Once the decision to add a new four-legged member to your family has been made, prospective dog owners in particular are faced with the question of which breeds might suit them best. Most pet owners are now aware that the different dog and cat breeds can differ not only in terms of appearance, but above all in character. We have compiled the most important differences.

Breed differences: physical characteristics

The most obvious area where dogs in particular differ greatly is physical characteristics like size, weight, fur volume/texture and other special features (such as the wrinkled face of pugs). Some families can’t accommodate a large breed of dog (St. Bernard, Great Dane, Mastiff etc.) and for others the type of fur is more important. There are also various gradations of long-haired cats (Norwegian forest cat, Main Coon, Persian) as well as ‘hairless’ sphynx breeds that just have some down. Differences in ear and paw size are also noticeable, although they don’t often play a decisive role for pet owners.

It is important to know that certain breeds are predisposed to certain diseases. For example, large dog breeds have an increased risk ofjoint problems in old age because they carry more weight. The right food and nutrient supply can counteract this. Brachycephalic (or short-headed) breeds are more susceptible to respiratory diseases and eye infections.

Breed differences: temperament

How does a pet behave when it meets a stranger or another dog/cat for the first time? Is it usually friendly, very excited or anxious? Is it maybe even aggressive? How quickly does your pet start to explore a new environment? What about the animal’s impulse control, how well does it understand its owner’s signals? In all these areas there are big differences between the various dog and cat breeds. Whether the family already has experience with pets in general and the intended breed in particular is an important consideration for potential dog owners.

Whether a pet is quick to explore a new environment or behaves anxiously is not necessarily to do with its breed.

Numerous studies have shown that the temperament of an animal is not necessarily related to its breed. For example, the first profound genetic study by a research team led by Morrill examined the nature and behaviour of 78 different dog breeds. According to their analysis, there are hardly any breeds with genetic abnormalities. Although the majority of behavioural patterns are hereditary, they are also primarily influenced by the environment. Researchers were only able to identify clearer breed-specific differences in the tendency to bark and the urge to fetch. Their study showed that huskies, beagles and bloodhounds in particular tend to bark, while border collies are very docile.

Breed differences: activity level and sociability

If you like to spend the weekend outdoors and are generally very active, you would obviously suit a very active pet. Working or sporting dogs have a lot of energy that needs to be let out. From the length and frequency of walks, to games and training, there are clear differences between the individual breeds. The activity level has a corresponding effect on the animal’s nutrition and feeding. With increased activity, the need for vitamins, trace elements, energy and proteins increases. A lower activity level means lower energy requirements.

Breed-specific differences are also evident in terms of sociability. Dogs are pack animals that like to have company around the clock. Nevertheless, there are a few breeds that have been bred over many years to be as compliant as possible. The Basset Hound, for example, is known for its sleepy and good-natured temperament, and Chihuahuas also sleep a lot and rarely need long walks. But when awake, Chihuahuas are often very lively and loud. Other breeds that tend to be calm, good-natured and patient are Labradoodles, French bulldogs and Labradors.

The individual character of a pet

If a new pet comes into the family, it is always important to consider carefully the current family and living situation, to obtain good information and, above all, to spend a lot of time getting to know your four-legged friend. There may be some differences between dog and cat breeds, but ultimately the individual character of a pet can never be fully predicted by its breed. That is what makes life with a pet so exciting and varied!