Finding your perfect dog breed

Carolyn Menteith is a behaviourist at with over 25 years of experience working with and training dogs.

With Valentine’s Day almost here, if the endless hearts and flowers on social media are making you will you feel lonely and in need of love, forget eHarmony, or even the endless swiping of Tinder.

With 42% of weddings now ending in divorce, statistics in England and Wales show that our relationships with our dogs are likely to last longer than nearly half of our marriages – so if it is love, devotion and happily ever after that we are looking for, we might be far better off looking for a cold wet nose and a waggy tail rather than a companion of the human variety.

But where to start looking for your perfect match? It’s easier than you think… In exactly the same way you would search for your perfect human partner, spend some time thinking about your lifestyle, what you enjoy doing, and imagine your idea of the perfect relationship – and then start searching for a dog who loves doing the same things.

Looking at what each breed was originally bred to do will give you all the clues you need as to what they are going to be like to live with – and whether it could be a match made in heaven or the relationship from hell.

See if you can imagine the human equivalents!


The perfect match?

  • Friendly, cheerful and affectionate, and get on with everyone
  • Needs a lot of exercise and stimulation every single day no matter the weather
  • Often busy dogs without an ‘off switch’!
  • As many are retrieving breeds, they can be ‘mouth focussed’ so can be chewers, enjoy carrying things around, and need reward-based ‘swapping’ training to learn to give them back.
  • Best for country homes and great family dogs as they love everyone

Pastoral/Herding Dogs

The perfect match?

  • Need a lot of exercise and stimulation – these are dogs who thrive with a job to do
  • Very trainable, highly intelligent, and ideal for competing in dog sports
  • Without enough exercise, training, and enrichment they can become bored and frustrated very quickly (which can give rise to behaviour problems)
  • Can chase and herd – and might struggle with overly stimulating environments!
  • May have thick coats that will take a lot of grooming
  • Best for country homes 


The perfect match?

  • While they are small dogs, they have huge personalities, and need a surprising amount of exercise and enrichment
  • Most terriers love playing games with their owner
  • Many of the terrier breeds can be quite feisty and might not be keen on other, unknown dogs, so socialisation and training is important
  • Can be noisy – and many love to dig!
  • Many terrier breeds do not shed but do need professional hand-stripping.
  • Great for people who want a small dog that will still be very active.


The perfect match?

  • Ideal for owners who like a more independent but still affectionate dog, and don’t expect instant obedience!
  • Recall is often optional!
  • Sighthounds are elegant and athletic and need the opportunity for regular short sprints in a safe enclosed area
  • Scenthounds will follow a sniff to the exclusion of everything else – so are a lot of fun to do scentwork with
  • Unlikely to be safe with cats or small furries
  • Need an outlet for their natural hound-y instincts


The perfect match?

  • Very affectionate and love to be close to their owner at all times
  • Lower exercise requirements than other groups but do still need a short walk every day and plenty of games and interaction
  • Need plenty of socialisation so they are happy and confident around other dogs
  • Can be slow to toilet train
  • Really do not like to be left alone 


The perfect match?

  • Work very closely with their owner
  • Need a high degree of ongoing training and socialisation to keep them healthy, happy and safe
  • Will want to do their ‘job’ every day, all the time! Workoholics.
  • May guard
  • Can be problematic with unknown dogs or perceived intruders
  • Generally large and strong dogs who need understanding and experienced owners


The perfect match?

  • It’s hard to say! These can be known first crosses – and so could be a complete mixture of both their parents – or they ancestry could be totally unknown, and so life with them will be a voyage of discovery!

How do you know your dog loves you?

Simple – they are a dog and so if it is unconditional love you are looking for on Valentine’s Day, you’ve come to the right place!

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