No matter where you’re at in life, getting a new dog is a huge commitment.
And the truth is, there’s a lot more that goes into your dog’s happiness than just a bone and some toys. Before you make that nine-hour road trip to a breeder or visit to your local shelter, it’s worth considering your lifestyle. Does the breed you’ve got your eye on fit in well with your home and family? Do you have the time and energy to give a more energetic pup the frequent walks he craves?
Looking into a dog breed’s characteristics and preferences can tell you a lot about what environment they’ll love most, what cool things they can do with you, and most importantly… what they’ll require from you in return. But where to start?
While certain factors can certainly be a good guide to your decision when you choose to add another furry family member to the mix, it’s important to note that each pooch has its own personality. You may score the sweetest Pit Bull rescue (despite what some articles may say about the breed’s supposed hostility) or find a Great Dane that loves apartment living (in his eyes he is a lap dog).
At the end of the day, just remember that the totally unique connection between each pet and owner is what matters the most. (Meanwhile—nudge, nudge—don’t forget to get your new best friend hooked up with a Lemonade pet health insurance policy!)
Here are some of the things we’ll dig into:
Great dogs for city folk
It’s important to note that not every city (or bustling suburb) is the same. City life in a tiny apartment above a crowded New York City street will look drastically different from the routine of a home-owner living in a sprawling neighborhood in the heart of Houston. Likewise, your considerations may be different when you think about what’s most important for your pet.
But living in a city almost always means one thing: closer proximity to other people. You’ll find yourself running into tons of strangers (and their own furry friends) on those daily walks. It also usually means living a little bit closer to your neighbors, if not sharing a wall. So why does this matter?
To save yourself from tension with neighbors, looking into breeds that love other dogs and humans (particularly strangers!) will help you keep those walks calm and carefree. Besides, nothing is more awkward than a strained neighbor relationship, especially one caused by a noise complaint. Because barking isn’t always breed-dependent, you may want to give your breeder or shelter a call before adoption day and ask if any dogs in the litter are on the quieter side if you find this important to you!
A few dogs that typically LOVE other people & pups: Pug, Standard Poodle, Greyhound
Now what about the countryside (and more rural suburbs)? You probably have some more space between your home and your neighbors’, giving you a little more freedom when it comes to picking a pup based on noise or behavior. But what other factors should you consider? If you’re used to an active country lifestyle, you’ll probably want a dog with lots of strength and stamina—a pooch that can keep up with you on a vigorous hike.
You’ll also want to double-check the wildlife situation in your area to make sure your new dog will be safe there. Different bird species—particularly eagles and hawks, and small game animals such as bobcats and coyotes—are capable of attacking and carrying off smaller dogs. So if you know you won’t be able to watch your pup every time they’re outside, you may consider picking a dog that can easily defend itself against birds and small game.
That’s not to say though that small pups don’t make great country companions. Little guys like the fox-hunting Border Terrier make keen outdoorsmen. Whichever pooch you pick, just be sure to assess your living situation. You could splurge on protective gear like the Coyote Vest, or simply set aside some time to supervise your pup’s outdoor play if any of these predatory animals call your region home.
A few dogs that love the outdoors, crave more space, & can hold their own against predators: Australian Shepherd, Border Terrier, Giant Schnauzer
Most pups will thrive in temperate climates that have some degree of the four seasons. But what about you pet parents living in extremely hot or cold environments? Any extreme climate means you should be extra careful when choosing a dog.
Now this isn’t to say a Chihuahua can’t love snowy Vermont life, or a Siberian Husky can’t fit right in at home in a scorching Texas town. Just consider that picking a pooch without the anatomy to thrive in your weather may be more expensive in the long run (those extra trips to the groomer for summer cuts add up, and doggie sweaters aren’t cheap either).
Most dogs will do just fine in steamy environments, as long as they aren’t outside for long stretches during the hottest part of the day. If you’re specifically looking for a pooch that can withstand extreme heat for hours on end, however, there are a couple features you can look for in a potential companion. Short hair and a single coat in a lighter color will keep your dog the comfiest and cost you the least to maintain if you both will be outside in hot weather for many hours.
In terms of build, special attention and care may be required if you have your heart set on a brachycephalic dog (pups with adorably short and wrinkled snouts, like Pugs or Bulldogs). Hot weather can make breathing harder for these furry friends, so you’ll want to be sure you’re down to give them the extra care they may require if you live in a toasty town.
A few dogs that thrive in hot climates: Airedale Terrier, Afghan Hound, Chihuahua
There are actually a number of breeds not only suitable for freezing weather but that love the snow. The key to your cold weather pup’s warmth and happiness is a double coat. Finding a pooch with this feature will allow them to keep their under coat dry and warm when trotting through snow. More body mass will also help your furry friend by providing valuable insulation, so picking a dog with a bigger build may be the best move for a frosty home.
A few dogs that thrive in cold climates: Newfoundland, American Eskimo Dog, Alaskan Malamute
Whether you live in a tiny urban apartment or a sprawling country mansion, there’s a pup out there that’ll love your living space—and love hanging out with you even more! But here are some things to keep in mind.
Unless you’re lucky, your city apartment probably doesn’t have an outdoor common space for your pup to play fetch or take a bathroom break, let alone a personal enclosed patio or terrace. Depending on how often you (or those you live with) are at home, you may consider picking a breed that needs fewer bathroom breaks, less open space to run around in, and is chill spending a good part of the day just warming your couch. There are a lot of (generally smaller) breeds that don’t mind tight spaces at all and just want to be with their humans. Remember though that these pups can have varying degrees of energy. Work from home, and you may be just fine with a dog that craves multiple daily walks. But if everyone in your apartment spends most of the day away from home, consider a dog that needs less exercise.
Also think about the building you live in. Is there an elevator (that your pet can use), or will you have to hike up a ton of stairs with your pup in tow? St. Bernards and English Bulldogs, for example, are just a couple of the many dog breeds prone to hip and back conditions. If you know ahead of time that daily walks will be followed by six-flight stair hikes, you may look into a mutt, or a pooch with fewer hereditary health conditions.
A few dogs that are happy to adjust to apartment life: Yorkshire Terrier, French Bulldog, Great Dane
If you live in a standalone home, you have a lot more freedom when it comes to selecting the perfect dog for your lifestyle. Pup size matters less here, provided that your house has at least a modest fenced-in outdoor area.
But what if it doesn’t? While your home itself might be spacious enough for your k9 friend to roam during the day, some breeds still require ample time to romp and run outside (beyond the usual walk or two). If you don’t have a fenced-in outdoor space, you’ll need to make time to hit up the local dog park. You also may consider straying away from breeds that almost exclusively require a fenced-in yard to accommodate their energy level.
On the flip side, some of the dogs that do require a fenced-in yard can make some of the best family and guard dogs, and are definitely worth looking into if you have this kind of outdoor space and want a companion who’s got your back.
A few dogs that require fenced-in outdoor space but make phenomenal home & family dogs: Collie, Boxer, Labrador Retriever
Do you have a toddler? Maybe a few other animals at home? When picking a great doggy addition for an already packed household, you’ll want to make sure you choose a pet that’ll fit in well with your existing brood. Looking into some breeds that are generally friendly and good with children is a decent place to start.
If you have younger kids, however, you may owe some more consideration. While dogs in the herding group like the Old English Sheepdog, for example, can be very kind and agreeable, your tot may not love being herded herself. And if you already have a couple pets, you’ll want to make sure the breed you’re looking at gets along with that specific animal. Why? You’ll find that some dogs are actually great with other dogs—but not so much with cats. And vice versa.
Pro tip: ask the breeder or shelter you’re talking to if the pup you have your eye on can have a little supervised playdate with your other pet(s) to see if they all vibe before you commit.
A few dogs great for a families (including kids & other pets): Golden Retriever, English Bulldog, Beagle
Just because you, a roommate, or a family member constantly sneeze around dogs doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the experience entirely! While allergists have pretty much debunked the existence of hypoallergenic dogs, there are still a multitude of breeds and qualities you can seek out in a pup that’ll keep allergies at bay, as long as they aren’t severe. Picking a dog that sheds infrequently (if at all) is a great place to start. Smaller pups are also great for pet-owners with mild to moderate allergies because their size means less dander-shedding overall than the average dog.
Having an allergy in the house will mean that frequent baths and grooming trips are almost a must, while your home may require regular cleaning and the purchase of an air purifier. Overall, there are some great options out there for allergic households… you’ll just have to decide if you want to stomach the extra cost that may come with keeping everyone in your home comfy.
A few dogs that are great options for allergic households: Chinese Crested, Maltese, Poodle/Poodle Mix
Maintaining a healthy fur fam can be quite expensive. And most first-time pet owners don’t realize the multitude of costs aside from food and grooming that arise later on in a pup’s life as congenital health issues come into play. Forget to purchase pet health insurance early in your pooch’s life and have a breed that—while adorable—has tons of health issues that could count as pre-existing conditions. You might just find yourself with a never-ending stream of veterinary bills. (We can help with that.)
Your main concern if you seek to find a cost-friendly dog should be their health. If you fall in love with a breed, you’ll want to read up on their potential health issues. Are they prone to a condition such as hip dysplasia or cherry eye? And if they are, do you live in an environment that could exacerbate these predispositions?
It may not be the best idea to select a breed with a history of hip and back problems when you know accessing your apartment means hiking up five stories. You should also note that while pure-bred dogs are definitely adorable, they tend to by nature have some more health problems than mixed breed dogs (mutts) who are just as adorable. You also may want to consider your dog breed’s typical life expectancy; the longer it is, the fewer health problems they’re likely to have.
A few dogs that generally have fewer health problems: Mutts, Havanese, Ibizan Hound
As with any relationship in life, someone (or some pup!) can have all the right qualities for you on paper… but really miss the mark IRL. At the end of the day, it’s really just all about that personal connection. While the best way to gauge that your potential pup is the one for you is through some in-person playtime before you make your choice, there are a couple things you can look at beforehand to simplify the process.
While it’s important to remember that each fur babe has their own personality, a dog’s temperament generally follows some basic qualities common to their breed. Whether it’s a spunky dog ready to be your morning run partner or a courageous pup that’ll guard your house, here are some examples of breeds that generally boast certain characteristics.
A couple dogs that are laid back and down to be your couch potato: Basset Hound, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
A couple dogs that are super protective and would make great guard dogs for your home: German Shepherd, Bullmastiff
Dogs that are friendly, energetic, and truly embody the term “man’s best friend”: Dachshund, Labrador Retriever
Dogs that are down for any athletic adventure, from running to hiking to hunting: Vizsla, Brittany
So what’s the verdict?
Remember that there’s no one right way to add a dog to your household. Breanna K. of Lemonade recently adopted a mutt that she named Ginger. She “prioritized the pup’s personality more than aligning with a specific breed,” she explains. That said, Breanna’s good friend had a pretty specific personality wishlist for her furry friend, and craved a dog that’s “loyal, quick to learn, and very athletic.” They’re now the proud parent of Blue, a Standard Poodle—a breed that definitely fits that bill.
What matters most here is that the connection between pup and pet owner is there. For Lemonade doggy dad Mikey H., his friendly mutt Steven makes him feel “unfathomably happy because he’s way too sweet and kind and patient.” Awwww. What more could you ask for out of a best friend?