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Indianah and Dakotah Bowen with Tia, a shih tzu-Lhasa apso cross, and puppy Baxter, a Maltese-shih tzu toy poodle. Picture: Alex Cearns, Houndstooth Studio

There are many factors to consider when choosing a dog breed, particularly for those wanting a pet that can live inside.

Veterinarian Joanne Sillince, managing director of Pets Australia, said that with house dogs becoming more popular, it was important to look at the origins of the breed and how active they were, to help you make the right choice.

"More dogs seem to be moving indoors, for all or at least part of their days," Dr Sillince said.

"Most people think of Jack Russell terriers as small dogs that are suitable for small spaces when in reality they are active dogs developed for hunting and without exercise and stimulation they can become quite destructive.

"At the other end of the scale, some think greyhounds need a huge amount of space but most retired greyhounds are used to living in small areas and being walked twice per day, so provided they get their walks they are often happy and content couch potatoes."

Kersti Seksel, registered veterinary specialist and Australian Companion Animal Council (ACAC) president, agreed that the "size ratio" of dog to home was a myth.

"Just because a dog takes up less space doesn't mean it is going to be a quiet lap dog," she said. "Often the small breeds are more energetic and like to run around while the large ones, like Great Danes and St Bernards, like to laze on the couch all day.

"It is not so much about the size of the dog that makes it suited to a certain home but the amount of time and energy you put into training, exercising and socialising that will make the difference."

Dr Sillince said this common misconception had led to a rise in the popularity of smaller dogs.

"Ten years ago the most registered breeds were Rottweilers and German shepherds, nowadays Maltese and Jack Russells are more popular," she said.

For families who allow their furry friends indoors, Dr Sillince suggested Lhasa apsos, mini or toy poodles, shih tzus, cavalier King Charles spaniels, cocker spaniels and bichon frise breeds.

Better Pets and Gardens' Alison Ninyett also suggested west highland terriers, pugs and chihuahuas as pleasant house dogs, as well as poodles or poodle crosses - also known as oodles - because of their hypoallergenic coats.

"Poodles or bichons are great for people with allergies as they don't lose their fur and they're also good for people who love a clean house," she said.

However, Dr Sillince cautioned that she was seeing increased cases of ill "hypoallergenic" dogs because people assumed that because they didn't drop hair, they didn't need brushing and grooming.

"In fact, the opposite is true - these dogs shed into their coats rather than out on to the carpet - which means that if they are not regularly groomed we see coat matting, skin disease and sometimes even maggots under the matts," she said.

Dog shopping:
Mrs Ninyett said there had been a welcome shift toward adopting and re-homing shelter dogs.

"Adopting a dog is not only cheaper but it gives a dog another chance at life," she said.

Dr Sillince agreed, adding that the old story that "pounds recycle bad dogs" was being replaced by temperament-tested, well-marketed pets with positive stories.

"One of the most overlooked opportunities for house dogs is older pets," Dr Sillince said.

"Almost any dog over the age of seven years suits small homes and yards well as they are generally socialised, manage exercise well, and often have up to a 10-year lifespan."

However, Dr Sillince warned against the increasing practice of buying puppies and dogs online, which was fraught with danger.

"Buying online is the haven for substandard breeders and reject dogs - it's the, 'Buy this dog or it will be put down' scams where they take your money and then ship a dog that doesn't exist," she said.

Dr Sillince said it was acceptable to find a dog online, but she stressed not to buy the dog without having seen the pet and the conditions in which it was raised, adding that it was worth paying for a temperament test (also known as the Volhurst test), which was different from a behavioural assessment.

What you need to know before you buy:
"Choosing the right dog for your home will mean there is less chance the dog will need to be re-homed," Dr Seksel said.

Making an educated and informed choice required researching the background of the dog and the breed, and assessing whether your needs and those of the pet matched.

"Finding the right dog has to do with the breed but it is more about the personality of the dog," Dr Seksel said.

"The same breed coming from different lines will have a different personality and temperament; for example, a border collie coming from a show line of dogs and one coming from a line of working dogs will be completely different."

She said the best way to get some indication of the type of dog you were getting was to look into the background of the dog, if possible. This would help ensure you got the animal within the breed that best suited your family culture.

She also advised not to fall into the "fashion culture", where people bought a type of dog after seeing a movie or because someone famous had one. She used kelpies (made famous by the movie Red Dog) and Portuguese water dogs (owned by US President Barack Obama) as examples of this trend.

"Overall, our hearts are going to reign in the end," Dr Seksel said. "The one that pulls at our heart strings is usually the one you'll take home; we just advise people to be a bit more educated about their decision because the more educated you are, the happier the dog and you will be in the long run.