Are you thinking of getting a dog? Choosing to bring a new dog into your life is a major decision and it should be treated as such. Bringing a dog into a
family should never be a snap decision and being sure you are ready for a dog
before you start the process is important. Is everyone in the family ready? Are
the kids old enough to be gentle, take on some responsibility for care and
feeding a dog? Call a family meeting and discuss it.
If you have decided that it is the right time, Congratulations!
Now, it is time to figure out what type of dog is right for you. There are several factors to consider before choosing a dog. Most importantly, examine your current lifestyle and consider what adjustments you
are willing to make for a dog. Look at the needs of your family – especially if
you have children or other pets. Think about the ideal size, energy level and
age of your new dog. Then, determine where to get your new dog. Just remember
that getting a dog requires a firm commitment to responsible dog ownership.
Here are some tips to help you choose the best dog for you and your family.
What Size Dog?
You may think that you always wanted a little lap dog that you can carry
around. But if you have an active lifestyle and an active family, that might
not be the best choice. If you live in the city in a small apartment, however,
this might be an excellent choice.
Remember that small dogs tend to be more delicate and vulnerable. Being stepped on or mishandled can cause serious injury. Small children and small dogs sometimes do not mix. Also, little dogs can be much
more sensitive to colder temperatures, so be ready to help keep them warm.
Don’t forget that small dogs will need obedience training, too! Some little
dogs can develop “tough dog” attitudes, seeming to compensate for their small
size by barking or biting. Be sure you are prepared for this possibility.
You might have your heart set on a large or giant dog breed but keep in mind that a large dog may need more exercise and more room to run and very large dogs need a bit more space to just move around. Big, happy dogs
with long, whip-like tails need "wagging space" to avoid tail injury
or damage to household objects. Another consideration is expense: the larger
the dog, the more expensive things like dog food, dog supplies, grooming and
medical treatments become. Training is also a key factor here. If you get a
large or giant breed puppy that is allowed to act like a lap dog when young, he
will grow up to walk all over you – literally!
If you cannot decide, then perhaps a medium sized dog is a good choice. But
what ever your choice, you might spend some time at a dog park, shelter or
other place where there are a lot of dogs and talk to other’s and meet
different sized dogs. Let the kids come, too. This might be a great way to see
how the children will interact with dogs. You might be surprised that what you
thought you wanted was different.
You probably already know that some dogs have more energy than others. A dog’s
activity level is often determined by breed, but it does not mean you can rely
on breed alone to determine how energetic your dog could become. Every dog
needs routine exercise, regardless of breed or size, so make sure you can to
provide this. If you know you can not commit to more than one or two casual
walks per day, then you will probably be better off with a lower energy dog,
such as a Basset Hound. If you are looking for a dog that can be a jogging
partner, you might consider a breed like a Lab or Border Collie.
Be willing to adjust the amount of exercise and attention you give your dog if
necessary. A dog that is barking constantly, digging up your yard, destroying your
home, or acting out in some other way is most likely in need of extra
activities. Many behavior problems are the result of excess energy.
Unfortunately, many dogs are given up or even euthanized because of a behavior
problem that could have easily been avoided with the proper amount of exercise
Your dog’s appearance has a lot to do with his maintenance needs. All dogs need
basic grooming, but certain types need more based on the type of hair coat. If
you get a dog with hair that keeps growing, then routine grooming is essential.
Most short haired, smooth-coated dogs do shed, so be prepared to do some extra
cleaning up. There are grooming tools can help reduce shedding and
understanding your dog’s coat needs is an important part of ownership.
Be aware that dogs with long, floppy ears are more prone to ear infections and
require frequent thorough ear cleanings. In addition, certain types of dogs can
do a lot of drooling. Many owners of Mastiffs, Bloodhounds and similar dogs,
actually carry a “slobber cloth” with them to wipe the drool. If they shake
their heads – watch out!
Puppies require the greatest amount of training and attention, especially over
the first six months. Be prepared to dedicate much of your time to
housebreaking and raising your new puppy. Your dog will likely have plenty of
accidents in the house and will probably chew your furniture and personal
belongings. These problems will gradually resolve themselves with dedicated
training, but time and patience is a must. You should also be aware that your puppy’s
personality might be different then you expected when he is grown, especially
if you adopt a mixed-breed dog. Like children, puppies will also go through
stages of growth and maturity. The terrible twos in children is similar to the “teen”
in dogs. Usually between 8 months and two years, some dogs seem to forget their
manners, try our patience and see how much they can get away with. Maintaining
your training throughout this time will see everyone come through it with
Adult dogs can be an excellent choice for most families. Getting an adult dog might
be a better choice if you want to have a better idea of what his true energy
level, attitude, and temperament will be. However, just because the dog is an
adult does not mean he is trained and you should still expect some degree of
dedicated training at first. Especially if you get a dog from a shelter, where
no-one knows his history or background, you may need to retrain bad habits. Fortunately, many adult dogs have been trained
and socialized to some degree and can easily adjust to their new lives in their
forever homes with some time and patience. Be prepared, especially in the first
weeks to teach him your rules and expectations and don’t assume he already
knows what you want of him.
Senior dogs should not be forgotten! Welcoming a senior dog into your home can
be a wonderful way to bring joy to the golden years of a dog. Unfortunately,
senior dogs are less likely to be adopted and often end up living out their
lives in shelters or being euthanized. A senior dog can make a wonderful
companion if you are looking for a lower energy dog. However, it is important
to know that your senior dog needs special attention, more frequent veterinary
check-ups and is more likely to develop health problems that cost time and
money to address.
Unlike a puppy or adult dog, you must know that you will not have as many years
with your senior dog. If you are willing to accept the responsibilities,
consider adopting a senior dog. It can be one of the most rewarding and compassionate
things you can do for these precious creatures.
March 16, 2009
Thank you, Tim. Lot's of info and trying to make it easy to read can be difficult. I appreciate your approval. Enjoy!