The Complete Dog Breed Book: choose the perfect dog!

We have been talking about getting a dog for years. At first, it was just a “someday” talk. Lately, that “someday” has started to feel a lot closer. The girls are starting to get old enough to be able to help take care of a dog, including walking it. Now, we talk about what type of dog we’d want: medium? small? frisky? gentle? hypoallergenic? short-haired? So I was excited to pick up The Complete Dog Breed Book: choose the perfect dog for you.

The Complete Dog Breed Book: choose the perfect dog for you (previously published as Top Dog) from DK Books

I received this book for review from DK; all opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

When I was a kid, we had a dog book that my brothers and I used to read. Our dogs were both mutts who came to us as strays. I looked at the dogs in the pictures, wondering what breeds our dogs were, and what breed I’d pick if I could have any dog I wanted. The Bernese Mountain Dog was always one of my favourites, with it’s happy face and pretty tri-coloured fur. Soon after The Complete Dog Breed Book arrived in the mail, I was happy to see the girls pouring over it the way I used to read our dog book.

What You’ll Find in The Complete Dog Breed Book

This book is a comprehensive dog book, with information on:

  • evolution of dogs
  • dog anatomy
  • finding a breeder or buying a rescue dog
  • different dog breeds
  • preparing for your dog’s arrival
  • dog equipment required
  • food and feeding
  • house-training and handling
  • grooming and good behavior
  • socialization
  • training
  • breed-specific problems, elderly dogs, and more

The back of The Complete Dog Breed Book includes a glossary and index so you can look up specific questions. I had fun looking up dog breeds our friends and families own, and learning more about those.

Choosing the Perfect Dog

One thing I really like in The Complete Dog Breed Book is the comparison of different breeds. There’s a flowchart in the front that allows you to look up dogs by levels of grooming, exercise and training. This can really help you narrow your dog research to a few specific breeds.

For example, we’ve talked about getting a low-exercise dog that’s easy to train and doesn’t require much grooming. On the flowchart, I found recommendations for breeds such as a Boston Terrier or French Bulldog (two of my husband’s favourites). A Bichon Frise, which my husband had as a child, is a low-exercise small dog that’s easy to train but requires a high level of grooming.

Girl reading about an Alaskan Malamute in The Complete Dog Breed Book.

The front of The Complete Dog Breed Book includes two pages on actually buying your dog. I found these pages super helpful, because we’ve looked at breeder websites and rescue dog websites. I didn’t really know what to expect in getting a puppy from either. The Complete Dog Breed Book provides helpful information about specific questions to ask a dog breeder, what to look for when visiting, and what to expect from the breeder. They also provide things to consider in getting a rescue dog.

Armed with this information, I feel a lot more confident about approaching a breeder sometime. While we like the idea of a rescue dog, it’s a bit less feasible because we have kids and, unfortunately, “many [rescue dogs] have an unknown or traumatic history and may display behavioral problems or anxieties that can be difficult to overcome.” My family had a good experience with rescue dogs when I was a kid, but it feels like too much of a chance to take (for either the kids or the dog!) with a large family and young kids.

All the Dog Breeds

The bulk of the book is devoted to dog breeds, just as the title implies. Each page features gorgeous pictures of one or two dogs in various postures. The beagle gets a two-page spread, with three puppies on the left page and an adorable puppy with the signature puppy-dog eyes on the facing page. Each dog has a one-line description, a longer paragraph about the breed, and a charge showing height, weight, life span, origin, colours, and exercise, grooming, training and socialization.

I looked up the Hungarian Puli, as my brother and his girlfriend just got a Puli puppy. “Highly intelligent and eager to please, this dog needs time and attention”—so he sounds like a good dog for my brother and his girlfriend, and maybe not such a good dog for a mom with five kids. The puli also has what my brother described as “dreadlocks” for fur. The Complete Dog Breed Book explains further:

Thought to have been brought into Central Europe by the nomadic Magyar tribes of Asia, the Puli was traditionally used as a herding dog. Affectionate and quick to learn, it makes a good family pet but gets bored easily without fun and company. Its corded coat needs special attention.

The dog breeds in this book are divided into eight categories: primitive, working, spitz-type, sight hounds, scent hounds, terriers, gun dogs, companion dogs, and crossbreeds. If you know specific qualities you’re looking for in a dog, you can browse these categories to learn more about the dogs. For example, under the working dogs, I found the Great Pyrenees, which my in-laws have on their quarter-section in Alberta. My father-in-law got the dog to help keep the coyotes away from the cows.

Thoroughly assimilated into modern family life, the Great Pyrenees is calm-natured and unaggressive, reliable in the home, and good with children. Despite the dog’s huge size and strength, it does not need an excessive amount of exercise and can be quite content with a gentle stroll. However, owners whould be prepared to put their energies into grooming to keep the dog’s thick coat looking its best.

Training & Caring for a Dog

The last fifty pages of The Complete Dog Breed Book are devoted to taking care of your dog, from socialization to training to dog food and treats. After reading the introduction, I flipped to this section. Although I’ve heard stories about puppy care from my mom and my brother, I wanted to know more about what to expect in getting a dog. From puppy proofing your home (yep, similar to baby-proofing!) to what gear we’ll need for a dog, this section again helped me feel more prepared to bring a puppy into our lives.

When we get a dog, I’d like to make sure that my husband and I and at least our oldest two girls have read through this last section so that we’re all on the same page about handling and training the dog. Although I know from experience that one of us is likely to become the dog’s favourite (when I was growing up, that person was always my mom because she walked and fed our dogs), I also know we all need to be giving the dog the same commands and expectations.

Girl reading about Labrador Retrievers in the Complete Dog Breed Book

More on The Complete Dog Breed Book

Like the many parenting books that fill our shelves, I’m sure The Complete Dog Breed Book will get frequent use as we continue to talk about dogs and (eventually!) welcome a puppy into our family. This is a book I can picture being well-thumbed and dog-eared from use, as we consult it about grooming, handling, and even health problems for dogs.

Pssst… we’re huge fans of DK Books! Check out some of my other DK Canada reviews.

While I know a lot of dog information is available online, I love the ease of grabbing a book from the shelf to look up a question in a hurry, or being able to take it with us to a breed to make sure we’ve covered the questions we want to ask. And as we involve the girls in the choice of puppy, it’s easy for them to flip through a book and discuss which dogs they like best, and to compare the differences between those breeds. (I’m really thinking this could turn into a homeschool research project… an essay on “my favourite dog and why,” perhaps?)

For now, The Complete Dog Breed Book gives us space to dream, whether we’re reading about things we can do with our puppy someday or trying to decide which puppy would be best for our families. If you are also thinking about adding a puppy to your family, I highly recommend grabbing a copy for yourself.

What resources did you use when choosing a puppy? What breed is your dog and why did you pick it?

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