The Lowdown on Dog Breeds Part 1 - Retrievers and Shepherds and Poodles Oh My!

So you’ve decided to get a dog? Excellent choice; get ready for years of fun, cuddles, and mayhem. But now what? You may be asking yourself the question that most prospective dog parents have in mind: "What kind of dog breed should I get?"

Even if you’re going to adopt, it’s good to keep in mind what dog breeds you may prefer over others, and what you can expect from your little mutt. Every year the American Kennel Club puts out a list of the most popular dog breeds in the USA. We’ll break down the top five breeds and go over the good, the bad, and the cute and cuddly.

1. Labrador Retrievers

Coming in at the number one most popular dog breed are Labrador Retrievers, and it's easy to see why. This breed has a reputation for being incredibly friendly and loyal. They are easy to train and super affectionate. The down side? These are big dogs with a lot of energy, and definitely not the best to own if you live in an apartment or don’t have a chance to take them out for frequent exercise. Also, if you’re definitely against having a shedding dog, you may want to look elsewhere, as Labradors tend to shed more than other breeds.

Life expectancy? 10-12 years

Good with Children? Yes

Good with other dogs? Yes

Can work as a guard dog? Yes and no, not quite as vigilant as other breeds, but still a decent home protector.

2. French Bulldogs

A very lovable breed, French Bulldogs are popular not only for their looks, but also for their quirks and playfulness. They are small dogs with big personalities, and perfect for those looking for a more compact animal to bring into their home. They don’t shed too much, and are super easy to groom. On the downside though, French Bulldogs can be quite clingy and stubborn. They are in high-demand, which means finding one can cost quite a bit of money. Also, the flat faces means they have a harder time breathing and regulating their body temperature, so make sure you keep an eye on them in warmer weather, they may get heat stroke! (Figure out how to manage this dire situation with the course Pet First Aid and CPR.)

Life expectancy?  10-12 years, but this definitely depends on their health and genetics. More inbred dogs tend to have higher health issues, so remember that a French Bulldog mix will likely be much healthier than a purebred.

Good with Children?  Yes

Good with other dogs?  Generally yes

Can work as a guard dog?  Territorial? Yes, but don’t expect your bulldog to act as the perfect guard dog.

3. Golden Retrievers
Calm and so, so sweet, Golden Retrievers have a reputation as one of the friendliest dog breeds. They are smart, easy to train, and excellent with kids, which is one of the reasons this breed is so popular. Their friendly nature also makes them the perfect companion for other dogs and pets. However, like the Labrador, they are big and will get even bigger if you overfeed them. 

They need lots of exercise. And the shedding? A serious issue. Expect your home to be covered with a layer of hair during the Spring and Autumn.

Life expectancy?  10-12 years

Good with Children?  Yes

Good with other dogs?  Yes

Can work as a guard dog?  They may be protective, but Golden Retrievers tend to be more in the “Everyone is my best friend” mindset than other dogs, and may not be the vigilant guard dog you’re looking for.

4. German Shepherds

Muscles and brains? The German Shepherd has it all! They are super easy to train, unbelievably loyal, and great guard dogs that don’t just look fierce, they are fierce. On the other hand, they require a lot of exercise which makes a difference in extending their lifespan. Due to their popularity, they can be pricey to get, and that’s not including the vet bills that may come with their health problems. They also shed quite a bit, so expect to vacuum.

Life expectancy? 9-13 years, keeping your shepherd in good health, exercising them daily, and ensuring they go for their annual check ups really makes a difference in prolonging their life.

Good with Children? Yes

Good with other dogs? Generally yes

Can work as a guard dog? Yes, and they’re good at it too!

4. Poodles

Very smart and active, poodles are some of the best dogs for training and performing tricks. They are also excellent guard dogs, and can be great with kids. They shed very little and are the most hypoallergenic of all coated breeds. On the other hand, some poodles can be very sensitive, nervous, and startle easily, which is not great around small children. We suggest getting an adult Poodle from a pound or rescue group, that way you can be sure of their temperament. They need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation, and need to be groomed regularly. (Check out The Ultimate Guide to Dog Grooming for more info on how to groom this specific breed).

Life expectancy?  12-15 years, they are generally quite healthy with a longer lifespan

Good with Children?  Yes

Good with other dogs?  Kinda

Can work as a guard dog?  Yes