Behavior – Choosing the right dog breed part 2


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This is extremely important when deciding which family dog to get. It seems that the property sizes are getting smaller all the time. Whereas 30 years ago the property sizes were a quarter, half, one or more acres, the proliferation of Town houses and Cluster houses is now a norm, and the property size is small to tiny.

So what dog will be ideal for such a small property? Well, most people think that a small dog is going to be ok for a small property (and this is usually stipulated by the body corporate). However, it is the small dogs that are yappers and cause problems with the neighbours. So many people get Jack Russells believing that they will be fine in the small garden. These very active dogs actually feel extremely confined in the small property and they become diggers, chewers and barkers. I cannot begin to tell you how many owners of Jack Russells get complaints about their dog’s behaviour. Dachshunds, Miniature Schnauzers, Yorkies and Maltese Poodles also fall into this category.

Lighter "Boar Red" coloured dachshund

Active breeds like dachshunds are not suitable for small gardens

I’m not saying that every small dog will be a problem, there are some small dogs that adapt very well to a small garden. But about 75% of these breeds are known by behaviourists to have behavioural problems.

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On the other end of the scale, very large breed dogs are great for a small property. These dogs are generally rather lazy and don’t mind a lack of space. As long as they are walked once or twice a day, these dogs will be quite happen to sleep for the rest of the day!

It is also interesting to see that most people go for the known breeds – Maltese Poodle, Dachshund, Yorkies, Miniature Schnauzer, Jack Russell when getting a small dog. I just wish that they would look at the unusual breeds (although they are sometimes hard to get) as they can be just right for a small property.

Here are my suggestions for a small property:

SMALL BREEDS:Pug, Boston Terrier, Pekingese; genuine Maltese, Pomeranian, Shih Tzu


Pugs good small gardens

Pugs are a small breed that are happy in small gardens

UNKNOWN BREEDS: Brussels Griffon, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel; King Charles Spaniel, Italian Greyhounds, Japanese Chin; Lowchen, Lhasa Apso, Schipperke, Papillon (I love this breed, they are fantastic for small properties!)


best breed for  amsall garden, the papillon

The Papillon is a great breed for small properties

MEDIUM BREEDS: Bulldog; Chow Chow; French Bulldog, Shar Pei, Tibetan Terrier, Shiba Inu, Shetland Sheepdog ( must be trained from a young age not to bark) Samoyed, Basenji (this breed is known as the barkless dog – indigenous to Africa), Basset Hound ( although lazy, they can howl!)


Bulldogs are suitable for small gardens

Bulldogs are relatively inactive and will fit into a small garden easily

LARGE BREEDS: Great Pyreneees; Neapolitan Mastiff; Mastiff, Newfoundland, St Bernard, Irish Wolfhound.

the mastiff is a relativelt inactive breed

Mastiffs are large but not active

So, once again I urge anyone who is thinking about getting a family dog, to take time and really make a good decision when deciding on a breed.


When making a decision about getting a family dog, the lifestyle of the family is another important factor. ALL dogs need to have some interaction with the family. If the owners leave very early in the morning and come back late at night, it is not fair to get a dog – or even two. This lack of attention will lead to the dog/s find things to amuse themselves. They can landscape gardens; chew irrigation, pool pipes; chew outdoor furniture; bark non stop and even jump walls and escape. Sadly, the owner will then take it out on the dog for being “naughty”, but all the dog is doing is keeping itself occupied and doing “doggy things”.

behavior problems like chewing shoes

If dogs are bored they will find something to occupy themselves with

The family need to decide who will be responsible for the dog – SMALL CHILDREN ARE NOT ABLE TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR A DOG!!! They will not be able to feed, train or walk the dog. The adult will be responsible and the children can observe and join in some of the games. I find that children from about ten years of age are able to cope with a dog – but if it is too big, the child will need help from an adult (especially in training).

ALL DOGS NEED TO BE WALKED DAILY. It is not fair to get a dog and leave it day in and day out in the garden. This is like being in a prison with no TV, no radio, no books, magazines, newspapers etc. This is why dogs go “mad”, and their owners “can’t understand why?” Even a ten minute walk to the end of the street and back will stimulate the dog’s mind as he/she will be able to “read the news” which is what all dogs need. Active breeds need even more exercise and a lovely run in the park is just what they need. If the owner is a runner then run with the dog to get rid of excess exercise. With proper training a dog can learn to run properly with its owner. If all else fails and the owner has a treadmill then tie the dog to the treadmill for a workout! Start slowly on a low speed and as well as a short time, and then increase this as the dog gets fitter.

Exercise your dog daily

All dogs need to be walked daily

Training is another very important part of a dog’s life. The family needs to decide who will train the dog (the best person is the one who deals with the dog for most of the day – it is no good sending a husband who only gets home late at night and doesn’t have much to do with the dog!) As mentioned previously, young children cannot train a dog, especially a large dog that will pull the child around. Children also loose concentration and if the dog doesn’t listen the child can feel despondent and a failure. It is nice to get a dog for the child, but many are just not physically able to do things for it.

All dogs need training and this starts as soon as you get the puppy. Take it to puppy socialization which is from 8 weeks for 4 months of age. Basic obedience follows after that. DO NOT LISTEN TO ANYONE who says that you don’t start training until 6 months of age. This is old fashioned and completely wrong. The best learning time for a puppy is between 8 weeks and 4 months of age. This is the foundation for any puppy – they should not miss this stage.


All breeds of dogs can benefit from training

Find a reputable training school and attend classes as soon as possible.

Another important member of the household is the maid and gardener. I have had many maids and gardeners training the family dog either in my class, or in a private lesson, and this way at least the dog gets trained and goes for walks. So, if the owners are really too busy, then consider asking the maid or gardener to train and walk the dog.

So, consider the family lifestyle before getting a dog, and weigh up the “pros and cons”. DO NOT GET A PUPPY/DOG if the family lifestyle is not right.

Kathy Clayton

Accredited Animal Behaviour Consultant (ABC of SA); Professional Dog Trainer.

Please remember that this article represents my own thoughts and feelings, and is not connected to any other person. To find out any further information please feel free to contact me: or



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