Explainer: Which dog breeds are best for you?

  • Keith Bedford  /  Reuters

    The great thing about dogs is that there's one for almost every lifestyle. Find your living situation in the navigation and see which breeds might be the best fit for you. If you're not looking for a purebred, a shelter dog containing the breeds that fall into your lifestyle category could be a good match.

  • Urban yuppie

    Simon Marcus  /  � Simon Marcus/Corbis

    You live in a city condo and have a thriving career and no kids. Your work keeps you busy for long hours, but on the upside you have a healthy income. You know that dogs are social creatures, but you'd really like to be greeted by a sloppy canine kiss when you get home.

    There's good news and bad news: There are dogs that fit your situation -- if you're willing to put forth some time upfront to socialize and train them so they're welcome anywhere, or you can afford to hire a dog walker, pet-sitter or take them to doggie day care.

    But if you're unable to spend time with the dog when you're at home, you should probably reconsider dog ownership.

  • Shih tzu

    Itsuo Inouye  /  AP

    Born to be a companion, this elegant dog of Chinese heritage is outgoing and affectionate toward everyone it meets. Beneath all that long, flowing hair, it's sturdy for its size - 9 to 11 inches tall, weighing 9 to 16 pounds - and will enjoy a couple of 15-minute walks daily.

    The shih tzu's luxurious coat doesn't shed much, but does need to be combed daily to prevent tangles. This pooch loves being with people but can entertain itself if you're at work or busy.

  • Boston terrier

    Andrea Rugg Photography  /  � Andrea Rugg Photography/Beatew

    The Boston is smart, easy to train and plays well with others. Its alert, observant personality makes it a good watchdog, and its short, smooth coat is easy to care for with a weekly brushing. A short daily walk satisfies this breed's exercise needs.

    The Boston terrier comes in three sizes: under 15 pounds, under 20 pounds and under 25 pounds. Its short nose makes it prone to heatstroke, so this breed needs to live in an air-conditioned or mild environment. Note: These dogs snore.

  • Scottish terrier

    Michele Westmorland  /  � Michele Westmorland/CORBIS

    The dignified Scottie, weighing in at 18 to 22 pounds, is a good size for condo living and requires only a brisk daily walk to keep it in shape.

    Scotties are fiercely devoted to their people and can be barkers if strangers intrude onto their territory. Living in a high-rise, however, that might not be an issue.

  • English toy spaniel

    NBC Sports

    If you want a companion that's easy to carry around or take on a plane, consider this quiet, gentle dog. This breed weighs 8 to 14 pounds and wants nothing more than to be with their person. This isn't a high-energy dog, so a brief walk or playtime in the house is all the exercise it needs.

  • Lhasa apso

    Jerry Cooke  /  � Jerry Cooke/CORBIS

    The calm, sturdy Lhasa, which can grow to be 10 to 11 inches tall and weigh from 13 to 15 pounds, tends to be a one-person dog. It's a thinker and studies new people and situations carefully before deciding if it approves of them. The Lhasa can be suspicious of strangers and is an excellent watchdog.

    A couple of brief, daily walks meet its exercise needs. The long coat needs regular grooming, although it can be clipped short for easier care. These dogs are smart and highly trainable, but do have a mind of their own. You'll need to be patient and firm, but never harsh.

  • Suburban family

    Ariel Skelley  /  � Ariel Skelley/CORBIS

    You live in a house with a yard, and you have kids who range in age from toddler through junior high. You want a dog that’s energetic enough to play with them, yet calm and gentle enough to tolerate clumsy hands and erratic movements. You have time to take your dog to training classes, practice with it at home and socialize it so it’s familiar with a variety of people, places and situations.

  • Bulldog

    Susan Ragan  /  AP

    Sweet, smart and lovable, the bulldog -- which weighs between 40 and 50 pounds full grown -- is moderately active as a puppy but mellows with maturity. It'll always enjoy playing with the kids as long as they don't run it ragged. When the bulldog gets tired, it'll simply walk away.

    This breed's favorite activity is relaxing with the family when everyone's home from school or work. A short daily walk or brief play session satisfies this dog's exercise needs.

    Bulldogs are prone to heatstroke and must live in an air-conditioned environment or areas with a milder climate; you can't leave them outdoors on hot days.

  • Miniature schnauzer

    John Gress  /  AP

    Alert and spirited, the miniature schnauzer is a homebody that's devoted to the family and makes an excellent watchdog. This breed loves children, whose high energy levels match its own.

    Miniature schnauzers stand 12 to 14 inches at the shoulder and weigh about 14 pounds full grown. They have a hard, wiry coat that must be plucked by hand at least a couple of times a year to permit new growth, or it can be clipped for easier care. Clipping the coat will make it feel soft instead of hard, but if it's not a show dog, that won't matter.

  • Golden retriever

    Chitose Suzuki  /  AP

    This breed loves everyone, especially kids. It'll play fetch for as long as they're willing to throw a ball, and the pooch'll make you laugh by cramming multiple tennis balls into its mouth.

    These dogs are highly trainable and enjoy going places and doing things with the family. This breed should be brushed at least three times a week to keep the coat clean and tangle-free. Full-grown goldens are large, weighing 55 to 75 pounds.

  • Basset hound

    Bruno Vincent  /  Getty Images

    The basset's pros include a love for children, a sense of humor, watchdog abilities and an easy-to-care-for coat. The dog has enough energy to play with the kids, but not so much that it requires loads of exercise. The basset enjoys a slow-paced daily walk with plenty of opportunities for sniffing.

    Because the basset hound is short, you might not think of it as a large dog, but it weighs 45 to 65 pounds when full grown. Keep the basset in a securely fenced yard, or its nose will lead it to wander off in search of an interesting scent.

  • Collie


    Kind and smart, the collie comes in two coat types: rough (like Lassie) and smooth (easier to care for). Both varieties shed heavily, so be prepared for a lot of fur flying around. Collies love attention and have plenty of energy to play all day. They'll need two or three 20- or 30-minute walks or playtimes each day.

    Male collies are 24 to 26 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 60 to 75 pounds; females are 22 to 24 inches tall and weigh 50 to 65 pounds.

  • The athlete

    Scott Warren  /  Aurora/Getty Images

    You're a runner, jogger, cyclist or hiker and you want a dog that can keep up with you. You have plenty of time -- and preferably a yard -- to provide training and exercise every day.

  • Australian shepherd

    Lucas Jackson  /  Reuters

    Highly active and smart, the Aussie can do just about anything you teach it as long as the task doesn't require opposable thumbs. This dog is happiest when it has a job to do, and excels in competitive dog sports such as agility and flyball.

    Take this pooch jogging or running, teach it to pull a cart, help you in the yard and play Frisbee. But whatever you do, keep it busy. The Aussie may become destructive if it's bored.

    Full-grown males are 20 to 23 inches tall and weigh about 50 to 65 pounds; females are 18 to 21 inches and weigh 40 to 55 pounds.

  • Siberian husky

    Times-News Ashley Smith

    Agile and quick, the athletic Siberian husky is highly active and needs someone who can keep up with it. Take this dog for long runs or teach it to run alongside your bicycle -- safely leashed, of course.

    Be aware that without an outlet for its energy, this dog can become a highly destructive digger or chewer. The Siberian husky needs a securely fenced yard to prevent it from taking off for the Great White North.

    The males are 21 to 23.5 inches tall and weigh 45 to 60 pounds; females are 20 to 22 inches tall and weigh 35 to 50 pounds.

  • Labrador retriever

    Keith Bedford  /  Reuters

    Versatile to the max, the Lab enjoys running, swimming, hiking, fetching, boating -- you name it. If you're doing it, this dog wants to be there with you. The Lab is a high-energy, highly trainable dog that needs a lot of activity to be happy. It's capable of competing in just about every dog sport that exists, but like all smart, active dogs, the Lab can be destructive if it doesn't get enough exercise and mental stimulation.

    To give this breed's bones time to mature, wait until it's 2 years old to introduce running, jumping or other high-impact activities. When they're full grown, male Labs are 22.5 to 24.5 inches tall and weigh 65 to 80 pounds; females are 21.5 to 23.5 inches tall and weigh 55 to 70 pounds.

  • Dalmatian

    Lucy Pemoni  /  AP

    Bred to run behind coaches for miles on end, dalmatians are ideal companions for people who run, skate or bike. They can grow to be 19 to 23 inches tall and weigh 45 to 70 pounds.

    Dalmatians are equally interested in accompanying their people from room to room or on errands in the car whenever possible. They're keen competitors in agility and flyball, and are great at learning tricks. And if you enjoy riding, a Dalmatian would be a nice match, as they're also fond of horses.

    A half-hour to an hour daily walk is a reasonable minimum for this breed. To give the bones time to mature, wait until the pooch is 2 years old to introduce running, jumping or other high-impact activities.

  • German shorthaired pointer

    Frank Franklin Ii  /  AP

    This sporty German import is bred to work all day, with the ability to run for an hour in front of a horse over great distances. That makes this breed a great companion for distance runners or people who enjoy daylong hikes over rough terrain. It's smart and enthusiastic, capable of excelling in any number of dog sports.

    As with any large dog, wait until its body matures at 18 months to 2 years of age before introducing high-impact exercise. Male German shorthaired pointers are 23 to 25 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 55 to 70 pounds; females are 21 to 23 inches and weigh 45 to 60 pounds.

  • Homebody/Sedentary

    Jlp/ Deimos  /  � JLP/Deimos/Corbis

    You work at home or are an empty nester. You'd like a canine buddy, but not necessarily one that needs hours of exercise. A nice, moderate walk or two each day is what you have in mind, and a dog who'll sleep under your desk while you work or snuggle with you on the sofa while you watch TV would fit right into your life.

  • Chihuahua

    China Photos  /  Getty Images

    The charming Chihuahua is wildly popular not only for its pocketbook dimensions, but also for its larger-than-life personality. The Chi's got more chutzpah than a dog 20 times its size -- often no larger than 6 pounds, although some grow to be double that size -- which makes it appealing to both men and women.

    The Chihuahua comes in two coat types (shorthaired and longhaired) and an infinite number of colors and patterns. You can take this dog to the beach or the mall, or just stay home with it -- it'll be happy as long as it's with you.

  • Miniature pinscher

    Sonja Pacho  /  � Sonja Pacho/zefa/Corbis

    The mini pinscher is a smart, sassy dog that is best suited to someone with a sense of humor who can stay one step ahead of it. If you can, this busy, playful, mischievous dog will keep you constantly entertained. It likes to snuggle under the covers with you when it's not ridding your yard of mice, rabbits, squirrels and anything else that dares to invade its territory. Protect it from bigger dogs, because it'll think it's capable of taking them on.

    The mini pinscher's short, smooth coat is easy to groom and comes in solid red, chocolate with rust-red markings or the black with rust-red markings that make people think it's a miniaturized Doberman. (It's not -- the mini pinscher is actually an older breed.) Expect a mini pinscher to be 10 to 12.5 inches tall and weigh 8 to 11 pounds.

  • Affenpinscher

    Michelle Pedone  /  � Michelle Pedone/zefa/Corbis

    This mustachioed little devil is curious and intelligent. It has the typical "big dog in a small body" personality that characterizes so many toy breeds as well as the toy-breed love of people.

    This dog's generally not a barker, but will alert you -- loudly -- to anything unusual. And true to its heritage as a ratter, it'll keep your home rodent-free. This is an active dog that will enjoy a good walk every day.

    The wiry coat gives this breed a shaggy appearance, and comes in black, gray, silver, red or black and tan. They can grow to be 9 to 11.5 inches tall and weigh 7 to 9 pounds.

  • Toy or miniature poodle

    Kiyoshi Ota  /  Reuters
    A toy poodle

    The toy poodle, standing 10 inches or less at the shoulder, is the smallest of the three poodle types. It's alert, but not yappy. The miniature stands 15 inches or less at the shoulder and is a smart, charming pal that's also easy to train.

    Being former circus dogs, toy and mini poodles are great at learning tricks. They'll enjoy two or three short walks each day, as well as any other activities they can do with you.

    Toys and minis need daily brushing and regular clipping to keep their thick, curly coats neat and tangle-free.

  • Head of the family

    Pat Wellenbach  /  AP

    You are an experienced dog owner and have the time and interest to spend socializing, training and exercising your dog. You don't want an attack dog, but you do want one that will protect your home and family against all dangers.

    You can provide the leadership that a large, strong dog needs without resorting to anger or physical punishment, and you have a yard where they can run and play.

  • Mastiff

    Mary Altaffer  /  AP

    The mastiff's huge body and fearsome demeanor belies its gentle, affectionate, people-loving nature. This giant dog has a moderate activity level and is suited to any size home. But if you live in a condo or apartment with stairs, you should consider how you would get the dog up and down the stairs if it becomes old or sick. And because of their large size (male mastiffs are at least 30 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 160 to 230 pounds; females are at least 27.5 inches tall and weigh 120 to 170 pounds), be careful not to overexercise them before they're 2 years old to protect their joints.

    The mastiff's looks alone will scare off most intruders, and this dog will go from dignified to courageous in the defense of its family and property. The mastiff will sling slobber around your home, but that's a small price to pay for its grand, good-natured companionship.

  • Boxer

    Elaine Thompson  /  AP

    The boxer, named for its habit of punching with its paws, is alert, dignified and confident. With plenty of structure and discipline in its life, this breed is highly trainable. Its exuberant yet patient nature makes this dog a great friend for kids, and it's bold in the face of danger.

    When not on guard duty, the boxer is silly and sweet. Highly active, it needs several long walks or play sessions daily -- a tired boxer is a good boxer. (A bored boxer can be destructive.)

    This breed's short coat requires only a weekly brushing, but it does shed. Male boxers grow to be 22.5 to 25 inches tall and weigh 65 to 80 pounds; females are 21 to 23.5 inches tall and weigh 50 to 65 pounds.

  • German shepherd

    Tomek Sikora  /  � Tomek Sikora/zefa/Corbis

    Often described as having noble yet fearsome looks, German shepherds are the Boy Scouts of the dog world, being loyal, intelligent, brave and true. This breed is devoted to its people and will unfailingly patrol its property and escort the kids to and from the bus stop. No one who drives up to your home will be foolish enough to leave their car until you assure them it's safe.

    A German shepherd will adjust its activity level to your own, but it certainly appreciates a good walk or play session. On the down side, its medium-length coat sheds heavily. Males are 24 to 26 inches tall and weigh 70 to 90 pounds; females are 22 to 24 inches and weigh 50 to 70 pounds.

  • Airedale

    Ammar Awad  /  Reuters

    Nicknamed the King of Terriers for its size of 23 inches at the shoulder, the airedale is sweet but dignified, keeping its distance from strangers and other dogs. This breed is clownish with its people, but always protective of them and their property.

    Airedales are active and need plenty of exercise or they'll provide their own -- like digging up the yard. Its wiry coat must be brushed about three times a week and should be stripped or clippered by a groomer three or four times a year. (You can also learn to do these tasks yourself.)


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