The characteristics of dog-breeds – and why you need to know
Long before companionship, humans bred dogs for specific purposes. In many breeds, these characteristics still show strongly. Florian Schalke, senior market access manager for Germany, Austria and Switzerland at Elanco, looks at things to consider before you buy a dog.

When taking a walk these days, many dog owners probably stumble upon breeds they cannot identify. At least I experience this anyway, despite having kept dogs my whole life and working in an animal-related job.

Globalisation has brought new breeds to our doorstep that were formerly kept in other parts of the world or only kept by certain groups such as search and rescue services. While this certainly means added variety, it can also mean additional challenges. The advantages of keeping a dog are overwhelming, but we should also be honest and remember not every dog is suitable for every dog owner.

As the owner of a dachshund, I know what I am talking about. These dogs were bred to look for animals during hunting. Hence, you need to be prepared that they will run away when they smell animal traces. They were also bred to go down boroughs on their own and take decisions without anyone commanding them, so it shouldn´t come as a surprise when they ignore instructions.

And just one look at the over-proportionally big paws should make you realise they were made for digging. So, is this a dog that you cannot handle? By no means - you just need to prepare, just as you should with any other breed.

I take time on a daily basis to do some obedience training and can handle him well. I was also able to teach him not to dig holes in the lawn, which he grasped amazingly quickly. As a compromise though, I let him dig under bushes and the hedge of our garden, which admittedly looks like an archaeological trench by now, but at least the lawn is safe.

It’s extra work of course, but it pays off for the owner and especially the dog. If I speak to other dachshund owners, many tell me that these dogs cannot be educated and that damage to your furniture and frightened postmen are part of the package. In my experience, these are usually owners who just “keep” their dog without allowing them to follow trails, to do some digging and who don´t train obedience vigorously.

Some very specific breeds may indeed be unsuitable, but many breeds can be kept if you plan how you can meet their specific demands. For example, some pointer breeds need to go on walks for hours, while an Australian Shepherd needs to be intellectually and socially occupied.

Considering which dog is right for you should save you a lot of hassle. Be sure to inform yourself thoroughly before getting a dog; do some reading on the internet and also resort to more detailed books on the breed you are after. There are also online tests, which will help find the best ‘match’ for your lifestyle and interests.

It’s also important not to rush. Getting through literature and speaking to people might take you a couple of weeks, but it’s worth it if you choose the right breed or even decide another pet will better suit your lifestyle.

You should also take as much care when choosing an individual dog. If you get one from an animal shelter, don´t be lured by those heart-warming eyes and take the dog with you immediately. It’s much better to go home, deliberate and check again whether he or she meets all your criteria.


The same applies if you get a dog from a breeder. Good breeders will not offer you a dog during your first call – they will usually try to get to know you before agreeing to hand over one of their little darlings.


Some breeders might tell you their dogs don´t show the typical traits of their breed. Don´t be fooled by this. They may have selected for some characteristics for a couple of generations – but that is no guarantee typical breed traits won’t show anymore in their dogs.  


If you take these points into consideration and prepare accordingly, you will be rewarded with years of joy with your new companion.

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