Things to Consider
Acquiring a dog is a big commitment of time and resources. Dogs come in so many shapes and sizes, with widely diverse temperaments and personalities, that potential owners should take as much time as necessary to identify the traits and characteristics that will fit best with their lifestyle. Rarely is the best choice made spontaneously at a shelter or pet store. A good place to start is by researching various dog breeds. The American Kennel Club website is a wonderful resource and contains descriptions and breed standards for all of the breeds that it recognizes. Each of those breeds has a Parent Club, which will have its own website dedicated to the particular breed. Frequently, those websites have breeder referrals organized by state. Responsible breeders will welcome your emails, calls and questions. Once you narrow down the breed or breeds of interest to you, you will be in a better position to move forward with your search, whether for a purebred or a mixed-breed companion. Here are some things to consider before acquiring a dog.
Size and Space
Think about your household living environment, including your yard. If you have a small home, then a smaller dog might be best for you. Large dogs typically require more space. If you rent, does your lease permit pets, and if so does your landlord have any size restrictions on the dog you adopt? Do you have a fenced yard? If not, how will you manage your dog’s trips to go potty? Also, keep in mind that if you plan on taking frequent walks with your dog, you must be capable of controlling it physically in unanticipated situations. If you work outside of the home, what will you do with your dog during your work hours? An isolated dog is a lonely dog, and lonely dogs can become noisy and destructive.
Children should always be taken into consideration before a dog is adopted. Some dogs by nature are not well-suited to being the typical “family dog.” Middle-sized dogs can work best for younger children. Smaller dogs can be accidentally injured by children, and larger dogs can accidentally cause injury to children during periods of roughhousing or play. Young children should not be left unsupervised with any dog, as kids are prone to poke, pull or otherwise torment dogs either accidentally or purposefully.
Are their other pets in the household? If so, how will you introduce the new animal to the existing one(s)? Some dogs have an inherently high prey drive and may not be well-suited to households with cats or very small dogs.
Many people do not realize that different dog breeds have different activity levels and daily requirements for exercise and mental stimulation. Before adopting a dog, potential owners should realistically and honestly assess how much time they have available to go on walks or other outings with their four-legged family member, and where these activities will take place. Many breeds require room to run, so city-dwellers should think twice before acquiring a breed known to have high activity requirements. If you are a fairly sedentary person, a less active breed may be the best fit for you. If you enjoy hiking or jogging, a sturdy athletic dog may be your best match. Matching the breed with your lifestyle will go a long way to ensuring that both you and your dog live happily together.
There are a number of coat types and lengths in different breeds. Familiarize yourself with the coat of the breed you are considering. Short-haired breeds can shed as much as long-haired dogs, although they typically require much less grooming. Dogs with thick, long coats tend to develop mats and may require regular trips to a dog groomer. Some breeds “blow their coats” several times a year, leaving piles of fur everywhere. Does anyone in your house have allergies to animals? Some breeds, such as poodles and Portuguese Water Dogs, are known to have less dander and can make a good choice for people with allergies.
It is important to spend time with any dog before making the decision to adopt it. Take the time to play with the dog, pet it and see how it interacts with children. Most dogs need time to get used to new people. If you are getting a dog from a breeder, discuss the particular animal’s temperament with its breeder. When you are interacting with the dog, be sure to evaluate different aspects of its personality. Is the dog playful? Does it enjoy retrieving and playing fetch? Is it overly shy or overly outgoing? Does it enjoy being petted and handled? Is the dog secure or timid? Does the dog bark frequently or excessively? Is it known to be a “yappy” breed, and if so how will your neighbors tolerate nuisance barking?
Do you have the financial resources to care for a dog for the next ten or more years? This requires more than simply providing food, water and shelter. Will you be able to pay high veterinary bills if your dog has a medical emergency or requires long-term medical attention? If you are buying a purebred dog from a reputable breeder, the initial purchase price can be well in excess of $1,000. If you are adopting a shelter or rescue dog, there typically are adoption fees of fifty to several hundred dollars.
Do you travel frequently, for work or pleasure? If so, how will you provide care for your dog when you are out of town? Do you have a reputable boarding facility or second caregiver available for these occasions? Alternatively, will you bring your dog with you on your trips? Dog owners increasingly travel with their companions, and it is not difficult to locate pet-friendly lodging in most areas.
Once you have considered these issues and taken the time reflect on how a dog will fit into your life, you should be in good shape to make an educated decision on what particular dog is the best fit for you and your family. Remember, adopting a dog is not a short-term decision. Many breeds live well into their teenage years, and prospective owners should make sure they are committed to their companions for the long haul.