Large dogs make wonderful companions. Their physical make-up enables them to accompany their owners on long trips and their sheer presence is reassuring. It would be a mistake, however, to think that a large dog will fit happily into any environment and lifestyle. Many large dogs have been bred for a specific purpose such as hunting, herding or guarding and may prove to be totally unsuitable for the type of life and the facilities you are able to offer him.
As a general guide, terriers are lively dogs which make good pets, but because they were bred to hunt small mammals such as rats and foxes, they are often snappy. Bird dogs are usually gentle, affectionate animals which adapt well to the dual role of sportsman's dog and children's pet. Hounds have a tendency to wander off and are not renowned for their obedience. Working breeds, the category into which most of the shepherd and guarding breeds fall, are best suited to an environment in which they can perform a function as close as possible to that for which they have been bred for many generations.
Therefore, it would be a mistake to buy a gentle Golden Retriever and expect him to be a fierce guard dog, or to buy a guard dog such as a German Shepherd Dog, a Doberman or a Rottweiler, unless you have the patience and the time to devote to his training. When choosing your dog you must also keep in mind the amount of grooming he will need. Long-coated breeds such as the Afghan Hound require much more time spent on their coats than, for example, the sleek-coated Weimaraner or the Labrador Retriever. People who are especially house proud should also remember that some dogs, such as the Dalmatian, shed their coats all year round.
Once you have decided on the type of dog you want to buy, it is best to contact your national kennel club and ask for names and addresses of breeders of that variety. You may also like to look for dates and venues of dog shows to be held in your area. In addition, it is a good idea to visit one or two shows so that you can examine the breeds which interest you at close quarters and ask the breeders or trainers any questions that you may have. You can also find out whether they are likely to have a litter of puppies available in the near future.
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