How to Select the Right Dog for You
When you’ve decided to add a furry companion to your family, it can be important to think about what kind of dog you want. This has to be the right dog for your lifestyle, family, personality, and so on and so forth. If you love going for long hikes, you’ll want a dog capable of trekking miles with nothing but a goofy grin on his face. If you know you want to take your baby everywhere you go, a toy or small-sized dog would best suit your needs.
Many dogs will easily adapt to your environment and lifestyle, but it can be a good idea to have an eye out for certain qualities or breeds that might best fit what you’re looking for. The breed of a dog only tells part of the story, while observation of the potential adoptee tells a much larger part. This particular post is going to focus on questions you should ask yourself and things to look for based on the breed(s) of the dog in question and less on behavior (to be addressed in a future post).
- Do you need a family dog? Do you have small children? You may not want to have a 200lb dog that can take out a small toddler (though they’re often gentle giants!), just like you may not want a dog known for stubbornness and won’t take kindly to a child pulling on its tail and ears.
- What is your activity level? Low, medium, high? Not all dogs want to go, go, go. Some dogs have to exert themselves for an hour… or three… per day to stay mentally fit. You don’t want to commit to two hours of exercise a day if it’s just not something that’s in you. But you also don’t want to take home a dog that doesn’t want to do all the activities you want to. Senior dogs make great low-energy pets!
- Do you live in a house, condo, apartment? Big dogs can thrive in small spaces, just like small dogs can thrive in large spaces, but it will often depend on mitigating factors. But if your 400 sq. ft. apartment already feels cramped, adding a Great Dane might not be something that appeals to you! If you lack a yard, be ready for multiple trips up and down stairs or elevators to take your pooch out for walks and pottying. For condos and apartments, keep aware of any rules or restrictions [on breed and weight, typically].
- Do you have time to invest in training? Puppies require a great deal of time and patience, because they need to be trained to do all the things that older dogs are supposed to know. You’ll need to go through basic obedience commands (sit, stay, come, etc.) as well as housebreak. Many adult dogs have some basic training (and usually are housebroken), so going for an adult dog may be a better idea. Senior dogs are also a great option, because they’re even more likely to have basic obedience down.
- Do you have time to invest in good grooming? Some breeds require daily grooming, while others are pretty much just wash and wear. There are even a couple of breeds where regular baths are a thing of the past. Consider whether you can keep up with the daily grooming particular breeds need, if you’re willing to pay for groomers to give it a regular trim/cut, and the like.
- How much can you afford? Puppies can be expensive, because they will outgrow several of the things they need (toys, collars, etc.), so they’ll have to be replaced more frequently in the first year or two. They may need more shots and most will be neutered/spayed. Senior dogs may have more health problems and therefore present additional veterinary expenses. Bigger dogs are more expensive: they need more food, bigger beds (have you seen the price differences between an extra small and an extra large bed?), kennels, crates, bowls…
- What kind of health problems are you willing to deal with? Certain breeds are predisposed to certain hereditary/genetic problems–some may never occur, others may occur towards the end of life. For example, many of the larger breed dogs suffer from hip dysplasia, but it’s usually not prevalent until the last few years of their life and often just looks like arthritis–but for some, it may require hip replacement. Shar-peis are also known for a host of health issues requiring regular vet visits. Make sure you’re knowledgeable about a particular breed’s potential health issues; there are definitely some made hardier than others. Adult and senior dogs may have more easily detected health problems just from sight/observation, while puppies may not show any symptoms until much later in life.
There are several places on the web that can help you find the “best” breeds for you, and they’re a good jumping off point–we like Animal Planet’s. Again, the breed of a dog is only one aspect, and not all dogs conform to breed standards–dogs are very much a product of their environment and how they are (or were) raised, much like us humans!
Photo Credit: Flickr