What is the best type of dog? What is the best breed of dog? These are loaded questions.
The best breed or type of dog is the one that suits your family the best. Put a Labrador retriever in a home that is unsuited for it and the potential for trouble is great. Put a Rottweiler in a home suited for it and the dog can be a wonderful companion!
There is no 100% safe breed or cross of dog regardless of what anyone will tell you.
Ultimately, it is the dog owner that creates the type of dog - safer or not.
If we chose the best breed of dog for our home as well as a good source for our dogs, this is a step in the right direction. Next is how well we train and socialize out dogs. A poorly trained and socialized dog is an accident waiting to happen.
What are the biggest mistakes dog owners make? Well, there are many, but I have narrowed them down to five main categories:
1) Failure to research the desired dog. Nothing irks me more than having someone come up and say they got the dog because they liked how it looked and now they cannot handle it. A family got a Border Collie puppy for their small farm. But they wanted a laid back breed. This is not a Border Collie. A former manager of mine got a Bulldog puppy and he wanted a dog capable of jogging with him. This is not a Bulldog (English type Bulldog, not an American which are far more athletic). My old and now years passed Hunter was given up because the family wanted a small dog. Well Hunter was a cross between an Australian Shepherd and a Newfoundland – neither are small breeds! Getting a dog based on what you see on TV or in the movies is irresponsible. What makes a breed excel in these fields can often make it a tough pet for the average dog owner. What about size? Can you physically handle the dog you want? A smaller, frail elderly person may be better suited with a smaller dog and not something like a Great Dane. Even a gentle bump from a giant breed can send an owner sprawling and a hip be broken.
2) Failure to research the source of the dog. Just because you know all you can about a breed or the breeds going into the cross you are looking at adopting does not mean your research is done. Dogs should be gotten from two places only: reputable breeder or a good rescue group. Pet stores and less than ethical breeders are the two worst places for a puppy. When you go to look at a potential pet, you need to ask many questions including: health (and ask for proof of tests done of you are not looking for a rescue); temperament; pros and cons of the breed; why the person is breeding; etc. I had a client who researched the breed her family got. The breed should have suited them well. When she bought the puppy, she went to a person who bred less for companionship and more for hunting ability. The puppy was more than they could handle. She had a very strong work drive and needed to get out and use her talents.
3) Failure to realize various commitments. The best home for a puppy is one where the pup is not home alone all day. Or if you do work full time, you are willing to take plenty of time before work, after work and weekends to go out and do activities with your dog to help burn off excess energy or hire a midday walker for the pup or send pup to day care. You would not leave your five year old human home alone without supervision. The less time spent with a dog, the worse off it is and the greater chance for behavioral issues starting. Dogs are also a lifetime commitment – anywhere from 8 – 15+ years. Dogs require financial commitment. The average dog owner can easily spend thousands annually on a dog: food, supplies, medical, training. Then what about emergencies? Can you afford to fix the dog if it is hit by a car and injuries not life threatening but still expensive to repair?
4) Failure to be consistent (owner is always changing the rules). This goes with both training and daily life. If Mom and Dad forbids jumping for attention but the children do things that encourage it, the dog becomes confused. This leads to stress, anxiety and possibly acting out. If you constantly change cues during training when you want the dog to down and use Down, Lie Down, Lay, whatever as opposed to picking one command and using it, this greatly slows the learning of the dog and adds to confusion. Or, teaching a puppy by paper training that it is OK to potty in the house and NOW you do not want him to potty inside, this greatly slows house training. Confusion and the subsequent building of anxiety does nothing to help the dog learn and can lead to issues later.
5) Failure to train and socialize. We have grown a lot with what we know abot socializing and vaccines. If you go to carefully chosen areas it is OK to begin classes a week after the first set of vaccines has been given. Avoid dog parks and pet supply stores where sick dogs may be taken BUT garden center, home improvement stores, wineries, outdoor shopping centers, cafes with outdoor seating, play groups at training centers, etc are all safer alternatives. It is vital to begin training and socializing at home as soon as the pup comes into the home. Puppies can start leash training and learn basic cues like sit and down. They can be exposed to walking on different surfaces like boards, bubble wrap, wire mesh. They can be exposed to different sounds and smells and hats, uniforms, etc. Get creative and if your pup can encounter it outside the house, try to mimic it on your property! Even adult dogs needs to start training and socializing as soon as adopted or bought. Failing to do so ends up with a dog who is socially retarded and this can lead to big problems later on.
(from Five Mistakes Dog Owners (and Potential Owners) Make, 2002, West Wind Dog Training)