It is of great importance that you first consider your family’s lifestyle before selecting a dog. Do you have children? If so, think about their ages and how that needs to be reflected in your pet selection. For example, picking a large, active dog may not work well when you have children that are small enough that they can be easily knocked down. What types of personalities do your children have? Very active children may do best with very active dogs. Calm children and calm dogs may enjoy each other’s company more easily. Is your child at ease with dogs or do they show signs of being fearful? It is never a good idea to force a fearful child to immediately live with a dog. You may want to visit places with dogs to let the children get accustomed to dogs first and then decide if a dog is right for your family.
Whoever may be the dog’s primary caregiver needs to consider their own personality. Since they will be primarily responsible for the care of the dog, the dog needs to be something that they will get along well with and enjoy. The main caregiver should ALWAYS be an adult. No matter what your children may say, please do not expect them to be in charge of another living creature. Some considerations should be your level of activity, your time commitment, and your personal dedication to owning a dog. Dogs have different types of activity levels that can be based on age, personality, and breed. Puppies are a huge time commitment. They often require more care and training than an adult dog. Senior dogs tend to be less active and calmer. Each breed of dog is bred for a purpose. For instance, breeds that fall into the working or hunting dog category have a tendency to need large amounts of activity or they can act out in the home, such as being destructive or unruly. Try to have a good understanding of your household needs before viewing dogs.
Dogs are bred to have similar physical appearances and breed specific personality traits. Having a better understanding of a breed will allow the owner to predict how it may behave in a home. Each breed will have desirable traits and less desirable traits. For example, hunting breeds in the hound family have a tendency to bark. This alerts the hunter to the whereabouts of prey. Don’t expect a dog such as a beagle to be soft spoken or quiet. You usually hear a beagle before you see one. Breeds are meant to be generalizations, so exceptions to breed rules are few and far between. If you happen to come across a bark-less beagle, it most likely still will follow scents and be extremely food driven.
You should still consider breeds when viewing mixed breeds. Mixed breeds are a combination of two or more dog breeds. You can sometimes gauge information about a dog’s personality and behavior by its mixture of breeds. For example, a dog that is half Beagle, may still have many of the beagle traits. Sometimes there may be dogs that are so mixed that it is impossible to identify specific breeds. These dogs often have very mixed personalities due to the bloodlines being watered down. Mixed breeds often suffer from less genetic illness and defects. Many people feel that some of the best dogs are just “good ole mutts”.
Pet stores carry primarily puppies in a variety of breeds. These animals are sold and there is usually very little paperwork involved. Many pet stores offer lines of credit to make pet purchasing more affordable. There are downsides to selecting a dog from a pet store. Some pet stores purchase their puppies from puppy mills. Puppy mills are essentially breeders that breed dogs on a large scale. They usually have more than one litter of puppies at a time and several pregnant females. There has been a great deal of controversy in recent years when it was discovered that some puppy mills were neglecting or abusing their dogs. Many puppy mills were inbreeding dogs which lead to a high incidence of genetic and behavioral defects.
Many shelters and rescues offer a variety of dog breeds and some specialize in specific breeds. General shelters may have purebreds and mixed breeds to choose from. Breed specific rescues may have less dogs to choose from depending on popularity of a breed in a certain area. Some dogs may have been relinquished by owners and have background histories while other dogs may be strays with little known about them. Shelters and rescues can have everything from puppies to seniors. It is important to ask the organization’s staff or volunteers about each dog’s personality and have them help guide you to the dogs that work with your family’s needs.
If you have done your research and selected the breed of dog that will match your family, a breeder may be the perfect option for you. Most reputable breeders are experienced with a particular breed and are passionate. They are not breeding for profit, but out of love. When you visit a breeder, always ask to visit with both of parents of the litter. Since many personality traits and defects are driven by genetics, it is important to see how the parents behave and appear. It is not ideal to purchase a dog from a breeder if you are not allowed to see both parents, if the dogs appear unhealthy, or if they have concerning behaviors , such as aggression. Always make sure the litter of puppies appear healthy by checking their ears, nose, and eyes. Ask to see where the puppies are kept and make sure it is a clean and healthy living environment. Breeders should be deworming their puppies on a regular basis and have started their vaccines. Puppies can be selected early, but not sold until about 8 weeks of age. The time spent with their mother and siblings is very beneficial to the physical and psychological development of the dog. Breeds with a high incidence of genetic disorders should come with a disclosure about the family bloodline and these disorders. Get in detail what the return policy is on the dog. A sign of a good breeder is that they will ALWAYS take their dog back, even if it is years later. It is appropriate and encouraged to ask breeders any questions you may have.
One of the most common ways to get a pet is through a family member or a friend. This can be ideal if it is a dog that you have been around and have gotten to know personally. You then may already know what to expect from the dog. If you have not met the dog before, you most likely will get to meet it a few times before deciding. There is a likelihood that you may be able to take the dog home for a few days to get a sense about it. It is wise to consider why someone is giving their dog away. Many dogs are re-homed due to changes in household funding, but many are also rehomed due to behavioral issues. Find out as much as you can about a dog before committing to the dog.
Whether you decide to purchase or adopt your dog, it is never recommended to bring a dog with any sort of aggression issues into a home with children. Depending on the level and type of aggression, some dogs with slight aggression issues can be placed in appropriate and experienced homes without children. Training an aggressive dog should be done with caution. Aggression cannot be “trained” out of the majority of dogs and training usually consists of training the owner how to avoid and deal with potential aggression triggers. Sometimes the best option for the owner and the dog is humane euthanasia.
GOOD QUESTIONS TO ASK WHILE SEARCHING FOR A DOG
How old is the dog?
- Age can factor into how the dog may behave
- Different breeds age differently. A 7-year old Chihuahua is very different than a 7-year old lab.
- With age dogs suffer from age related health conditions
- How many years would you possibly own the dog?
How shy or assertive is the dog?
- Try to match your household. A shy dog may not be a great match for a noisy house and an assertive dog may be too much for some families.
- Dogs also prefer to live with families that suit their personalities. A shy dog will be extremely unhappy living with a loud family with young children that may scare them.
How is the dog around children?
- Even if you don’t personally have children in the house, consider if children will be visiting you Will you have to lock the dog up every time the grandchildren visit?
- Do you personally plan on having children?
What would be the dog’s exercise requirements?
- How much of your day will consist of making sure the dog gets proper exercise?
- Are you willing to find activities to keep an active dog happy?
- Be realistic. If you are not a jogger, don’t think you will suddenly take up jogging so you can jog with your dog.
- How often will the dog need to be groomed?
- What is the cost per grooming visit for that particular breed?
- *If not properly groomed and maintained, a dog can get matted which is very painful for the dog.
What are the training recommendations for this particular dog?
- Does the dog already know basic commands?
- Does the dog need additional training?
- Does the dog need specialized training for behavior issues?
- Do I need to consult a trainer that specializes in the breed I have selected?
What are the medical needs of the dog?
- The cost of yearly care
- Conditions and ailments common for the breed?
- Age related medical needs
Selecting the right dog can bring endless love and joy to a family. Selecting a dog that does not fit your family needs can be stressful for both the family and the dog. Think carefully and research thoroughly before making a final selection. This will be a member of your family for an average of 10-15 years.