What Dog is Right for Me?
The decision to bring a dog home and make him apart of your family is very exciting! But before you bring a dog home, there are many factors that you should consider. Things to consider are breed, age, and where you will obtain your new companion. Choosing a dog that best fits you and matches your family’s lifestyle is very important and will help avoid future problems. Also, when your dog becomes a part of your family, you have committed to providing that dog a home and keeping it healthy, which at times can become costly.
The first thing to consider is the breed of dog. Try to avoid picking a dog based on how it looks as a puppy. All puppies are cute, but make sure you have an idea of what the puppy will look and act like when it is an adult. A Great Dane puppy may weigh only 20 pounds, but as an adult will average 120 pounds, so may not fit your home if it is a small apartment. Also keep in mind how active your lifestyle is; if you like to stay inside and watch movies, pick a dog that does not need a lot of physical activity and exercise. If you have an interest in organized canine activities, such as agility and want a breed with high energy that needs lots of physical exercise, a Border Collie may be a good choice. But if you have small children in your family, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are not a good choice because they are herding breeds and as a result may nip at the heels of children. The Retriever breeds have more active lifestyles and need social companionship, so are not the best choose if you work long hours and are often away from home. Toy breeds, such as Shih Tzu and Pomeranians were bred to be household companions and don’t need as much exercise as the Labrador retriever. The terrier breeds, such as the Jack Russell Terrier, are very intelligent and have a high prey drive. They were bred to rid property of vermin such as rats so they need a lot of mental stimulation as an outlet for their drive to hunt small prey. If you know someone who has the breed of dog you are thinking of acquiring, ask if you can spend some time with that dog in its home environment to make sure that it is the right fit for you.
The next thing to consider is where you will get your dog. The options include animal shelters, breed rescue organizations, private sellers, breeders, and pet stores. The most important thing is to do your research. Be very cautious of breeders or private sellers who tell you they will bring the dog to you or meet you in a parking lot. Reputable breeders should first meet with you, be willing to show you the dog’s environment, including meeting the parents if it is a puppy, and ask you questions to make sure that you will provide a good home. Animal shelters and rescue organizations are great places as they are saving lives by providing homes for unwanted or abandoned pets, but keep in mind that there may be behavior reasons why these dogs were surrendered. Before adopting your dog, ask about the results of temperament tests and any prior history so you will know what to expect. If you have children, make sure the dog is comfortable around them; the dog should greet the children in a friendly manner and seek as much attention from them as from the adults. A dog who avoids children may be fearful of them and not a good match for your family. Pet store puppies offer a variety of purebred dogs and there is usually no application process, but these puppies may not be the most sound or healthy as they often from puppy mills or large breeding facilities.
The last thing to consider is the age of your new dog. An advantage of choosing a puppy at eight weeks of age is that the puppy is still in the socialization period. This means you have charge of his early learning and influence over the puppy’s exposure to people and places. Adopting a puppy also means he needs to house trained, which can be very time consuming, and you need to be patient as the puppy is going through chewing phases and destroying items in the house. Adopting an adult dog may be a better choice if you don’t have the time to teach house training and proper chewing behavior.
If you have any questions on whether a certain dog is right for you, please give us a call. We will be happy to help you find the best fit for your family and lifestyle. For more information on dog breeds the following books and websites may be helpful:
American Kennel Club. The Complete Dog Book. 20th ed. New York: Ballantine Books, 2006
Coren, Stanley. Why We Love the Dogs We Do: How to Find the Dog that Matches Your Personality. New York: Fireside Books, 1998.
Hart, Benjamin L., and Lynette A. Hart. The Perfect Puppy: How to Choose Your Dog By Its Behavior. New York: W.H. Freeman, 1988.
Reference: Horwitz, Debra; Ciribassi, John; Dale, Steve, “Decoding Your Dog” American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.