As mentioned last week, October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog-Month and ASPCA's theme for the year is "Meet Your Match."
Up to 50 percent of the dogs adopted from the humane society are returned because of a mis-match. In order to "Meet Your Match," it is important to accept what your lifestyle is, rather than what you would like it to be, and know the various characteristics of different breeds of dogs.
The majority of dogs in the U.S. today are mixed breeds as are most dogs available at shelters. Each of those mixed breeds is derived from a few or several breeds and the characteristics and traits of those breeds are lurking within. Knowing those traits is helpful in finding a good match.
There are seven groups of dogs acknowledged by the American Kennel Club. There also is a miscellaneous group consisting of new breeds waiting for placement into one of those groups. Every breed fits into one of these seven groups. Examining these groups will point out similar characteristics of the breeds within a group and also explain characteristics of the breeds that make them more or less suitable for one's lifestyle.
The Sporting Group consists of breeds that we all know and love. The Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever and Cocker Spaniel are some of our favorites. These dogs are alert and active and make wonderful companions because they are devoted and mainly want to please. However, they require regular, invigorating exercise.
The Hound Group breeds all began as hunters. They use their noses, scent hounds, eyes, sighthounds, or great stamina to hunt or follow a trail. They generally are laid back and mellow, but due to their size and strength, need training and a place to run. This group consists of very diverse breeds including the Dachshund, Greyhound, Basset Hound and the Ibizan Hound, which won best in show at Westminster this past year.
Some breeds of hounds produce the unique baying sound which can be a bit annoying to you and your neighbors. Many of these breeds are quite active while others are very slow moving -- like the Basset Hound. But they all are inclined to wander off following prey so require secure fencing.
The Working Group Breeds were bred to perform specific jobs, such as guarding, rescuing and pulling heavy loads. They are intelligent, quick to learn and make great companions. But they are large and strong and therefore need proper training from puppyhood and are generally not suitable as pets for citydwellers. They need exercise and a job. Examples of this breed are the Boxer, Doberman Pinscher, Saint Bernard and Great Dane.
The Terrier Group is maybe the least understood of all because it consists of cute little dogs who can be incorrigible. The popularity of the Jack Russell is an example. Terriers are full of energy. They were bred to hunt and kill vermin and most would take any opportunity to do so. As a group, they have little tolerance for other animals including other dogs. They can make terrific pets but require owners with the energy to keep up and train them. The West Highland White Terrier is one of the smallest in the group with the Airedale Terrier being the largest. The infamous Pit Bull, also known as the American Staffordshire Terrier, is a member of this group.
The Toy Group consists of all those tiny little lap dogs. They are grouped more because of their size than characteristics and temperament. Some, such as the Pomeranians, just know that they are large dogs in small bodies. Some in this group are tough but many are happy to be lap-warmers. They are great for people in apartments and other small quarters but they still enjoy a daily walk. Examples are Chihuahua, Yorkshire Terrier, ShihTzu and Pug.
The Non-Sporting Group is most diverse. They are a sturdy lot consisting of breeds that do not fit into any of the other groups and they have a great variety of size, coat, temperament, personality and appearance. Well-known examples of this group are Dalmatians, American Eskimo, Bichon Frise, Bulldog, Chow Chow and the Standard and Miniature Poodle.
The Herding Group is the newest classification but its breeds, such as Border Collies, are extremely popular, particularly for obedience, agility and flyball because they are energetic and eager to learn and work. They all share the ability to control the movement of other animals and will willingly herd children. They make excellent companions but must have exercise and opportunities to work or they can be depressed or get into trouble. They suffer in small quarters.
When planning to adopt a dog, study the different breeds. Visit the library or the AKC and ASPCA websites for valuable and helpful information. Take your time. Realize that any dog requires a commitment of time, training and exercise. Life will be wonderful when you meet your match.
(The primary resource for this information was the American Kennel Club)