What is the best dog breed for you? Experts reveal how to choose
Is there a “right” breed for your household?
If you’ve ever owned a dog or even considered getting a pooch, there’s a fair chance you’ve wondered if there’s a dog breed that’s right for you.
Countless quizzes claim to pick the perfect pup for your setup. But is there really such a thing as a specific breed that’s right for you?
Inverse spoke to pet experts to answer all your burning questions regarding dog breed “fit,” including independent dogs, family-friendly dogs, and more.
“When choosing a dog, breed is one of many factors to consider,” Katherine Pankratz, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, tells Inverse. “It is important to find a companion that is most likely to suit your lifestyle.”
Does breed matter when picking a dog?
A 2021 study analyzed the link between dog breeds, personality, and human and dog stress levels. The study analyzed three types of dog breeds:
- Solitary hunting or working dogs
- Dogs bred for human companionship
- Ancient dogs related more closely to wolves
Some dog owners’ personalities may be more compatible with certain groups of dogs, according to the study. For example, dog owners who ranked higher in “openness” caused greater stress in hunting dogs, suggesting, instead, that these owners would be better suited — and naturally seek out — ancient dog breeds.
Similarly, a 2015 study found some correlation between dog breeds and behavior. The study reported three key findings, suggesting “working” dogs:
- Were easier to train and showed a greater interest in playing with humans
- Showed more aggression to other dogs and were less fearful of human strangers
- Demonstrate greater attachment and attention-seeking behavior
“The function of the breed — i.e., working, herding, etc — may be a valuable consideration when anticipating potential behaviors,” Pankratz says.
But discussing dog breed can also be a tricky business. Pankratz says “breed associations are mostly based on purebred dogs.” When it comes to dogs with “unknown pedigrees” Pankratz stresses that people — even experienced staff at dog shelters — often misidentify their breed compared to the dog’s actual genetics.
“This is a major problem when wrong breed names are attributed to some dogs and is not necessarily predictive of their potential behaviors,” Pankratz says.
A dog’s looks “are only skin deep” and not always a predictor of how they will behave, Pankratz says.
Which breeds of dogs are most independent?
If you work outside the home or take frequent trips, you might wonder if there are certain dogs that are more independent to fit your lifestyle.
Renee Streeter, a veterinary nutritionist at PetPlate, and Yui Shapard, educational director, Association of Asian Veterinary Medical Professionals, tell Inverse that the following dog breeds tend to be more independent :
- Shiba Inus
- Jindos (and other Asian Pacific breeds)
- German shepherds
- Border collies
- Boston terriers
But other factors, like the dog’s environment, could be more important than their breed in determining their independence.
As working dogs, Border collies and German Shepherds tend to be more independent, but “those living in a city as mainly companionship may not exhibit much independence,” Shapard says.
If you live in a city and your dogs are used to being around you frequently, then even independent dogs could “exhibit anxiety disorders if they do not get the mental and physical stimulation they need to thrive,” Shapard warns.
Further, much of a dog’s independence — or lack thereof — comes down to training rather than breed.
“When it comes to independence, a lot has to do with the way the dogs are trained by their owners and their relationships,” Shapard says.
Shapard emphasizes, that, regardless of dog breed, you shouldn’t leave a pup alone for more than six to eight hours.
Dogs are “social animals and it is not ideal for them to be isolated for extended periods of time,” Shapard says.
Read our article on “How long can I leave my dog at home?”
Are some dog breeds less destructive?
The short answer to this question: “Not really,” says Shapard.
She stresses that “while some hunting breeds may have a higher incidence of destructive behavior at home” destructive behavior is a “learned behavior” that can indicate anxiety, extreme boredom, or a lack of training.
Pet owners need to take care to train all their dogs to function on their own when owners are away — regardless of whether some dogs are more independent or not.
“These breeds might handle being alone more easily, but all dogs have to learn to be comfortable being alone and trained not to chew on household items,” Brad Phifer, executive director of the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, tells Inverse.
“I wish it was so simple to just look at the breed to determine the likelihood of behavior, but there are so many other factors to consider,” Pankratz says.
Factors beyond breed, such as the genetics of the dog’s parents, the canine’s early socialization and learned behaviors, age, and sex, can all play a big role in shaping personality.
Shapard concludes, “There is no easy way to avoid a misbehaved dog regardless of the breed.”
Are there family-friendly dog breeds?
On the flipside, if you’re thinking of starting a family, you might seek out a dog that’s more attentive — and likely requires more attention in return.
“Toy breeds are bred purely for human companionship, so dogs under the toy breed genre are generally more dependent on people,” Shapard says.
Common toy dogs include:
- Maltese dogs
- Shih Tzus
- King Charles Spaniel
Streeter agrees. “Highly active breeds like hound dogs, Huskies, Poodles and Poodle-mixes tend to do less well when left alone and confined.”
She adds, “Retrievers and shepherd dogs are very intelligent and like to have tasks to fill their day.”
Dogs like retrievers and terriers fall into a family of canines that are known to be more family-friendly and sociable, according to Shapard. Brachycephalic — short-headed — dog breeds are often family-friendly as well.
If you’re seeking highly sociable, family-friend dogs, you may want to consider these breeds:
- Golden retrievers
But Pankratz says the “literature is still teasing out” the answers to these complex questions about dog breed, personality, and behavior.
“We have our ‘beliefs’ on what type of dog breed we think would be more prone to certain behaviors, but we need to look at the literature to validate those assumptions.”
Ultimately, breed is just one of many factors that make up a dog’s personality and behavior.