Choosing the Right Dog Breed for My Family

I’m excited to add another dog to our family in 2021! I’ve been carefully choosing the right dog breed for us (over analyzing, for sure).

I’m writing this to:

  • Show how important it is to carefully choose any dog or puppy
  • Process my choice (writing helps me do so)
  • Document my life with dogs

Choosing the right dog breed for us

In the last 3 months, I have spoken by email or phone with 9 different breeders, 3 shelters and 1 rescue group.

I’ve filled out their questionnaires, asked many of my own questions, weighed the pros & cons of each option, followed them on Instagram and emailed past puppy buyers.

Talking with each one has been a positive experience.

After lots and lots of thinking, I decided I want a field-bred Labrador from a good breeder.

choosing the right dog breed

I really enjoy working with breeders who love and support their breed and focus on:

  • temperament
  • health
  • and the dogs’ abilities to thrive doing their work.

I expect a lot from my dogs.

I push them physically as we train for trail marathons. We work hard in agility. And now that I live in Montana (vs. San Diego), I plan to train my dogs for hunting.

I am excited about all of these training adventures. My heart is full when I’m working with my dogs. I love learning along with them and watching what they can do.

The right dog breed is different for everyone

Choosing the right dog breed has been very difficult for me. I’ll only get to have so many dogs in my life; I want to choose them wisely.

To be honest, I’m worried I’ll be bored with a Lab. They’re just so ordinary and everyone has one – for good reason, they’re nice dogs!

On the plus side, Labs are generally calmer and much easier to train than a weimaraner, my current dog. (Although “calm” is all relative. What’s “calm” for me might be “hyper” for someone else!)

Knowing what I want in a dog

Here’s what I’m looking for in my “perfect” dog. Of course there is no such thing as this imaginary perfect dog.

  • Long distance trail running buddy. 3-4 miles most days and 10+ miles on some weekends. (once age appropriate)
  • Friendly with dogs, kids, cats and strangers.
  • Able to train for agility for fun and light competition.
  • Has an “off switch” in the house while I’m working, assuming I’ve done my part to provide exercise & training.
  • Calm at breweries, patios and during travel (with training).
  • Sticks close when hiking & running off leash (with training).
  • Able to train for hunting as a hobby and maybe hunt tests.

And … it’s not all about ME. I also need to make sure that I’m providing the best home for whatever type of dog I choose. I do feel I can provide a good home for any of the sporting breeds.

So … why not another weimaraner?

You might wonder, why is she interested in a Lab vs. a higher-energy athlete like another weimaraner?

It’s a tough choice for me. But what it comes down to is I love my high-energy endurance athlete, Remy. But I don’t necessarily need TWO extremely high-energy dogs right now. (Perhaps at some point!) I definitely have vizslas, German shorthairs and Brittanys on my brain … but perhaps for the future.

Plus, Labs are athletic too

The Lab breeder I’m working with breeds dogs for hunting. She tells me all of her dogs are very athletic and will make good running partners, even up to 10 miles.

These Labs are calm in the house but have an intense working drive around birds and guns. They are clearly strong and fast in the field, very fit and muscular. I will not have a fat Lab, I promise you that!

Still, I’m not convinced I will be able to take a Lab on 10-mile runs. I really hope so, but it depends on the dog. Either way, I’ll still have Remy for long-distance running.

Other benefits of the Labrador dog breed

Labs are (generally) easy to train. I view Labs as athletic dogs who do not necessarily need constant “busyness” like my weim.

I feel Labs are a good breed for my first real gun dog and hunting companion. I am very excited to begin training a retriever for hunting.

My weimaraner Remy has potential to be a hunting dog too, and I have just started to work with him through our local NAVHDA group. But I am also interested in training a hunting dog from the very beginning. It is a new experience for me.

Choosing the right dog breed for cold weather

Labs have a thick coat to protect them from Montana’s long, harsh winters. The only months we did not have snow in 2019 were July and August!

A Lab’s coat also protects her from the summer heat. We live at 5,000 feet elevation, so the sun can be intense here as well. For this reason, and because of all the running I do, we are going with a yellow Lab vs. chocolate or black.

And Labs are far from perfect!

A purebred Labrador retriever can be many things … low energy and gentle … overly excited over toys or sticks.

They’re strong and tend to jump on people, pull hard on the leash, go crashing after a ball. My Lab mix Ace knocked me flat on my back one time going after a ball. He didn’t even notice he hit me! (I cried.)

Labs shed a lot (like, A LOT) and are prone to joint problems. They’re slow to mature mentally and young labs are unfortunately labeled “hyper” by many people. This label is accurate.

Some Labs are just as nuts as a weim or a vizsla.

But every dog is an individual. I wrote about this HERE.

Good breeders and genetics can only do so much.

As dog owners, it’s up to us to do the best we can through training, socialization, exercise, finding the best vet. Feeding healthy food. Making smart choices on spaying & neutering.

And of course, taking the time to choose the right dog or puppy for our current situation. We’re lucky to have so many options.

I’m excited for our next puppy. I can’t wait to meet her! It will most likely be over a year before our puppy is even born. Good breeders often have waiting lists of several months or even a year. Once all is confirmed, I’ll keep you posted.

Remy will be so excited to have another dog around. He absolutely LOVES other dogs, and he shared our home so well with his sister Raven back in January.

While sweet Raven was not the right dog for us, she helped show me how good Remy is with a buddy. And how all of my time spent training him (hours and hours) really has paid off.

Believe it or not, Remy will actually be a good role model! (Now that’s a scary thought! Haha.)

I can’t wait for 2021!

If you’re willing, please share about the decision making (or lack thereof) when you chose your dog.

Let me know in the comments! Thank you!

Lindsay (and Remy)

Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.

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10 thoughts on “Choosing the Right Dog Breed for My Family”

  1. Congratulations on the upcoming new addition! So excited for you and can’t wait to hear all about her and her training.

  2. Also, nobody do what I did when it comes to picking a breed! I fell HARD for a photo of a cute puppy, read up on the breed, and decided that although it was not the best fit for my lifestyle, it was the dog I never knew I wanted and I was going to make it work.

    I did make it work, and she’s the best decision I’ve ever made. She’s enriched my life in countless ways. But I would not advise going about it the way I did. My entire life is completely different, and not everyone would be happy with that.

  3. Congratulations! A few weeks ago we brought home a 22 month old yellow Lab and we’re working on getting him ready to be a service dog. His name is Bolt and he’s not the kind of Lab you’re describing. For a puppy he is one of the most easy going Labs I’ve come across. Yes, he still has the bursts of energy and yes you could probably get him up to running 10 miles a day. However, that is definitely not his thing. He’s going to make a great service dog with his easy going temperament.

    Out of all the Labs I trained Derby would have been a great match for you. He was athletic and I think I chose the right name for him because he used to love running around the yard like it was the Kentucky Derby.

    By the way did you come across any good English Labrador Retriever breeders during your search?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      The breeder I’m going through breeds English Labs but they are bred for hunting (not show ring) and are not what I thought of as the stereotypical “lazy” English lab. Maybe that stereotype is incorrect but that was how I thought of English Labs.

  4. Our first dog was an Irish Setter, beautiful and crazy. We’re on our 4th Standard Poodle and love the breed. They’re smart, great with children and babies, beautiful when in poodle cut and love to run and good on leash for runs or walks.

    Good luck with your new lab puppy. It’s important to get a really good breeder. We get show quality and then you’re assured of a good temperament.

  5. Congratulations! So excited for your new addition in 2021!

    In 2017, my husband and I added a lab to our family a few months after getting married / moving in together.
    We adopted him as a senior from a local rescue. What I loved about this is that he came with the basics already trained (house trained, crate trained, and knowing how to sit and walk on a leash), but more importantly – we already knew his temperament. He is a calm gentle old guy who still loves to go for walks or play fetch whenever we’re up for it.

    Adding a senior to our family was the perfect fit for us and adding a dog early in our marriage was also great on helping us streamline our communication and planning skills!

    Labs are awesome so I’m excited to see your new addition next year. 🙂
    -Amanda

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