I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately involving what breeds I, “the professional” recommend. I don’t love that question because a lot of what I think is based on opinion and experience as opposed to scientific fact.
Right off the bat, my favorite breed is the Labrador Retriever. I grew up with labs. They are the best family dogs out there. I love them. That’s based on opinion and experience. The scientist in me needs to point out that they can have joint problems, and skin problems.
The lab lover/practical person in me says: but ALL breeds have SOME kind of problem. I’m trained to look for problems, it’s what I do. I cannot tell you about any breed without telling you what kind of health or personality problems I know about that breed. There is no perfect breed.
Even mutts: they are supposed to be the healthiest because of hybrid vigor. And I think that’s mostly true, but sometimes you get a mutt that apparently inherits ALL of the problems of its requisite breeds all at once.
The Labradoodle/Goldendoodle is the perfect example of this. First of all, here is where my opinion comes in (take the vet out of the equation here): I don’t like shaggy dogs (I don’t have anything against them as patients, I just don’t want to own one). I don’t like the look of them. They’re all drooley and shaggy and you can’t see their eyes (it makes me anxious, those eyeless dogs). I just don’t think I will ever own a shaggy dog. So back to vet mode: for some reason, these $2000 designer mutts seem to have some of the worst allergy problems at the youngest age of any dogs. I was talking to our local dermatologist about it, and he said that EVERY SINGLE Golden or Lab doodle that comes into his office has either food or regular (pollen/mold/dust) allergies. Not most of them ALL of them. I’ve also recently learned that many of them develop hypothyroidism at a very young age too. (We just saw one who was 6 months old, had no thyroid hormone…and when I called the internal med guy to impress him with my weird and unusual finding, he was totally unimpressed….he sees it all the time). So you trade shedding for the possibility of bad skin and a lifetime of thyroid supplementation.
But should the risks of disease/illnesses enough to dissuade you from getting a particular breed? I’m not sure, but you should at least do your homework and familiarize yourself with what you may be facing vet-bill wise.
The worst (in my opinion) are the bulldog owners (not all of them, but a certain demographic). English Bulldogs in particular. They are lovely dogs, very funny, happy creatures. Also somewhat trendy. Let me tell you, I die a little inside everytime some twentysomething (usually male) kid shows up with his sweet, wiggley $2000 Bulldog puppy that he scrimped and saved to buy. I know this kid has no idea that he’s just paid $2k for a dog that is very, very likely to cost him many, many thousands of dollars more in vet bills, for skin and joint problems. They make Lab skin/joint issues look like zits on a teenager (ie a minor nuisance…I couldn’t think of anything wittier at the moment). Every Bulldog I see either is or needs to be a client at the Animal Dermatology Clinic to get his allergies under control. I know multiple Bulldog owners who have had their dogs have multiple joint surgeries (kneecaps fixed, ACL tears, Hips fixed…on both legs…on one dog…at $2000+ per surgery per leg…do the math! Joe college kid can’t afford this…and they tend to get mad at me because I can’t fix their dogs skin…as opposed to getting mad at themselves for saddling themselves with a breed with a known history of serious health problems). Not to mention the breathing problems associated with those cute squishy faces.
Like I said, Bulldogs are very sweet, but really….they are the turkeys of the dog world. The breed has been so screwed up that they usually have to be concieved via artificial insemination and born by c-section. They’re total freaks of nature.
In case you were wondering: Yes, my Lab has done many hundreds of dollars of damage via chewing stuff. Yes she sheds, but not as much as an Akita or other plush coated breed. Yes, Mia is only 1 but is showing signs of having some allergy issues, but I love her so I’ll deal with it.
My other two dogs are mutts, and they are overall perfectly healthy with no major health issues. My other dog will always be a mutt. It’s like pet roulette…will I get a healthy one or not? Anyone’s guess…at least I’ve got the means to handle whatever may come.
The good thing about purebreds are that at least you kind of know what to look for. What problems to expect, what to budget for.
Just for fun, I’ll do a little free association. I’m going to thumb through the AKC Complete Dog Book and tell you what comes to mind for some of the breeds. This will be the first thing that comes to mind, based on fact, opinion, experience etc…
Brittany Spaniel: kinda hyper, they bite
Pointer, German Shorthaired: Tough as nails
Retriever, Golden: Lovely, lovely dogs. However, I will never own one because they may absolutely break your heart because they can be very prone to cancer, sometimes at a relatively young age. They don’t get nice little cancers that can be easily treated, they get horrible ones that are lethal and awful. I’ve had my heart broken by many a Golden (patient) over the years. Not all of them suffer this fate, but it seems to me that they either live ’til 14 or they die at 8 or 9 from lymphoma or hemangiosarcoma or osteosarcoma.
Setter, Irish: beautiful, but dumb as a box of hammers
Spaniel, Cocker: bad ears, autoimmune problems, skin problems, sometimes snapppy
Weimeraner: weird eyes, sometimes insane, sometimes very nice. They tend to get lumpy as they age (I said I’d give my opinion didn’t I?)
Basset : may bite, bad ears, bad skin, sometimes gross because of the bad ears and skin and they drool. They seem to be prone to developing some nasty cancers.
Dachshund: may bite (see a trend here?) back issues, skin problems, bad teeth, oronasal fistulas (related to the bad teeth).
Beagle: independent, stubborn
Ugh…this is sort of depressing, again with the whole “I’m trained to look for problems thing”. So, the moral of the story is: I will be happy to help you pick out the right dog for you, but apparently I’m a bit of a breed pessimist, so you’ll have to take the good with the bad.
Unless you get a Lab, of course, then it’s all good 😉