In Silverdale there’s a little cupcake shop tucked between Goodyear and Meineke. It seems like a weird place for a boutique, but the second you nibble on one of Bella Bella’s cupcakes you forget that a grease monkey next door is staring at a poster of Megan Fox while he turns brake rotors. You’re too busy staring at your own leading ladies: La Petite Cochon, Salted Caramel, Bella Velvet. Making decisions is hard, so you’ll probably get one of each as you promise yourself you’ll do better next weekend.
I used to feel like this when trying to pick a breed: they all look so wonderful, I wish I could take one of each home! It’s a lot harder to manage a dozen dogs than a dozen cupcakes, though, so somehow I had to whittle it down to just one breed (or maybe two). As a kid I literally went through every dog in the book, wanting a Poodle one month and a Tibetan Mastiff the next.
Any breed of dog can look fabulous in a book, even the ones that in real life you would regret to own. A Keeshond is stunning and has a great personality but they literally explode hair once or twice a year. Labs are touted as the best family dog of all time but they’re maniacally hyper until three years of age. Bulldogs have that beloved sour-mug expression but they’re actually the number one most expensive breed to own because of their health problems. What’s a fiending wannabe dog owner to do? You meet the breeds in person!
Maybe you’ve already been exposed to a variety of breeds, helping to cross some off the list. For example, my dad had Great Pyrenees for a while and even though I liked those dogs I would never own a Pyrenees. There was a time one of the boys drool-slimed my leg so bad that I actually gagged. At that moment I knew I would never own a drooling breed! While in college I visited a friend of a friend who owned majestic Tibetan Mastiffs. At least I thought they were majestic right up until one of them bit my thigh for no discernible reason. Cross off primitive guardian breeds.
Working in grooming taught me valuable lessons: steer clear of breeds that require haircuts, have drop ears, or sport a double coat. I get my hair cut about once a year; there’s no way I want a dog who needs its hair cut more frequently than me! Grooming also taught me that Dobermans are incredibly sweet, Shiba Inus have an abundance of personality, and the Pekingese will forgive any sin.
My first experience blow drying a Husky cured any remote desire to own one. As I turned on the forced air dryer, the room suddenly contained a white cloud of hair floating gently toward every orifice in my head. It’s disturbing to pull a three inch dog hair out of your eyeball. Cleaning the gunk-filled ears of Bassets and brushing the mats out of long-haired breeds crossed them off my list. Working in grooming cured me of a lot of breeds as I learned the dirty little secrets of each.
Another great place to learn about breeds is a dog show. You don’t usually see a lot of personality in the ring, but now you’re surrounded by breed experts. Most of these people are happy to tell you the good and the bad since they know their breed isn’t for everyone. Despite all of my dog breed knowledge I never even noticed the Border Terrier until my friend Dawn mentioned how awesome they are (she knows Wally’s sire, Harley). So when I was stewarding at a Rally competition and saw a woman with a Border, I had to go chat. I was impressed enough to learn more about the breed and here I am today with my own Border Terrier. Some breeds, like Borders, are so rare that it’s unlikely you’ll just happen to see one at the pet store or the local park.
There was one other place where I learned a lot about breeds: sitting in on obedience classes and watching agility trials. As I spent more time hanging out and observing I was able to form my own conclusions about each breed. For example, my good friend Dawn has Belgian Malinois. I adore her dogs and love a lot of things about them. On the other hand they’re very intense and high energy, both traits I’m not crazy about (this is the breed the French use for police K-9s). Watching agility trials brought in plenty of Border Collies to observe, and again I saw that incredibly intense attitude. So even though I like a drivey dog, I don’t want to own a dog that’s as intensely drivey as most herding breeds. These are breeds I’ll love vicariously through friends.
No one breed is perfect for everyone, but everyone has a perfect breed. Just ask anyone at a dog show and they’ll say their breed is the bees knees!