How to Care for Specific Dog Breeds

What Are the Most Popular Dog Breeds in the US?

  1. Labrador Retriever
  2. German Shepherd
  3. Golden Retriever
  4. Bulldog
  5. Beagle
  6. French Bulldog
  7. Poodle
  8. Rottweiler
  9. Yorkshire Terrier
  10. Boxer

Source: American Kennel Club 2016.

Ever since the first dogs were domesticated from the wolf, man’s best friend has come in many shapes and sizes for different tasks. There are sleek and lean sighthounds for chasing hares. Then there are retrievers with webbed feet and thick fur like otters. In ancient times, royal families even bred small canine companions to warm their feet at night! Today most dogs are kept as companions rather than working animals, but their genetic heritage still influences their behavior and health. Knowing about your dog’s breed will help you to best care for him or her.

The Labrador Retriever

Temperament

The labrador retriever is the most popular dog breed in the United States and several other countries. This is for a very good reason. Labs are known for their calm and gentle natures. They are typically very good with children, though they may unintentionally knock little ones over. Labs can be active, but are just as often laid-back couch potatoes. They love to swim and play with hoses or sprinklers. They are one of the easiest breeds to train. They are not suited towards being guard dogs since they are generally friendly with everyone and rarely bite.

Needs

Although labrador retrievers have a reputation for being relaxed, they do need regular exercise. Without it, they run the risk of developing obesity and behavioral problems. Labs should be exercised for at least thirty minutes in the morning and again for another half-hour before bed. Labs that do not get enough exercise will turn to destructive chewing or other problematic behaviors to stave off boredom.

Diet

Food allergies are common in labrador retrievers. This means they may require a diet without certain ingredients. They can be allergic to certain grains or all grains. Dogs can also be allergic to the flesh of certain animals. A few dogs are even allergic to all meat! Labs are large dogs, so the cost of feeding one will be significant, especially if a special diet is involved.

Health Issues

Besides allergies and obesity-related issues, labrador retrievers can suffer from bone problems in the hips and elbows. They also sometimes have poor vision due to hereditary eye issues. Veterinarians also frequently see labradors with itchy skin caused by allergies. Despite an abundance of issues, labs live long for such large dogs, about eleven to fourteen years on average.

The German Shepherd Dog

Temperament

Second only to the labrador retriever in popularity, the German shepherd dog has been an extremely common breed for decades. There are many strains of German shepherds. Some are high-strung and aggressive, but most are gentle, intelligent and protective of children. Some have high prey drives while others are careful not to harm smaller pets.

Needs

German shepherds need a high level of physical and mental stimulation because they are powerful, thinking dogs. They can not get enough exercise just being left out in a yard all day. They are likely to dig holes under fences and run away if left alone in that manner. German shepherds are masters at agility and other dog sports. They need a family that is very active to keep them happy. They bond very strongly with their families and must be treated with respect.

Diet

German shepherds are not just large, but they are very active. As a result they eat a massive amount of food compared to similar breeds. Care must be taken that they do not eat too much or too quickly, especially before or after exercise. This is a breed that is likely to suffer from bloat, a stomach injury requiring emergency attention immediately. Without immediate surgery, a dog suffering from bloat will die quickly.

Health Issues

Besides bloat, there are other health issues plaguing this breed. Unfortunately, due to generations of poor breeding practices, many German shepherd dogs suffer from painful problems in their hind legs. This is probably not noticeable in puppies but will become apparent as the dog ages. Many Shepherds have to be euthanized at a young age when walking becomes agonizing or impossible.

Further Reading:

The Golden Retriever

Temperament

Also known simply as “the Golden,” these dogs are docile, fluffy companions reputed to be good with children and other pets. They may be a bit mouthy, especially when young, but do not normally bite. Golden retrievers like to swim and dig, happy in water and mud.

Needs

Golden retrievers enjoy going for long walks, or spending some time swimming or playing with other dogs. They require an intermediate amount of exercise, with younger dogs needing more and senior dogs less. They do well with fetch-type games involving balls or flying discs. It’s important this breed is given breaks from heavy activity. Sometimes they can get carried away and have heat strokes or heart attacks. Shade, water and rest should always be provided to dogs.

Diet

Like their cousins the lab, golden retrievers often have allergies. This can mean they require a special diet with limited ingredients. It’s also important that golden retrievers do not eat too much, as they are prone to getting fat. Obesity is bad for all dogs, but especially for goldens since it puts extra strain on their bones.

Health Issues

Sadly, the golden retriever suffers from a host of health issues. Cancer ends the lives of more goldens than anything else. Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and arthritis are all common issues, too. So are cataracts and eyelash malfunctions.

The Bulldog

Temperament

There are many breeds and varieties of bulldogs, from the short and squat English and French types to the tall and proud American, plus many rarer sub-types. All bulldogs are known for being stubborn, confident and fun-loving. Occasionally they can be aggressive. They are generally loyal to their family and may be indifferent towards or afraid of strangers. American bulldogs are much more active than the other types.

Needs

American bulldogs are often entered into controversial weight-pulling competitions, which some people say are cruel. Beyond that, American bulldogs are often exercised simply by taking long walks on a leash around the neighborhood. More aggressive dogs will need to wear a muzzle for safety reasons. English bulldogs and Frenchies, on the other hand, should do little exercising. Their bowed legs and brachycephalic faces make intense exercise dangerous. They can be stubborn and are considered one of the less intelligent breeds, so leash training is often very difficult.

Diet

Bulldogs are likely to suffer from bloat, obesity and allergies. As a result, much thought and planning will need to go into their diets. They should be fed slowly to prevent dangerous gorging. Some American bulldogs will be aggressive around food, in which case a behavioral specialist should get involved. All bulldogs should be fed enough so that they are neither too thin nor too fat. Itchy dogs may have a food allergy.

Health Issues

The most significant threat to a bulldog’s health is the risk of heat stroke. More than a century of terrible breeding has resulted in dogs that can barely breathe even on good days. Too much heat and/or too much exercise can quickly kill a bulldog. All French bulldogs and most English bulldogs are incapable of swimming and will sink like a rock due to their bone structure. It is important they never be let near deep water or other drowning risks.

The Beagle

Temperament

Beagles are an active breed that enjoys sniffing out, tracking and chasing wildlife. They are very noisy dogs, so not suitable for apartments. They are extremely docile and non-threatening animals, something that has led to them being used as bomb-detectors, therapy dogs, children’s pets and, sadly, even medical experiment subjects.

Needs

Beagles are mischievous and enjoy getting into trouble. They will chew on or swallow anything, so they can not be allowed near garbage. While they have a habit of wandering, they do bond strongly with their home and their people and resent being left alone. They can suffer from separation anxiety. When being walked, beagles should always be on a leash so they do not chase after squirrels and become lost or caught in traffic.

Diet

Beagles have a tendency to beg at the dinner table, get into the trash bin or eat things found outside. Human food and garbage can both be poisonous to beagles, so it is important they be supervised closely. A dog that eats chocolate, garlic or other foods toxic to dogs should go to the veterinarian immediately. Besides poison, beagles can also choke if they put something bad in their mouths. They should not be taught to expect scraps at the dinner table.

Health Issues

Generally speaking, beagles tend to be a healthy and hardy breed, though certain strains or crosses like “miniature beagles” or “puggles” can have issues. Beagles rescued from puppy mills or laboratories will have physical and behavioral problems, but a beagle raised with love will be energetic and friendly. Beagles can put on weight if they are not walked enough. Beagles of a healthy weight will live a long time.

The American Pit Bull Terrier

Temperament

There are many pit bull breeds out there, and the American Pit Bull Terrier is one of the most common. Indeed, it is found in American shelters more than any other breed. They are great dogs, but not for everyone. Their good qualities include being affectionate, loyal and playful. They are usually good with people, but not always, especially if they are victims of abuse or neglect. Sometimes they are aggressive towards other dogs, especially of the same sex. Some bark and others are quiet.

Needs

American pit bull terriers are not suitable for spending long amounts of time outdoors in cold or snowy weather. They will become unhappy and territorial if left outside and can only truly thrive as an indoor pet. They require lots of one-on-one time with their owners. Obedient and willing to please, they are easy to train for owners with dog experience. They can sometimes be stubborn or distract, though, so they are not recommended for first-time dog owners. It is often said they have a locking jaw but this is just an urban myth.

Diet

Some people insist that American pit bull terriers be fed an all-raw diet but this is not necessary at all. These dogs can eat the same diet as any other breed. Since they tend to be active, they may eat a lot. Some have allergies, but it’s not terribly common. American pit bull terriers are rarely obese and some may actually have trouble keeping on enough weight.

Health Issues

American pit bull terriers are strong dogs. Since they are of a moderate size and are typically of a healthy weight, they are less likely to get many canine ailments. That said, they are prone to injury. One reason is that because they are so active, it is easy for them to hurt themselves. Another reason is that American pit bull terriers are a stigmatized breed and often mistreated. Former fighting dogs have scars and many behavioral problems.

The Chihuahua

Temperament

Dog rescues, shelters and pounds are filled with chihuahuas. These long-lived dogs often out-live their elderly owners. At other times, they may be turned over to shelters because they bit or barked excessively as a result of improper training. While it’s true that badly-trained chihuahuas can be a nuisance, chihuahuas treated tenderly are low-activity and eager to please dogs.

Needs

They tend to be one-person dogs, bonding to one person and refusing to obey other humans. They can also be nippy or loud, so they are not good for apartments or households with children. They are good for single people. They must not be fed treats often or they will become obese. Due to their small bladders, they often have potty-training problems. Some chihuahuas are incapable of holding it no matter how well they have been trained. For this reason, some owners choose to litter-train their chihuahuas like cats. Chihuahuas should be carefully socialized from a young age so they can be safely handled by veterinarians and others. Often times, chihuahuas will like others of their breed but dislike other sorts of dogs.

Diet

Chihuahuas may need a limited ingredient diet. They can be allergic to certain ingredients. In addition, they may be unable to chew large pieces of kibble designed for larger dogs. This is especially true of older chihuahuas, who are often missing teeth. Canned food is good for chihuahuas. It’s important that they do not get people food. They like to beg but this is bad for them. People food is a choking hazard and may be toxic.

Health Issues

Chihuahuas are long-lived when properly cared for. They do have special needs and should not be treated like any other dog. Temperatures above seventy-five degrees or below forty-five degrees are very unsafe for them, for instance. Also, they are at risk of being hurt or even killed if a human accidentally steps on or sits on them. Lastly, they can exhaust themselves to the point of being unable to stand if over-exercised. The owner needs to understand chihuahuas can not handle as much walking as a larger dog.

Further Reading:

The Boxer

Temperament

Boxers may be confused with or considered a type of pit bull in certain areas. This means they are illegal to own in some places. As a result, shelters are often crowded with them. Boxers can be hyperactive in some settings but are good for an active single person or couple. They like running, swimming and playing fetch but should not be allowed to play too hard since they are brachycephalic. They are loyal and fun-loving, with a tendency to roam.

Needs

Boxers need constant attention or they will be destructive. They also often run away, only to become lost and unable to find their way home. They should live in an area with a large, fenced-in yard. They are too boisterous for children, first-time dog owners and sometimes other dogs. Boxers are notoriously difficult to train, so they require a patient and experienced owner.

Diets

Boxers have a tendency to gorge themselves. They will eat their food too fast and vomit, or worse, bloat. They can also bloat simply from being so active. They should eat small meals throughout the day. Garbage bins must be kept secure so they do not get into them. Boxers will also chase and kill animals to eat, which owners should try to prevent. A boxer that eats a poisoned mouse will be poisoned himself. There’s also the fact that squirrels, oppossums and other prey species often carry diseases and parasites.

Health Issues

Sadly, boxers are often hit by cars or euthanized at dog pounds. This is because they jump over fences, or dig beneath them, and then roam for miles, ultimately becoming hurt or lost. Another health risk is their tendency to over-exercise, which can result in bloat or heat stroke. Boxers often are hyperactive and have trouble winding down. A good owner will work with the dog to discover a perfect activity level that is neither over-stimulating nor under-stimulating.

The American Staffordshire Terrier

Temperament

The American Staffordshire Terrier is one of the most common pit bull breeds. They are also one of the most common breeds found in shelters. Some find them intimidating, but they are usually friendly and affectionate dogs. They are moderately active and moderately trainable.

Needs

Staffordshires have a ton of energy. They mustn’t become bored or they will spend their time barking, chewing or being aggressive. Generally, they do best as the only pet in the household. They need a strong and experienced owner. Chew toys will keep them occupied. When going for walks, a muzzle may be required in some places for this breed. They can be dog-dog aggressive, though this is not always the case.

Diet

These dogs rarely have issues with their diets. They are rarely overweight and often are quite muscular.

Health Issues

From a genetic standpoint, the American Staffordshire Terrier is exceptionally healthy. From a societal standpoint, though, they face numerous health issues. These dogs are far more likely to enter shelters and to be euthanized in shelters than most other breeds. They are also illegal to own in some cities, which means they may be kept secretly. “Secret dogs” are neglected, since their owners hesitate to bring them to veterinarians and risk having the dogs taken away. Finally, American Staffordshire Terriers may be kept as fighting dogs, which, of course, causes injury and death.

The Dachshund

Temperament

The dachshund is an unusual-looking breed that is often found in shelters. Although they are cute, they are prone to expensive health issues and behavioral problems. One reason they are in animal shelters is because they are a favorite breed of puppy mills. They are very over-populated and often bought by people who do not care about the welfare of dogs. All of this does a cruel disservice to dachshunds, who are naturally friendly, peppy and relatively quiet.

Needs

Compared to many other small dogs, dachshunds tend to be quiet and laid-back. They like to be with their owner at all times and often have separation anxiety. They are good dogs for single people who are not too active. They enjoy snuggling with their owners or in a nice dog bed. Since they are so low to the ground, they mustn’t be walked when there are puddles on the ground. They can be chilled very easily by that.

Diet

Since many dachshunds are from puppy mills, they suffer from the results of inbreeding. This can mean they have food allergies and missing teeth, or even swallowing issues. Many of them eat too much, so they will need to eat a low-calorie kibble or a restricted diet. They should receive treats sparingly, if at all. Like some other small, clingy breeds, dachshunds have an instinctive begging instinct. It is bad for their health to eat human food, however, so they must not be allowed to eat any.

Health Issues

Due to their unnatural proportions, the dachshund is a breed plagued with back issues. They should exercise enough to stay in shape but no more than that. Cancer is a risk in this breed, which can be reduced by early spaying and neutering. They should not be allowed to play with large dogs, whom often hurt them unintentionally. Inbred dachshunds, especially those with unusual coat colors, may be deaf and/or blind. Their nails often become over-grown, so their owners or veterinarians will have to keep them trimmed. In other words, the dachshund has a wonderful temperament but a long list of potential health problems. They are prone to many illnesses and injuries.

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