Choosing the right dog for your family is a bigger decision than you may initially think. There are about 330 pure breeds and almost another 80 that were developed by breeders by mixing different combinations of pure breeds. Some breeds were mixed in ways that kept the characteristics, yet caused the dogs to be larger or smaller than the original breed. With so many choices, you have to think of each dog breed as having specific characteristics, temperament, size, function and abilities.
Each dog within that breed will share some common elements. For example, some dogs who were hunting dogs in times past have been bred differently to reduce the hunting instinct and make the dog more suitable as the pet for a family whose only "hunting" is stopping at grocery store or fast food to bring home dinner. Major categories of dog breeds include: toys, companions, guards, working, spaniels, terriers, sighthound, scent hounds, spitz and herding.
This doesn't include the famous "Heinz 57" - or pound mutt, whose exact heritage is unknown. Each of the breeds is known for its ability to perform certain jobs. Historically, all dogs were working dogs - helping with sheep herding, cattle tending, fetching game, guarding property or tracking escapees. House pets were not common as they are today. Each dog breed still carries the genetic code for its original type of work.
You need to know how that dog is genetically programmed before you bring him home. The dog that's naturally a watchdog won't be the cuddly playmate for your small children. The greyhound, particularly the rescued greyhound, is gentle and quiet, but they must have plenty of outdoor time to run. As a dog that can gain speeds of up to 45 mph, the greyhound is not a dog for couch potatoes.
If you want a medium to large dog that will be easily trained and protective over your children, then choose a pastoral or herding dog like the Old English sheepdog, Collie or Welsh Corgi. The instincts they have for keeping sheep in the pasture adapt to keeping your children inside the backyard while keeping intruders outside. When having a dog means a smaller pet that's purely for amusement with little expectation, then look at the toy dog breed. Among this group, you find Chihuahua, Poodle, Manchester Terrier, Pug, Pekingese, Shih Tzu and King Charles Spaniel. Don't expect any work from this group.
Toy dogs are masterful at finding ways for you to work for them. The hunting breed has a proud tradition as the faithful companion and partner to hunters. These dogs include the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, English Springer Spaniel, English Setter, Irish Setter and Cocker Spaniel. Even if you don't hunt, give these dogs the kind of open field exercise that makes them feel useful in the way that's part of their heritage. Some breeds require space, while others need primping for show that rivals what you see among fashion models.
Perhaps the easiest breed to bring home and love is the "pound mutt." In all shapes and sizes, these dogs have endured hardships that landed them in the shelter, when all they want is a family to love. Bring one home and you'll have a friend for life.
For more fun articles on dogs, check out Keith's dog website. At this site, you'll find all kinds of information on dogs - mostly about dog training.