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You Are Ready for a Dog? How to Pick a Dog That’s Just Right for You and Your Family

You Are Ready for a Dog? How to Pick a Dog That’s Just Right for You and Your Family

So, you have decided to add a new furry, four-legged member to your family. There are many resources to finding available dogs; rescue; breeders; pet stores. But how do you pick a dog that’s right for you and your family? It’s important that before you even start looking you get clear on your must have’s and have nots. This is a decision that is going to affect every member of your family for perhaps the next 15 years. It’s important that you make this choice with your head and not just your heart.

It’s time for a family pow-wow. Sit down with all of the members of your family and write out a list. It’s a good idea to have everybody give their input on what their “ideal” dog would be. Make your list by asking your family these 10 questions.

1. Purebred or Mix – For some families it’s important to have a purebred dog. Maybe you had a particular breed growing up or you just love the look of certain breeds. Purebred dogs can be more predictable in size, color, and temperament. However, many pet professionals agree that they can be prone to more health problems. Purebred dogs can be much more expensive as well. Perhaps a mix breed is a good choice for your family. The combination of two or more breeds can oftentimes balance out temperament and physical characteristics. By choosing a mix you may also be saving a life!

2. Size – How big should your dog be? Through selective breeding we have developed dogs that can be as small as 2 lbs or sometimes bigger than 200 lbs. Dogs are all the same animal deep down. But the differences between a Yorkie and a Mastiff are astounding. Your family needs to come to some agreements on the right size dog for your household. And remember, puppies get bigger!

3. Energy Level – This is a very important area to consider. Is your family active? Do you like to go hiking, running, or take long walks with a dog? Or would you prefer a more laid back, couch potato? Without proper exercise an energetic dog will develop behavioral problems down the road. And you don’t want a lazy dog if you dream of bringing your dog on adventures with you.

4. Age – Are you looking for a puppy, a young dog, adult, or senior? Each is wonderful and comes with its own specific requirements. Puppies are fun but a ton of work. Young dogs will need serious training. And an adult dog is not necessarily, but most likely set his ways. Senior dogs are just that…senior.

5. Grooming Requirements – Some dogs are “low maintenance” when it comes to grooming and only require a periodic nail trim, bath, and ear cleaning. Others require regular brushing, clipping, and de-matting. Is your family willing to spend the time and money necessary to maintain your dog’s coat?

6. Right after grooming you should think about color and type of coat. Double coated dogs such as Huskies, Samoyeds, and German Shepherds shed…A LOT. Are you thinking of a black lab but you have white carpeting? You might want to think again.

No dog is completely hypo-allergenic. Most people are actually allergic to a dog’s dander and saliva not the dog’s hair. But some dogs do shed less such as poodles and poodle crosses. These are all things to consider.

7. Temperament – No, there are no guarantees that a particular breed will behave in a particular way. However, there are tendencies within a breed. Remember, we as humans, developed dogs to perform specific tasks. A terrier was breed to dig and kill vermin. A border collie was breed to herd. A Doberman was bred to protect. There is a good chance that a Sheltie will bark to alert. These are things to consider. What behaviors are you looking for? What training are you able to do to control these behaviors? And what behaviors are you willing to put up with? These are good questions to consider.

8. Potential Health Problems – Some breeds and dogs with certain physical characteristics are more prone to specific health considerations. For instance dogs who spend time in the water or have hanging ears are more prone to ear infections. Dogs with very wrinkled skin frequently develop skin infections. Brachycephalic dogs (dogs with flat, pushed in faces) are prone to breathing problems and snoring. What health problems are you willing to deal with?

9. Cost – As I mentioned purebred dogs do cost more to purchase than mix breeds. You will also want to consider the costs of health care, grooming, and training. Owning a dog can be quite expensive. Especially “high maintenance” dogs.

10. Anything else that your family decides is important.

Do you have young children? Then a dog who can sometimes be protective or gets annoyed with kids is off the list.

Do you have another dog or a cat already in the household? It will be important for everybody to get along.

How long will your dog need to be home alone for? If it’s all day then a puppy is out of the question.

By now you have a comprehensive list of what works and what does not work for your family. The next step is to make some copies of this list. Keep one with you in your wallet. Keep one on your desk next to your computer. Perhaps even put one on the refrigerator for the whole family to see.

Many people make decisions about how to pick a dog with their heart and not their head. It’s important to refer back to the list whenever you are considering a dog. If you find yourself walking past the pet store and you see a cute English Bull dog puppy in the window that just seems pleading for you to take him home. Pull out your list. Your family loves to hike in the summer in the mountains? Then that English Bull Dog will have to stay home. You see a dog on a rescue site that is super cute but her bio says she’s nervous around strangers? Pull out your list. You have teenagers whose friends hang out at your house? She’s not the right dog for you.

By being clear about what you are looking for choosing the right dog for you and your family becomes easy. The hard part is thinking with your head and not your heart.