How to Choose a Puppy
By Cesar Millan, author of
How to Raise the Perfect Dog
There are more than 150 separate dog breeds recognized by The American Kennel Club, and hundreds more breeds and variations of breeds in addition to those. Selecting the appropriate breed of dog is an important factor to consider when choosing a puppy for your family, especially when considering size and special needs, lifestyle choices, environmental compatibility, and factors such as food and exercise requirements. But in my opinion, the energy level of the puppy is a much more accurate gauge of whether you and your dog will be compatible mates for life. That’s because all breeds of dogs are dogs first. I think of any dog first as animal, then as dog, then as breed, and last, the dog’s name, or what most people term her “personality.” When humans took on the task of custom- designing dogs for our own needs and desires, we didn’t create the characteristics we selected from scratch, we merely adapted and refined basic dog traits that were already there. In other words, we took what Mother Nature had already given the canid species and reshaped it to our liking. I think of breed in a dog as that extra “boost” that kicks the dog’s natural instincts into hyperdrive.
All dogs are predators, but over thousands of generations, we’ve created sporting breeds to be exceptionally focused predators. All dogs like to dig and chase small prey, but terriers are superdriven to dig and find rodents. All dogs love to run, but greyhounds can run up to forty miles an hour, and huskies can run for hours and hours on end. All dogs have the natural ability to fight or wrestle with one another, but the bully breeds have been genetically engineered to fight to the death. The more pure the bloodline, the more that genetic “boost” will probably play a part in your dog’s behavior. That’s why some owners claim that their “mutts” make mellower pets, because, they theorize, their DNA has been somewhat diluted, and their breed-related drives diffused as a result.
As a general rule, the more purebred the dog, the more intense the desire it will have to fulfill its genetic purpose. Therefore, it will require more focus and attention from you in making sure that those breed- related needs are constantly challenged and fulfilled. When thinking about what might be the right breed for you, you must do your homework ahead of time. Read up on every breed you are interested in, paying special attention to the original job it was bred to do. Then ask yourself, Can I provide the right environment, the proper amount of time, and the appropriate stimulation to fulfill those inborn breed- related needs? For instance, if you are in love with the scruffy face and petite size of terriers, are you prepared to designate a part of your prized garden so it can fulfill its biological need to dig? Or are you so in love with your lawn that any damage to it causes you to fly off the handle? If you admire the sleek physique and elegance of a pointer or Weimaraner, do you have the time and energy to play hide- and- seek or hunting games with it in the park several days a week? Or will you keep it cooped up in your apartment and only walk it to the corner? If you desperately want a high- energy Australian shepherd, will you be willing to take it to sheep- herding class or play agility games with it, on a regular basis? When we fulfill all the needs of our dogs– with consideration to them as animals, dogs, and breeds– they will reciprocate by being the most loyal, loving friends we could ever imagine. When we leave them unfulfilled, on the other hand, we create issues that can make their lives and ours absolutely miserable.