How To Choose A Dog Breed That's Right For You

Last Updated 08 JUNE 2021

This article is written by Pet Circle pet guru, Gemma Radcliffe with input from veterinarian, Dr Kes Holliday DVM, BSc

So, you've made a decision...but not the decision? You know you want a dog, but you're wondering, "what dog is best for me?"

There's a lot to consider when finding a breed that best suits you, including your lifestyle, your work life, and everyone in the family. But there's no need to feel overwhelmed: you're absolutely spoiled for choice these days, so finding the perfect dog breed for you can be super exciting! So, whether you're seeking out a breeder or will be looking for your perfect breed at a shelter (always a good decision!), we've put together a little guide to help you make a well-informed decision.

1. Things to Consider

2. The Breeds

2. a) Best breeds for families or children

2. b) Best breeds for multi-pet households

2. c) Best breeds for first time owners

2. d) Best breeds for small homes or apartments

2. e) Best breeds for people with allergies

3. Further Reading

Things to consider...

Before we break out the lists (people just love lists, for some reason...), here's the thing: dogs are a commitment that will be a part of your life for up to twenty years, so it's best to put thought into things such as:

1. How often will you exercise your dog?

This is a big one. If you're an avid runner, hiker, or just live a generally active lifestyle, you won't have an issue with high-energy breeds that love to run and play. If you can only give your dog around 30 minutes of exercise a day or less, you'll want to look at less active dogs that don't mind lounging about on the couch with you.

2. How much training are you willing to give?

Some dogs, such as German Shepherds, pick up commands a lot quicker than others and thrive on the mental stimulation that training provides them - take this away from them, and they may start behaving erratically. Meanwhile, some other breeds such as Pugs can be difficult to train and require a lot more time, patience, and energy.

3. How often will you be able to groom your dog?

Not all dog fur is the same. In terms of 'fur types', there are two major 'classes' - fur which does not shed and fur which does shed. A breed will typically posess one type of fur or the other. The fur type that doesn't shed grows continuously and requires trimming every 4-6 weeks (or else you'll end up with a very long-haired pooch!). Breeds in this category include Maltese, Shih Tzu, and Poodles. Whereas fur that does shed may not need trimming (as the fur falls out once it reaches mature length), but it can be a little inconvenient as you may end up with fur all over your clothes and house! Most breeds fit into this 'shedding' category, including Labradors, Kelpies, Spaniels, Pugs, and Jack Russells - however note that some of these 'shedding' breeds shed much more than others.

Ultimately, this means you will either have to commit to paying for grooming every 4-6 weeks, or vacuuming up dog fur in your house.

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4. Will your dog be alone quite often, for extended periods?

A big drawback to the traditional 9 - 5 job is that there's a good chance that your dog will be left alone for up to eight hours a day...which some breeds simply cannot handle. Separation anxiety and destructive behaviour may occur in breeds that love human and family interaction (a good way to work around this is to bring in a pet sitter or dog walker). There are breeds that will not be too bothered with the idea of being home alone - and you can always keep them entertained with an interactive toy or two. Also consider how involved your dog will be in your daily life (including those all-important brunch dates!)

5. Do you have children?

If the answer is yes, great news: there are loads of dog breeds that love a pack mentality and thrive in an active, busy household. Some of them may even surprise you! Other breeds may not be suitable for very young children however, simply because of their size and energy levels (you don't want your dog to be bowling over your toddler constantly). At the other end of the spectrum are dogs that will not be able to tolerate the unpredictable nature of children, and are best kept in adult-only households. See our section below for breed recommendations for families with kids!

6. How much space do you have?

Apartment-dwellers, good news: there are breeds that are happy to live in smaller spaces, provided you take them out for regular walks and engage in plenty of playtime! But size isn't everything here: while small dogs might seem like a sensible idea for an apartment, many small breeds also tend to bark. A lot. So yes - you can still have a mid-sized or even large dog if you live in a high-rise! But all the more room your dog will have to run and play, the better.

7. The big question: can you afford a purebred?

According to the RSPCA and other rescue groups around Australia, financial restraints are among the top reasons why dogs are surrendered to shelters every year - second only to moving to a home or apartment that does not allow pets. While not fun to consider, you should check to see that your budget will allow for a purebred dog, as unexpected trips to the vet are a little more common than they can be with crossbreeds. Some breeds are more prone to health issues than others, so investigating what sort of health problems may accompany your new dog will be well worth the effort. Pet insurance may be worth considering here, too!

The Breeds...

A quick note before we begin: we always advocate adoption (and we have a list of places you can adopt from, too!). Check out our list of rescue organisations - maybe your perfect match is out there?

Why not check out The PET Spot?

The Pet Spot focuses on promoting verified, ethical breeders. It brings transparency to the process of finding a puppy, and is the first Australian marketplace to use strict vetting processes that helps simplify finding a trusted breeder. This provides peace of mind that the pets purchased have been raised in loving, nurturing conditions.

The PETspot is also the first platform to provide cat breeder reviews. This gives the pet community a voice, with each user able to review recent experiences with breeders, shelters, and services.

Alright, let's get started on breeds...

Dog breeds for families or for children

  • Beagle Originally bred for hunting in packs, Beagles love the company of people and other dogs alike. These friendly, curious dogs are highly active, but if your kids love nothing more than to play soccer all afternoon, that shouldn't be a problem for your Beagle.
  • Rough Collie Loyal, affectionate and responsive, collies love company and are known to be very protective - they were bred as herding dogs, after all. If you want a devoted friend for your kids, a collie is an excellent choice. Just think: Lassie!
  • Miniature or Standard Schnauzer While the Giant Schnauzer might be too large of a dog for families with small children, you'll find the Miniature or Standard Schnauzer an excellent family companion - they love to play and are generally low-maintenance.
  • Weimaraner While quite active, Weimaraners love spending time with their families, and being eager to please, they're a great choice if you want your children to be actively involved in training your dog.
  • Labrador or Golden Retriever They're among the most popular breeds for a reason! Both retriever breeds, while different in their own ways, are still incredibly friendly, spirited, patient with children, and will quickly become devoted members of the family in no time.
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or "Staffie" One of the most popular breeds in Australia, Staffies are gentle and loving dogs, despite what some may say. They are very strong dogs however, so they will need a little bit of training to make sure they're not bowling over your guests with excitement.
  • Bulldog With their loveable, gentle dispositions, Bulldogs are a great choice for families - and because they're built like tanks, they don't mind the odd rough and tumble with the kids.

Dog breeds for multi-pet households

  • Beagle As mentioned above, beagles were bred to run in packs alongside hunters, so they love being among other dogs.
  • Labrador or Golden Retriever Fantastic breeds for plenty of reasons, you can be sure that a Labrador Retriever or Golden Retriever will get along with other dogs and cats. And just about any other critter!
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Also a great choice for children, Cavaliers are gentle dogs that will get along with other pets for the most part.
  • Maltese These mild-natured dogs are great for multi-species households
  • Pug Pugs are up for pretty much anything, including playtime and naps with other dogs and cats.
  • Boxer Another breed that can be considered for the family, boxers are great for multi-pet households, so long as those other pets don't mind playing!
  • Dachshund Full of personality, even the miniature breeds have the mindset of a much bigger dog and appreciate their company.
  • German Shepherd While German Shepherds may be seen as standoffish guard dogs, they can actually be great with other animals, due to the fact that they are highly intelligent and easily trained to accept cats as part of the family.

Dogs for first time owners

  • Jack Russell Terrier Jack Russells are extremely popular little dogs, and are great if you are after an active, intelligent dog. They will definitely benefit from training and exercise, and the breed does not encounter many health issues.
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel These extremely sweet dogs are great for beginners, but do have slightly longer coats, so they'll need a little more attention in the grooming department. You'll be rewarded with a quiet, cuddly lounge companion, though.
  • Labrador and Golden Retriever We're just going to put these dogs in every category, really. Labrador Retrievers and their long-coated cousin, the Golden Retriever, are relatively low-maintenance, trainable, and have excellent temperaments for first-time owners.
  • Greyhound Surprise-surprise! Greyhounds really are just 40km/hr lounge lizards (they still need regular exercise, though, like all dogs), and while they make great running companions, they really are very low-maintenance, gentle dogs.
  • Papillon These little dogs, with their beautiful long coats and characteristic ears, have friendly personalities and love being with people. They are active and are perfect for households with older children, and also retirees. Some people report their Papillon to be an excellent little guard dog, too.
  • Poodle/any "oodle" breed Poodles are very smart dogs, so they're easy to train and handle for those who are becoming a pet parent for the first time. They also have excellent temperaments, which is why poodles are often used to breed many of the loveable breeds that people are familiar with, such as Cavoodles, Labradoodles, Spoodles - all of which make great choices for first-time dog owners in their own right.

Dogs for small homes or apartments

  • Greyhound Yes, believe it or not, Greyhounds are a good choice for apartments and small homes. While they may seem like they belong on a race track, your Greyhound would much rather take a brisk daily walk and then spend the rest of their time lounging in the sun. They're also quite friendly and calm, so your neighbour will probably fall in love with yours.
  • Bichon Frise A naturally small breed, Bichon Frise do not shed much in the way of fur, so they're a good choice if you're living in close quarters with someone who can get a little sneezy. Like most breeds, you'll need to take your Bichon for regular walks outside of the apartment to keep them happy.
  • Boston Terrier Just make sure you exercise your Boston regularly, and you'll have a great apartment companion, as Boston Terriers are err...compact, and gentle little dogs.
  • Bulldogs (including French bulldogs) Bulldogs do not require strenuous exercise, so they can dwell in apartments or small homes without much of a problem. Happy to laze about either side of their daily walk, bulldogs of course don't grow very tall, either.
  • Shih Tzu These little dogs were originally bred as lapdogs for members of the Chinese court, so they're friendly to their owners, friends, and will happily adapt to apartment living.
  • Toy or Miniature Poodle While the standard poodle is likely too large and energetic for an apartment, the smaller variants of this breed can easily call an apartment home. However, some training may be required to minimise any barking.

Dogs for people with allergies

  • Giant or Miniature Schnauzer Schnauzers have very thick coats, so you may be surprised to hear that they drop very little in the way of hair, making them great for allergy sufferers.
  • Poodle Another dog known for its glamorous hair-dos, Poodles have a curly, wiry coat that drops hardly any hair at all. Poodle cross-breeds may also share this genetic trait, but it can vary from litter to litter and even dog to dog!
  • Maltese Maltese are great companion dogs whose hair fall is practically negligible and very easy to maintain, so they shouldn't irritate allergy sufferers in the least bit.
  • Australian Silky Terrier A truly Aussie breed, the Australian Silky Terrier certainly has a beautiful coat - and surprise, surprise, it sheds very little if at all.
  • Chinese Crested These dogs come in two breed varieties, known as the powderpuff and the hairless. The hairless variety still has hair tufts around the paws, head and tail, so they're not entirely hairless, and of course hardly shed.
  • Scottish Terrier Scottie dogs shed very little and require minimal grooming, giving them a tick of approval from allergy sufferers.
  • West Highland Terrier Westies are adorable, fun-loving dogs, and while they do have long white double coats, they still do not shed much in the way of fur.

Things to take away...

At the end of the day, we recommend research, research, and more research! If you have your heart set on a particular breed, there's no reason why that dog can't be the perfect breed for you, so long as you're ready to meet their energy, food and grooming requirements. There's nothing more rewarding than a loving companion dog - and that's exactly what you'll get with the right care and nourishment!

Check out our rescue groups here

Further Reading

As a new puppy parent, the more reading you can do, the better. We recommend taking a look at the following resources: