Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to Choose a Dog That’s Right for You

By Julia Williams

Adding a dog to your family can be a wonderful, happy thing for all concerned. But it’s a major decision that should never be made on a whim, because a dog depends on you for life, for everything. Before you get a dog, be absolutely certain that your lifestyle, finances and family can accommodate responsible pet ownership, because anything less would be very unfair to your four-legged friend. The next step is to thoroughly research which breed (or mixed breed) would be best for you and your family. Here are some things to think about:

Puppy or Adult Dog?

Before deciding which breed might be right for you and your family, you’ll want to think about whether you can handle the challenges of getting a puppy, or if your lifestyle is better suited to an adult dog. Puppies require a great deal more training, attention, patience and vet visits, especially for the first year. When you adopt an adult dog, you’ll have a better idea of what their energy level and temperament are. Adult dogs may already be socialized and well trained, but not always. To help you decide what age of dog to get, read Should You Adopt a Puppy or an Adult Dog?

Purebred or “Mutt?”

This age-old question has no right or wrong answer; much depends upon personal preference and why you want to have a dog in the first place. Although purebred dogs have some distinct advantages, there are many good reasons for choosing mixed breeds too. Purebreds offer a predictable size and somewhat predictable temperament. However, there are also dogs who go against “type,” so breed is not a guarantee that the dog you choose will have the traits you seek. Sometimes, people have fond memories of a particular breed from their childhood and want to have this same breed as an adult. There’s nothing wrong with that; just be aware that “same breed” doesn’t mean it will have the same personality. Mixed breed dogs may not have fancy pedigrees, but they make wonderful family pets and loving companions.


This is another important factor to consider when selecting a dog. If you live in a teeny tiny apartment, a giant breed is probably not right for you. Similarly, dogs with very high energy levels are probably best suited to homes with a yard and/or a dog run. Small dogs are more vulnerable to accidents such as being stepped on, and may not like the roughhousing that often accompanies a household with young children. Little dogs can also be more sensitive to cold temperatures, so keeping them warm in winter may require special consideration. Expense is another factor to consider when deciding which size dog to get. Large dogs will obviously eat more food than small dogs, they need larger pet beds to sleep in, and may incur additional veterinary expenses for antibiotics, anesthesia and other medical treatments.

Exercise Requirements

Although every dog needs regular exercise, some breeds require more than others. If you are a couch-potato type whose idea of exercise is reaching for the remote, you still need to commit to taking Fido out for regular walks and playtime at the dog park. This will likely be fine for lower-energy dogs like Basset Hounds, Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Chow Chows, Pugs and Rat Terriers (not a complete list by any means). If you want a jogging partner or an agility competitor, a high-energy breed like the Border Collie might be the right dog for you. Other high-energy dogs that need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation include Australian Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Sheepdogs, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters and Weimaraners. Just remember though, breed is not a guarantee of a specific trait. Breed can provide a general idea of what a dog’s energy level may be, but dogs are individuals and should be regarded as such.

Grooming Needs

All dogs will require basic grooming, but some have special needs based on physical characteristics such as ears or the type of hair coat. For example, dogs with long floppy ears may need frequent ear cleanings to prevent infections. Thick, double coated dogs like Malamutes , Samoyeds and Akitas need frequent brushing and grooming, as do long-haired dogs like Afghan Hounds, Bearded Collies and Cocker Spaniels. Some breeds are known droolers, and these may require more housework and a good supply of “slobber cloths.”

As you can see, there are many things to consider before you succumb to those irresistible puppy dog eyes. Choosing the right dog may not be an easy process, but if you take your time and do your homework, you’ll be rewarded with a canine companion that’s perfectly suited to you and your family.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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