published Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

How to pick a pup: Choosing the right breed for your family's lifestyle

The Chihuahua is confident, fearless to the point of reckless, affectionate but often bonds to one person, not recommended for young children. The great Dane is a gentle giant, needs lots of space, sweet, eager to please, people-oriented, easy to housetrain.
The Chihuahua is confident, fearless to the point of reckless, affectionate but often bonds to one person, not recommended for young children. The great Dane is a gentle giant, needs lots of space, sweet, eager to please, people-oriented, easy to housetrain.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.



Confident, fearless to the point of reckless, affectionate but often bonds to one person, not recommended for young children

Great Dane

Gentle giant, needs lots of space, sweet, eager to please, people-oriented, easy to housetrain

Border collie

Tremendous energy, very smart, strong-minded, must be kept busy or can be destructive

Yorkshire terrier

Glamorous, feisty, loving, easily spoiled, hard to housetrain, not recommended for toddlers or small kids

Labrador retriever

Outgoing, good with kids/other animals, energetic, needs lots of exercise


Bold, intelligent, unequaled loyalty, willful, poor choice for first-timers, best in single-dog home

Shetland sheepdog

Loyal and gentle, personality can range from outgoing to shy, love being with their owner, sensitive

Golden retriever

Smart, calm, eager to please, great with kids



For more information on responsible dog ownership, visit the AKC website at

A lifelong dog owner, Sandra Weigle decided about 20 years ago that she wanted to show dogs and began looking for a breed that appealed to her. After extensive research and discussions with breeders, she settled on Australian terriers, one of the only hunting terrier breeds that also was bred for companionship.

It was a perfect match.

"They fit in perfectly with me," says Weigle, a member of the Chattanooga Kennel Club who specializes in public education and breed selection. "I've never had another breed of dog since. I don't want another breed of dog; this is my dog. I love them."

Dogs may be man's best friend, the Ooltewah resident says, but finding your best friend can require a little leg work.

When choosing a canine companion to add to your family, there are many things to keep in mind. The decision can be overwhelming with each breed having its own unique appearance, temperament, coat type and energy level.

First, Weigle says, owners need to consider their own lifestyle. Are they more active or sedentary? Can they devote time each day to exercising a more energetic breed or do they need a breed that prefers to loll about?

She recommends that folks unsure of what breed they want begin their search on the American Kennel Club's breed listings. There, prospective owners can research any of 175 recognized breeds by name or group to view personality traits and breed history.

To help potential dog owners find the right breed for them, the American Kennel Club, which recognizes 177 different breeds, offers some tips.

• Living space: If you have limited living space, consider a toy breed, such as the Yorkshire terrier or Chihuahua. Yorkies are determined, brave and energetic. Chihuahuas are alert, intelligent and gentle. Both breeds are tiny and need minimal exercise, making them ideal dogs for small apartments.

If you live in a larger home, you may want to consider a working or sporting breed like a Great Dane or golden retriever. Known as a "Gentle Giant," Great Danes are strong yet gentle, energetic and friendly. Golden retrievers are also friendly, active and have an eager-to-please attitude. Both breeds require daily exercise and make great family pets for those who have lots of open space like a backyard.

• Children. Some breeds, such as Great Danes, Labradors and golden retrievers have the personalities to deal with small children and toddlers. These dogs take pretty much whatever's dished out at them with a calm demeanor.

Others, though, such as cocker spaniels, chows and poodles aren't always good at handling the push, poke, prod activities of children or the intense activity level around them. Some, like Yorkshire terriers or Chihuahuas, can be injured if the children play too rough.

Gene Smith, director of the Animal Control Division with the city of Cleveland, always reminds people who have children and want to adopt a pet to keep an eye on both the pet and the child, especially early on.

"My advice to anybody, especially if they have children, is that whether the dog is large or small, you have to take precautions and watch," he says. "Young children don't always know how to treat an animal, and they have to be taught."

He says beagles and Labrador retrievers are good around children.

• Activity level: If you are extremely active and love the outdoors, you may want to consider a border collie or Labrador retriever. Border collies are extremely energetic and love to play around in the yard. They require daily exercise and make great running partners. Labrador retrievers are also very playful and do best when they are part of an active family.

If your family prefers to stay inside and play, you may want to consider a French bulldog or pug. These dogs are great companion dogs, love to play but require less exercise.

• Grooming: Different breeds have different grooming needs. Breeds with a long heavy coat such as the Shetland sheepdog need regular grooming to prevent mats and tangles. Double-coated breeds such as the Akita require weekly brushing. Breeds with smooth coats or short-hair such as the greyhound and boxer require regular grooming.

Once a family narrows the field down to a few breeds, Weigle says, they should focus their search at websites for national breeding clubs to get more specific info and breeder referrals. Since personalities vary within the breed, Weigle suggests a personal visit to the breeder to see both the prospective puppy and its parents.

That way, she says, they can be sure an otherwise adorable youngster won't follow in its aggressive or disruptive parents' paw prints.

"That's what the puppies will grow into," she says. "Good breeders ask a ton of questions to prospective buyers, and in turn, prospective buyers should ask a breeder a ton of questions, too.

"There should be no breeder who won't answer questions."

McClatchy Tribune News Service contributed to this story.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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