Much like teenagers, dogs come in a range of personalities and temperaments. They also, like teens, have varying needs. Caring for a dog can be hard work, but presents important lessons about responsibility, patience and dedication. Choosing a compatible dog breed for your teen based on her own personality traits and talents is essential to both the teenager’s success and the dog’s well-being.
High-energy dogs and teenagers are a bad mix. High energy breeds such as pointers, terriers, setters, Maltese and huskies tend to bark, dig and chew if left alone for long periods -- during school hours, for example. High-energy breeds also require proper training and lots of direction, which many teens are not yet equipped to provide. Consider calmer, easygoing dog breeds instead. Beagles are friendly, playful and merry, while golden retrievers are easily trainable and tolerant. Older dogs also tend to be less excitable than puppies -- an advantage to adopting a dog for your teen over buying a purebred pup.
Some dog breeds require more structure, activity and direction than others. It is best to avoid those breeds because teenagers typically don’t have the time, training, space or money required to properly meet their needs. The result is often disobedience and destruction. Chihuahuas are alert and energetic, and can be a handful for impatient teens, but require little exercise, space and grooming. German shepherds are dependable dogs who tend to bond with children, but require regular exercise and grooming.
Size matters when it comes to pairing your teen with a dog companion. A small 14-year-old, for example, might not fare as well walking a great Dane as she would a smaller breed, such as a cocker spaniel or the even-tempered, playful pug. The basset hound, while small and obedient, has a strong hunting instinct and will follow his nose -- often, with owner struggling to keep up from behind. If your teen is willing and able to take on a bigger breed, consider a Labrador retriever. He is an active dog, but loyal and obedient, and is the most popular breed among seeing-eye and other assistance dogs.
Other Things to Watch Out For
Some breeds, such as pit bulls, are instinctively aggressive, despite training and obedience. These dogs are not safe to trust around young children and small animals. Dog temperaments and traits can vary even within a breed, so ensure to observe the dog you’ve chosen before taking him home. Look for dogs that are alert and energetic, but not spastic or consistently barking or whining. Dogs that appear lethargic or sluggish might be ill- or uneven-tempered. The ideal dog is an attentive one that interacts with a consistent, even temperament.