18 pups that get vets’ thumbs up
The New Year is here, filled with possibilities, and, if you are thinking about adding a dog to your family, planning what kind of dog you will get and who you will get him from is a lovely way to distract you from the dreary days and even drearier nights of winter.
Once again, I find myself turning to the online publication VetStreet (www.vetstreet.com) for inspiration. My own vet e-mails it me regularly, which helps me with ideas for this column, plus the money the News-Register pays me to write this helps me pay my vet bills. Everybody wins.
One recent column to catch my eye was “Veterinary Professionals Vote on the Best Dogs for New Owners,” written by Kristen Seymour. Seymour sent a questionnaire to which no fewer than 218 veterinarians responded with their opinions on the best dogs for people who haven’t owned dogs before. I’m assuming that the questionnaire involved temperament, trainability, grooming and exercise needs, and overall health. You may recall a Happy Tails column discussing the 15 worst breeds for new pet owners. Here are the ones a potential puppy buyer might get instead.
Topping the list, to the surprise of no one who knows one, is the Golden Retriever. These guys have it all — great looks, great temperament, great all-round family dog. A few caveats: Their coat doesn’t have that glossy silkiness without a lot of washing and grooming. Their popularity sadly encourages people who don’t know squat about dog breeding to sell puppies. And most troubling, there is a higher incidence of cancer in golden retrievers, and I have not heard of any screening that can be done to find out which dogs are at the most risk.
So finding Goldens at the top of the list was fairly predictable, but many of the other 17 breeds on the list were not, at least to me. There was a preponderance of small breeds, and a number of breeds that pretty much require professional grooming.
But see for yourself.
No. 2 on the list is the poodle. More people should be bragging about the poodle. I prefer the stately standard size, but they come in miniature (small) and toy (smaller). They are bright, playful and extremely smart, and if I wasn’t so darn hung up on dogs that resemble sausages, I’d get one.
No. 3 is the Labrador Retriever. I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t already been said about the Lab, so let’s move on to no. 4.
It’s a lovely little pooch with the unlikely moniker of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I don’t see too many around, which is a puzzle, because a well-bred CKCS is a delightful companion. Unlike many dogs in the toy group, these are mellow little guys and do well either sitting in your lap or taking you on a long walk.
No. 5 is the Cockapoo. I think this is the first of what have come to be known as “designer” breeds — fancy, expensive, deliberately bred mutts. Theoretically, designer breeds exhibit the best characteristics of their lineage, but it is not impossible that they could display the worst instead. Cockapoos have been around for a while, however, and I think have a pretty good track record. Keep in mind that both cocker spaniels and poodles have a penchant for ear infections, and the “Poos” are going to need regular ear care.
Nos. 6 and 7 are the Goldendoodle and the Labradoodle, respectively. The cautions mentioned above apply to these designer breeds. Remember that poodles come in three sizes, so the “Oodles” may, as well.
No. 8 is the Bichon Frise, a delightful, sweet, playful marshmallow of a dog that I rarely see, possibly because well-bred ones are pretty expensive and also because they are pure white with high grooming needs, perhaps not ideal for western Oregon. But if you can manage the finances and fuss, you can’t go wrong with a Bichon Frise.
Just an aside: You may well be astounded at the price good breeders ask for some of these toy breeds. But before you decide the breeder is completely off his rocker, understand that there is not money to be saved in the world of purebred dogs. Buying from a respectable breeder costs you an arm and a leg up front, but chances are you will have a healthy, happy dog for upward of 15 years, which will average a bit more than a hundred dollar a year. If you buy from a less-than-reliable breeder, you will still pay a lot of money and may easily run into health problems that could cost thousands.
OK. Back to the list. The Boston terrier is an underappreciated little guy, in my opinion. He is cute, playful, easy to care for, and loves everybody. He does have the snub-nosed breeds’ penchant for snoring and gas-passing, but it’s well worth putting up with a little noise and flatulence for such a likable companion.
No. 10 is the Papillon, another big personality in a very small body. I think I would be reluctant to get a Papillon if I had any preschoolers at home. They may be spunky and fearless. but they are too tiny for rough-housing. Older kids and adults will be delighted with them, and unlike many small breeds, a regular brushing suffices for their grooming needs.
Which is not true for No. 11, the Shih Tzu, although I have seen some with their otherwise silky-and-prone-to-tangles coats clipped short and they still look darling. Their playful, loving personality can more than make up for somewhat demanding grooming needs.
No. 12 is the Puggle, a combination of a pug and a beagle. Supposedly this mixture would produce a dog as affable as a beagle and as quiet and unlikely to roam as a pug. As with other designer breeds, however, whether you get the dog they were designed to be is something of a crapshoot.
If I were interested in a Puggle, I would probably just go ahead and get No. 13, the pug. I defy you to find one pug owner who isn’t in love with their snub-nosed pooch. Their popularity has led to inherent health problems, however, so buy from a breeder who wants what’s best for the breed.
Nos. 14 and 15 are the Maltese and the Havanese, respectively. Like the Papillon, these are toy dogs, and you would want to supervise carefully if you had young children, or wait until your children were older. Both breeds are playful and fun-loving but too fragile for rough-housing. You would have to have your groomer on speed dial for both breeds, as well.
No. 16 is the Yorkshire Terrier, which is indeed a terrier even though its tiny body puts it in the toy group. He can be feisty and fearless, but that can get you into trouble if you only weigh 7 pounds. See above cautions regarding small children.
No. 17 has me back on comfortable ground — the Shetland sheepdog. Like other dogs in the herding group, they are tough, athletic, very intelligent, and very tuned into their humans. If you don’t mind wearing and eating dog hair, these guys are great for you. Make sure your vacuum cleaner is in good working order.
No. 18 is another toy breed — the Pomeranian. They are cute and very personable. The ones I have known have been a bit on the yippy side, but that could be fixed with a bit of positive training.
Oddly enough, neither basset hounds nor corgis made the list. An oversight, or is there something I’m missing here? Some questions are best left unanswered.
Nancy Carlson can be reached at email@example.com.