Runners-up: More senior people can also consider adopting any adult dog instead of a puppy, Peterson recommends.

Celebrity dogs: Stevie Van Zandt, Tracey Ullman and Michael J. Fox all have had Cavalier King Charles spaniels.

The Single Woman Who Wants a Protector
You lock your doors at night, but you’d like a backup alarm. Why not try one of these furry personal protection systems?

Dogs to avoid: Labs and golden retrievers love people – even if that person is a burglar. “They’ll answer the door and act like, ‘c’mon in!’” Peterson says. Also avoid dogs that aren’t barkers, such as the Italian greyhound or whippet.

Best dogs: Pooches don’t get any tougher than a Doberman or Rottweiler, but they require a large home. Medium-sized dogs such as American Staffordshire terriers, mini bull terriers and Dalmatians are wonderful protectors.

Runners-up: A dog doesn’t have to look tough to be a watchdog. Vocal pooches, such as Scottish and Cairn terriers, and Lhasa Apsos probably will raise the alarm if an intruder comes around. “They’ll make you feel safe,” Peterson says.

Celebrity dogs: Anne Bancroft owned an American Staffordshire terrier; Bernadette Peters, Kelli Williams, Rosie Perez own bull terriers.

The Apartment Dweller
Live in a walk-up or in a smaller space? Find a pooch that doesn’t mind cramped digs and won’t annoy the neighbors.

Dogs to avoid : Obviously, stay away from giant breeds, such as Great Danes or Saint Bernards. But space isn’t the only issue; “chattiness” can also be a problem. “Norwegian elkhounds are known for barking, so they may not be the best choice in an apartment,” Peterson says. More barkers: Pomeranians, and West Highland and Norwich terriers.

Best dogs : Boston terriers, cocker spaniels and Maltese are small and, generally, not noisy.

Runners-up : But you don’t have to stick with petite dogs. “Greyhounds and whippets make excellent pets in small spaces as long as they get their long walks, too,” Peterson says.

Celebrity dogs : Jessica Simpson is a Maltese owner. Oprah Winfrey is fond of cocker spaniels. Bo Derek is a greyhound owner.

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