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How to Choose
the Right Dog for You
By Jenna Stregowski, RVT in C.A. Are you thinking of getting a dog? Choosing to bring a new dog into your life is a major decision. Be sure you are ready for a dog before you start the process. It is also essential that you understand the cost of dog ownership. If you have decided that the time is right, 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.
Size You may already know you want a little lap dog that you can carry around. Or, you might have your heart set on a large or giant dog breed. If you cannot decide, then perhaps a medium sized dog is a good choice. Remember that small dogs tend to be delicate and vulnerable. Being stepped on or mishandled can cause serious injury. 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 need obedience training too! Some little dogs can develop "tough dog" attitudes, seemingly to compensate for their small size. Be sure you are prepared for this possibility. Very large dogs need a bit more space to 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 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!
Activity Level 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, agility competitor or "disc dog," consider a breed like the 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 and attention.
Physical Maintenance 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 advanced routine grooming is essential. Most short haired, smooth coated dogs are major shedders, so be prepared to do some extra cleaning up. Some grooming tools can help reduce shedding. 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!
Age 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. You dog will likely have plenty of accidents in the house and will probably chew your furniture and personal belongings. These problems will gradually resolve with dedicated training, but patience is a must. You should also be aware that your puppy might grow up to be different then you expected, especially if you adopt a mixed breed dog. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just something to keep in mind.
Adult dogs can be an excellent choice. An adult might be a better choice if you want to have a better idea of the true energy level, attitude, and temperament of your new dog. However, just because the dog is an adult does not mean he is trained, so you should still expect some degree of dedicated training at first. Fortunately, many adult dogs have been trained and socialized to some degree and can easily adjust to their new lives in their forever homes.
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 checkups and is more likely to develop heath 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 compassionate things you can do for these precious creatures.