Congratulations!! Since you are reading this I suspect that you have decided now is the right time to bring a dog into your life.
Having a dog is a big commitment that should be made with careful consideration. It is essential that you understand the time and cost involved with owning a dog. Hopefully you read the post “Really Ready for a Dog?” before coming to this decision.
If not, I highly suggest you read it Click here for the Really Ready for a Dog? and answer the questions truthfully.
Deciding which type of dog is right for you
Let’s assume that you have evaluated your lifestyle and finances and you are ready to find a dog.
The next step in the process is to decide which type of dog best fits you and your lifestyle.
To do this you need to take a realistic look at your lifestyle and your financial constraints. Just because you fell in love with the dog from the movie Beethoven when you were a kid (as I did), doesn’t mean a 100 pound St. Bernard is going to love living in your tiny city apartment. Just like humans, dogs have needs that must be considered.
Since there are many, many decisions you will need to make prior to deciding which dog to get, we will break it down into manageable sections that will hopefully help you with your decision.
Do you want a puppy or an older dog?
Deciding on whether to get a puppy or adult dog can be hard. Let’s face it. Puppies are cute, but puppy-hood doesn’t last forever. Besides, there are a lot a benefits to bringing home an older dog. Here are some of the pros and cons to each choice.
Puppies are not only undeniable cute and cuddly but also require the greatest amount of training, attention and cost particularly during the first six months.
It takes a lot of time and dedication to housebreak and train a new puppy. Be prepared for many accidents in the house and for your new puppy to decide that your grandmothers antique chairs is the best chew toy in town.
Although these problems will gradually fade as the puppy matures and it is trained on proper dog manners, you will need a great deal of patience during this time. Also remember that if you adopted a mixed breed or a designer dog, your puppy may look very different than what you imagined.
For many people adult dogs are an excellent choice, especially if are looking for a dog that is already house trained and has basic doggy manners. You also get a better idea of what their energy level, attitude, and temperament are before bringing them home.
However, just because it is an adult, it does not guarantee that the dog is trained the way you want or even trained at all. You should still expect to do some training so that you and your new companion know all the rules.
|Adorable and cuddly||Not house-trained|
|Stronger bond||Completely untrained|
|Puppy stage is fun||High energy|
|Train the way you want||Needs more attention|
|1st year more expensive: |
vaccines, setting up costs
|May be house-trained||Miss puppy stage|
|House-training is quicker||Lower energy levels|
|May have doggy manners||Possible higher vet bills if older|
|More independent||Possible behaviorally issues|
|Can be left alone for |
longer periods of time
|Lower energy levels|
What kind of breed should you consider?
There are many factors you need to consider when deciding on which dog fits best into your life. To learn more about breeds and their traits read Understanding how breed traits affect behaviors
Evaluate your lifestyle
When deciding on which breed or breeds to consider it is important to examine your current lifestyle.
Think about what adjustments you will need to make for a particular breed and if you are willing to make them. Look at your job and determine how many hours you will be home to be with your new friend.
Some dogs like Bassett Hounds that have low energy levels are ok spending 8 hours alone as long as they get adequate exercise and attention before you leave and after you come home.
However breeds like terriers need to be in contact with people most of the day or they become lonely.
Look at the needs of your family, especially if you have children or other pets. Do you want a high energy dog to match your high energy children or do you want a dog that likes to hang around. Are your children old enough to properly handle a dog?
Families with a young child may want to stay away from small dogs because the dog can get hurt if not handled properly. The opposite is true for big dogs. Big high energy dogs may unwittingly hurt a small child.
Does anyone in your family have allergies, or prefer a low-shedding dog? If so, a hypoallergenic dog breed might be right for you.
Tip: Hypoallergenic does not mean the allergy suffer will not be allergic to the dog just that there is a chance they will be able to tolerate the dog better. Make sure they spend time around the dog you are considering before bringing it home.
How big should you go?
When deciding on what size dog to choose think about what purpose you want the dog to serve. Do you want a little lap dog that you can carry around or do you want a large dog that will scare away potential thieves? If you are not sure maybe a medium sized dog will fit your needs. As I mentioned earlier all dogs were bred to serve a purpose. Decide on your main purpose and select a bred that matches it.
Think about how much space you can give a dog. Small dogs can generally live in a smaller apartment, where larger dogs need more space to move around and lay down to rest or sleep. The first dog my husband and I had together was a very large Golden Retriever who when lying down took up more than half the floor in our small kitchen making it difficult to move around.
Don’t forget to check your lease or homeowners association to see if there are any restrictions on the size or breed of dogs allowed.
You should also think about the needs of the dog. Some small dogs are delicate and need to be handled with care. Being stepped on or handled to roughly by a young child can cause serious injury. Also, small dogs tend to be more sensitive to colder temperatures so you need a plan to keep them warm. Some small dogs can also develop “tough dog” attitudes to compensate for their small size. Be sure you are prepared for this possibility.
Another consideration in determining what size is the expenses: the larger the dog, the more expensive things like dog food, dog supplies, grooming and medical treatments become.
How much energy can you handle?
When thinking about how much energy you want your dog to have you should consider what you want to do with your dog. Do you want a dog that requires very little exercise and is content to just cuddle with you while you watch TV or do you want a dog that can take long runs with you during the week and go hiking on the weekends?
As you probably realize by now the energy level of a breed matches the requirements of the breed’s purpose. So a dog that was bred to be in the fields chasing and retrieving prey will have a much higher energy level then a dog that was bred to guard your home. Even among hunting dogs you can see a difference.
Dogs like blood hounds that use their keen sense of smell to track down prey have a much lower energy level then dogs that hunt by sight like a greyhound.
In addition to physical exercise requirements many dogs need mental exercise too. Herding dogs like the popular Australian Sheepdog need an activity that satisfies their need to work otherwise they may start to herd your children. Obedience training or trick training works well.
Even within the same breed you may find that dogs have different energy levels. Make sure to spend time with your new friend to evaluate their energy level.
It is very important to remember that regardless of the breed every dog needs routine exercise, so make sure you can provide this or you will end up with behaviorally problems.
How much upkeep are you prepared for?
As you might guess a dogs appearance will have a lot to do with how much maintenance they require.
Although all dogs need basic grooming, dogs with longer fur, or non-shedding dogs with hair that continually grows will require much more time and money to keep them healthy.
On the contrary most short-haired dogs are major shedders. Some dogs can fall into both categories. Our Golden Retriever needed to be brushed often to keep his long hair from knotting, and he also shed. A lot. Ear types also affect how much maintenance a dog needs. Dogs with long, floppy ears require frequent thorough ear cleanings or may get ear infections.
Confirming your choice
After deciding which breed you think best fits your lifestyle, take the time to meet with breeders and owners of that breed. This can be accomplished by going to dog shows or just looking around your neighborhood.
Reputable breeders tend to be very passionate about their preferred breed and will be happy to answer your questions.
Going to a dog park can also be a great way to get a firsthand look at how the breed interacts with their owner, others and their surroundings. Most owners are generally open to answering questions about their experiences.
Next step is deciding where you should go to get your new companion. Learn more by reading – Dog Breeders vs Rescues – Where to Find Your Perfect Pup