He’s man’s best friend one day, the reason you need to buy a new sofa the next. That’s why we found a few experts (and one opinionated dog) who know what’s going on inside that seemingly simple brain of his — and how to use it to your advantage.
Choose the Right Breed
Apartment in the City: Mastiff
Once bred as Roman guard dogs, these are the gentlest of giants, with much more bark than bite — and they do surprisingly well in tight quarters, with minimal exercise. It’s like having a big living ottoman. COOL FACTOR: Not just big, but holy-crap big. UH-OH: If your mastiff wants to cross the street, you’re crossing the street. TIP: Slobber can be an issue. Learn to love it.
House in the Suburbs: Rottweiler
Like Britney Spears, rotties went from top of the charts to America’s-least-wanted status within a few short years. Despite their bad rap for biting and general gangster behavior, they’re actually sweet-tempered while still protective. COOL FACTOR: You’ll feel like a badass in sketchy neighborhoods. UH-OH: Might scare the mailman. TIP: Females tend to be smaller and friendlier.
Ranch in the Country: Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
A mishmash of various bird dogs and retrievers, the smallish “toller” excels at luring ducks into shooting range. You get all the good qualities of a retriever but often without defects like hip dysplasia. COOL FACTOR: Distinctive red fur that rivals Bill Walton’s. UH-OH: Okay with kids, but not rowdy toddlers. TIP: Nearly extinct 30 years ago; difficult to find.
Apartment in the City: Schipperke
Once used as watchdogs on Belgian barges, schipperkes do well in small spaces and love killing rats: perfect for a city apartment. Not a working dog — unlike most others on this list — which can be a plus if you’re looking for a companion rather than a playmate. COOL FACTOR: Schipperke means “little captain” in Flemish. UH-OH: Barks. A lot. TIP: Needs more training than most breeds.
House in the Suburbs: Australian Shepherd
Eager, highly curious, and a little bossy, Aussies live to herd livestock. Or, if you lack sheep, you and your kids. They can be a handful — but a beautiful handful, somewhat like Angelina Jolie. COOL FACTOR: Loves to learn new tricks. UH-OH: If not challenged mentally, will invent challenges. Not a good thing. TIP: Agility training will make them less likely to chew your stuff.
Ranch in the Country: Australian Cattle Dog/Blue Heeler
A real Aussie cowboy dog, the blue heeler has a rugged coat and go-for-it attitude. One pup fell off a sailboat and survived four months on a largely uninhabited island eating baby goats. For exercise, run, don’t walk. COOL FACTOR: Was Mel Gibson’s dog in Mad Max 2. UH-OH: Nippy without strict training. TIP: Make him work for dinner by scattering food.
Good With Kids
Apartment in the City: Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Big and powerful, but also harmless, the Swiss is similar to the popular Bernese — but with a lot less fur to shed. Born to herd cattle, Swissies today are as happy hanging around the kids’ soccer game as they are backcountry skiing. COOL FACTOR: Much rarer than the related Bernese. UH-OH: A confident dog needs a confident owner. TIP: Get a harness and let him pull you along on skis.
House in the Suburbs: Portuguese Water Dog
A centuries-old fisherman’s dog, the family-friendly Portie not only swims, but dives — fishermen even used them to herd fish into nets. (Beware, White House fountains.) COOL FACTOR: Nonshedding, hypoallergenic coat, like a poodle’s — but not a poodle. Then there’s the whole Obama thing. UH-OH: Thick, heavy coat needs more grooming than Billy Dee Williams. TIP: Keep toilet lids closed.
Ranch in the Country: Redbone Coonhound
Born to chase furry animals up trees, these gangly, floppy-eared hounds make great pets: calm with kids and good-natured. While energetic, if you run them for an hour every day, many will gladly snooze for the other 23. COOL FACTOR: Iconic southern breed of Where the Red Fern Grows fame. UH-OH: Howling can grate on neighbors. TIP: Keep him leashed — he obeys his nose, not his owner.
Apartment in the City: Border Terrier
These scruffy and unpretentious guy-friendly small dogs are the opposite of Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua. Though short, they’re fast enough to take for a run — but won’t demolish your apartment if you skip one. COOL FACTOR: Often seen in old-timey foxhunting paintings. UH-OH: Not crazy about other dogs in general. TIP: They gain weight quickly, so go easy on the treats.
House in the Suburbs: Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Chessies come from real working-dog stock down on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, so they’re bred for strength and stamina but not necessarily looks. The most athletic, outdoorsy, rugged dog on this list. COOL FACTOR: One of the AKC’s nine original recognized breeds in 1884. UH-OH: Will always smell like the last place he swam. TIP: Can be emotionally sensitive; avoid harsh training.
Ranch in the Country: Norwegian Elkhound
The elkhound is another “independent” (read: stubborn) breed. He’s hardwired to do his job with or without you but is also social. They love hiking, moose or no moose. Beautiful silver-gray fur — that sheds a lot. COOL FACTOR: Fierce look that scares potential evildoers. UH-OH: Hair everywhere. TIP: Loves to dig, so save your flower beds by giving him his own patch of dirt to play with.
The Right Gear for Your Dog
The Mountain-Ready Mutt
Yes, Doggles sound (and look) ridiculous. But consider this: That sunny beach or alpine snowfield is just as hard on your dog’s eyes as it is on yours. Modeled after human sport goggles, they have polycarbonate lenses in a range of colors and fit surprisingly well. $22; doggles.com
When the official MJ hound took off into the dunes one weekend, the rugged garmin astro dog GPS saved the day. A lightweight collar unit transmitted her location every five seconds to a handheld unit loaded with detailed topo maps. Intended for hunters, it’s also great for dogs that like to “explore.” $600; garmin.com
Your dog’s paws can be surprisingly tender, especially if he’s used to suburban sidewalks and grass. So when the trail gets snowy, rocky, or just plain long, slip on a set of toughtek 9000 dog booties to help him go the distance. These heavyweight synthetic booties are sturdy enough for Iditarod sled dogs, so they’re more than adequate to protect against city slush (road salt burns paws), or for an Appalachian Trail thru-hike. $2.50 per bootie; dogbooties.com
Collars & Leashes: A Connoisseur’s Guide
MAXIMUM CLASS: Sometimes looks trump performance, but here you get both. This gorgeous five-foot-long vegetable-tanned Filson Dog Lead ($46; filson.com), made of bridle leather, is classic and comfortable. Pair it with the matching Filson Dog Collar ($36), whose supple, luxuriant leather will age to a perfect patina. A solid-brass O-ring keeps the collar perfectly aligned.
The Kelty Rope Leash ($15; kelty.com) lets your dog roam a full six feet, while a handle close to the collar provides a good grip for control. And sooner or later, your dog is going to roll in something nasty. When he does, hope he’s wearing the Dublin Dog Collar ($22, medium; dublindog.com). The washable, rubber Dublin is moisture-proof, bacteria-proof, and poop-proof.
For city pups, control is key, and the seven-foot-long Multi-Functional Leather Dog Leash ($40; fordogtrainers.com) is a favorite of pro walkers and trainers. Well-placed snaps and rings let you secure your dog to a bench or shorten down for close-quarters maneuvering. Use it with the all-hemp Earthdog Martingale Collar (from $17; earthdog.com), which tightens up uncomfortably when your dog tries to pull or lunge.
Like a mini bungee-jumping cord clad in climbing webbing, the backcountry-grade elastic in the Ruff Wear Roamer leash ($25; ruffwear.com) lets your dog explore off-trail but reins him back in gently, easing strain on your arms. Pair with the Ruff Wear DoubleBack Collar ($20), whose strap folds back on itself for a more secure fit. It has climbing harness–worthy hardware, and clever plastic tabs dampen annoying dog-tag jingle.