How to choose the perfect dog to fit your lifestyle, family and home

Those who grew up with dogs probably already know which breed they want to own, and have done for years. But the rest of us might need a bit of help — so we spoke to the Kennel Club to get their tips on how to choose the perfect pedigree dog.

We blame puppies.

Well, not blame them exactly. But unless you’re an AI-powered robot rather than a human being, it’s impossible not to be bowled over by the sheer adorableness of a pocket-sized dog tottering about uncertainly on legs and paws which it doesn’t quite yet understand how to work properly.

You see what we mean?

The problem is that puppies grow up, and when they do you may find yourself with a dog whose needs and foibles are entirely unsuited to your lifestyle, and that of your family.

Many people don’t have this problem. If you grow up with dogs, you’ll already know the pitfalls and benefits of several breeds — and will quite likely (as most second-generation owners do) plump for a four-legged friend of a type you already know well.

But for those who’ve always wanted a dog but never owned one, things are complicated — and never more so than around Crufts (www.crufts.org.uk), which falls (at the time of writing) this weekend. Watching the finest dogs in Britain get together inspires thousands of people around the country — nay, the world — to finally get the dog they’ve always dreamed of.

But what to choose? There are 222 dog breeds recognised by the Kennel Club, and we spoke to their experts to get some tips on finding a breed that’s suitable no matter what sort of lifestyle you have.

First things first, however: you’ll also need some advice on how to buy a puppy responsibly.

The obvious starting point — assuming that you’re looking for a pedigree dog — is to think about size, grooming, training and exercise needs, as well as general characteristics, all of which are important considerations when making that final decision.

Just as choosing the right breed, finding the right breeder is key. Breeders are responsible for giving a dog the best start in life and providing it with increased chances of having a healthy and happy life as it grows older.

A good breeder will invite the buyers to see the puppy and its breeding environment and ensure they can see the puppy interacting with its mum. They will be able to answer any questions buyers might have and provide all necessary paperwork including relevant health tests and microchip details.

If you… live in the country, have children, and plenty of time on your hands

Congratulations! You’ve just qualified yourself as the ideal candidate to own one of Britain’s favourite dogs: the Golden Retriever.

Sh Ch Linirgor Luv Song JW – Owned by Lynsey and Irene Dunbar, photographed Muiravonside Country Park, Linlithgow. ©Ruth Dalrymple / The Kennel Club

They need massive amounts of exercise — figure on a couple of hours a day — but they’re absolutely wonderful, enormously friendly and a joy to have around. No wonder iconic kids’ TV show Blue Peter kept a string of them for years.

‘Affectionate and loyal, Golden Retrievers are a firm family favourite,’ say the Kennel Club. ‘They are intelligent, love the country life and are truly man’s best friend.’ Or a woman’s, of course.

If you… live in the country, have children, but don’t have so much time to spare

The Bearded Collie is the choice for you: a dog which loves human company, making it a superb family pet — not to mention a rather unusual one, with just 350 new puppies a year registered.

Ch Potterdale Platinum Plus – owned by Janet Lewis and photographed at Springwood Park, Kelso. ©Ruth Dalrymple / The Kennel Club

While they need a decent amount of daily exercise, it’s nothing unmanageable — perhaps an hour or so. Don’t assume that the similar-looking Old English Sheepdog — or ‘Dulux dog’, as I thought they were called until I was 12 — shares that trait: in general they’ll a fair bit more, as much as a retriever.

‘Bearded Collies are steady, intelligent and lively,’ say the Kennel Club. ‘They thrive on human companionship so they are very well suited to dog-loving families. They love outdoor exercise whatever the weather!’

If you… live in the country, don’t have children, and have plenty of time on your hands

The Cocker Spaniel is the ‘ultimate all-rounder’, according to the Kennel Club.

Two Cocker Spaniels stood together outside a house. ©Diane Pearce / Kennel Club

The Cocker Spaniel is a dog that’s full of character and loyalty — but which will quite happily take over your life with its demands for both exercise and grooming. ‘This is a breed for owners who have a good amount time, and a lot of love, to give.’

If you… live in the country, don’t have children, and have a bit of time on your hands

The Border Terrier is spot on for this remit, though they’ll make decent family pets too.

You’ll get used to this look if you get a Border Terrier… ©Lisa Croft-Elliott / Kennel Club

We’ll admit to a certain bias here: one of the (seemingly dozens) of canines which roll into Country Life’s dog-friendly office each day is a Border Terrier named Peanut belonging to our Art Editor, Emma, and she’s a smash with everyone who walks through the door. (Peanut, that is, not Emma; though Emma is lovely too of course.)

‘Border Terriers are small with an easy-going and curious temperament,’ says the Kennel Club. ‘They love exploring the outdoors and are very happy in countryside.’

If you… live in town, have both children and have plenty of time on your hands

We’re not sure who has both children and time on their hands, but in case anyone falls into that category, the Kennel Club recommend the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, famed for its ability to slot into family life.

‘You talkin’ to me?’ ©Shutterstock / Kennel Club

‘Good-natured Staffies are often referred to as the “nanny” dog,’ say the Kennel Club. ‘They feel most at home with a family and as a breed they are known to be highly intelligent and affectionate, especially with children.’

If you… live in town, have no children and lots of spare time

You might think that a Greyhound would be too big for urban living, bit not so.

A city dog? Yes, really — Greyhounds are wonderfully calm and easy going. ©Diane Pearce / Kennel Club

‘Actually, Greyhounds can be a great choice for city dwellers who have plenty of time to devote to exercising their four-legged friend,’ say the Kennel Club. The reason? When they’re not racing around at 60mph, they’re incredibly calm, easy-going dogs. ‘Greyhounds are affectionate, mellow and docile – they can sleep for much of the day after a long walk,’ explain our experts.

If you… live in town, have children but not much time

The Bichon Frise fits the bill in this instance.

‘Well that’s the last time I buy supermarket-own shampoo…’ The inimitable Bichon Frise. ©Lisa Croft-Elliott / Kennel Club

They’re described by the Kennel Club as ‘an ideal companion dog’ but one which ‘loves to be part of the family.’ They’re friendly and loveable, and they’ll even save you time hoovering: their coats barely shed any hair.

If you… live in town, don’t have children and not much time

Let’s be honest: this particular breed will be a fairly niche choice among Country Life readers. And yet Chihuahuas deserve to have their fans as dogs which are as big of personality as they are small of stature.

Is this the first time a Chihuahua has been pictured in Country Life? ©Diane Pearce / Kennel Club

‘Chihuahuas are compact, alert and spirited little dogs – although tiny they are brimming with personality,’ say the Kennel Club. ‘They’re very adaptable and suitable for city-living.’

If even the energy levels of the Chihuahua are a bit too much then the Kennel Club recommend a Maltese or Miniature Schnauzer — small, self-reliant dogs who’ll be happy when left to their own devices.

If you… have allergies

If you you’re looking for a dog with a coat that sheds minimally, then the Poodle, Bichon Frise, Schnauzer, Lagotto Romagnolo and Yorkshire Terrier come recommended.

toy poodle

The toy poodle: cute, cuddly and hypo-allergenic. ©Getty/iStockphoto

And finally… if you have endless energy and want a dog to match

If you’re a runner and want a dog who can keep up? Look for an English Setter, Vizsla or even a Jack Russell, according to the Kennel Club. And if you’re after an adventurous dog who’ll follow you to the ends of the earth, then look for one of the classic working dogs: the Border Collie, German Shepherd, Springer Spaniel or Labrador will all fit the bill.

Well, most of the time, anyway…