Considering Getting a New Dog?
Bringing a new dog into a home takes a big commitment on the part of the whole family. The worst thing you can do is rush the decision and get a dog before you or your family, including the family’s current pets, is ready for one.
First, you should ask yourself why you want a new dog. Is it to show off to friends & family? Do you want a dog as a companion
for yourself or your current dog? Have you always wanted a running buddy? Be honest with yourself. If you can’t answer the question of why you want a dog, or if you know in your heart that your family isn’t ready for a new dog, it’s best to wait until a more opportune time. Making an impulsive decision to get a dog often hurts the dog more than anyone else, leaving it languishing in a shelter or worse. If, on the other hand, everyone is on board and all systems are go, it’s time to move on to deciding what you really want in a new dog.
Finding the Best Dog for Your Family
A dog’s breed largely determines his behavior, appearance, and natural tendencies. It’s important to pick a breed whose original purpose makes it a good fit for your household. For example, say you want a couch potato. You would definitely not want to look in the Working Group for a dog for your family; you would instead look to the Toy breeds or the Nonworking breeds.
If you think you’ve found a breed that will be good for your family, go out and meet several representatives of that breed and talk to breeders. A good way to do this is to go to a dog show. You can find dog shows in your area by going to infodog.com, clicking on show information, and searching by state. Also remember that just because most dogs of a breed act a certain way doesn’t mean every member of the breed will be exactly like that; it’s a good idea to talk to a reputable breeder about what you want to make sure you get a good dog for your family.
If you can’t decide on a dog breed, don’t fret! Remember that crossbreeds can be excellent companions as well; just remember that it may not be so easy to predict their eventual appearance and behavior.
A dog’s energy level is one of the most important factors in deciding whether or not the dog will be compatible with a certain family. A basic rule of thumb is that the dog should have the same or less energy than everyone in your household. If a dog has more energy than its family, the dog will not be able to burn off all its energy in one day engaging in the family’s normal activities. This results in the dog getting frustrated, which leads to bad habits like destructiveness, anxiety, and even aggression.
Most people immediately want to get a puppy. However, puppies aren’t right for everyone. It’s like bringing an infant into the home…they require constant time and effort to turn them into well-behaved adults. They know absolutely nothing about human society –for example, dogs do not arrive into this world knowing how to walk on a leash, nor do they naturally know how to take treats from humans. They don’t come house trained or naturally knowing how to sleep in a crate at night. The owner is responsible for teaching the puppy all of these things, a process which can take years.
If your family has never had a dog or doesn’t have the time to raise a puppy, an adult dog is a wonderful option. Adults over 3 and senior dogs are settled and wise. Young adults under 3 years generally are leash trained and are out of the teething stage and may very well be house trained, but they still have lots of energy to burn and a long life to live; they can also be a good compromise for a family that enjoys the cute antics of a puppy.
Some people think that size is the most important factor, but so long as you exercise your dog daily, you could have a Great Dane in an apartment and the dog will still be content. Conversely, a high-energy Pomeranian might be a bad choice for a low-energy family that doesn’t like to take long walks.
Another good word of advice is not to have small dogs if you have or are planning to have children. Dogs less than 20 pounds can be easily injured if they are dropped or grabbed by over-friendly children. Always remember that no child should be left unsupervised with any dog, no matter how good the dog is.
It may sound a bit shallow, but how smart of a dog can you handle? If you're planning on doing obedience and agility trials, you're going to want a smart dog to work with. If you just want a family dog, you don't want a dog that will be constantly causing trouble if it's not properly engaged mentally. Often times, you can get a dog that's somewhere in between, they're willing to learn new tricks, but they're not always trying to outsmart you.
Are you willing to brush a dog on a daily basis and pay for grooming on a long haired dog on a weekly or monthly basis? If you don't brush a long haired dog “to the skin” (ask a groomer or a veterinarian to show you how to do this properly) on a regular basis, they'll get matted. If left unattended, mats can cause health problems like skin infections and sores. On the other hand, short coats can shed a lot, sometimes even more than long coats do. Some breeds, like bulldogs, require their wrinkles to be thoroughly cleaned out every day. Others, like Chinese Cresteds, need to have sunscreen and jackets applied depending on the weather. Inquire about special grooming requirements before you decide to get a certain breed.
So you’ve made it through this section and you know what you want in a dog. Now it’s time to focus on what your dog will require from you.
What a Dog Needs from You
Dogs, to put it plainly, are a time-suck (and I mean that in the best way). A dog needs to be walked, fed, loved, and disciplined on a daily basis. At first, it takes a lot of work to fit a dog into your schedule, but if you make your dog’s needs your priority, they will reward you by being the calm and happy dog you dreamed of owning.
An often-neglected aspect of dog care is exercise. Dogs were literally born to walk, to exercise as a pack. It builds a strong bond between pack members (aka, you and your dog).
Do you have time to walk a new dog at least 30 minutes a day (more if you get a high-energy dog)?
It's not a secret that dogs aren't cheap. Dogs don’t long for diamonds and expensive things, but as the owner of a dog, you are responsible for paying for your dog’s basic physical needs, such as medical care and food. Can your family fit this into their budget?
Just like any other family member, dogs can have medical emergencies. What will you do if your dog is hit by a car and requires surgery? It’s best to put aside an emergency fund for the dog’s care; your family should determine if this is something you can do before you bring the dog home.
Where will the dog live? Will it be indoor or outdoor? Dogs want nothing more than to be with us, and while an indoor dog seems like the obvious answer, some people change their mind when they see fur floating around the house or when the dog decides to take a bite out of the couch.
A good way to keep your dog from ruining your house is to confine it while you’re gone using a crate or a pen or confining it to a single room. Think of your dog like a small child. Would you give a toddler free run of the house when you’re not directly supervising them? It may seem “mean,” but actually, confining a dog when you’re not around to supervise them is for their safety, too. Dogs left alone can chew electrical cords, eat foreign bodies that need to be surgically removed, or even eat poisons or medicine. If the owner understands this and uses the confinement as a safe haven for the dog, the dog will naturally take right to it.
Also, ask yourself: where will the dog go to the bathroom? Do you have a fenced yard? If not, are you willing to take your dog out on a leash no matter what time or what the weather?
If you have completed this section, you’ve thought of how your new dog will fit into your life. From this point, it’s about finding your perfect dog –good luck and happy trails!
I sincerely hope you find the perfect dog, and that this article has helped. If you have any questions on either the article, or any dog questions in general, please don't hesitate to ask!
To help you find your new best friend, consider starting at Petfinder.com, it's a great resource to search through the shelters in your area without leaving your home!