When you have reached the decision that yes, you are going to adopt a dog, you need to think about what type of dog would be best for your family. By taking time to work out a list of preferences, you’ll reduce the risk of choosing the wrong dog for you. If you adopt a dog that isn’t a good fit for your lifestyle, both you and your dog will be miserable.
The factor to consider is age. Many people adopt a puppy, and enjoy the challenge of raising him to be well behaved, well adjusted adult. They need more frequent meals than an adult dog, they need to be toilet trained and they also need to learn basic obedience commands. This does take time and patience, and if your day is already full, a puppy may not be for you.
You may be better off adopting a young adult. Although you don’t know what sort of training they have had, they are usually not as high maintenance as a pup. Don’t think that there’s no work involved with an adult dog; he will still have to learn to fit in with your family’s lifestyle, and he’ll still need feeding, grooming and exercise.
There are often many “golden oldies” available for adoption. These are dogs who are elderly, and would just love someone to care for them in senior years. They can still offer affection and companionship, but they may only be with you for a short while. Don’t forget that older dogs may have more medical expense, for example pain relief for arthritis, so if you do adopt one of these old souls, make sure you can afford to keep them comfortable.
How much yard space do you have? If you life in an apartment, it makes sense to choose a smaller breed. Certainly large breeds may be happy in a smaller home, particularly if they get the exercise they need, but will take up a lot of space. It can be hard to maneuver around a Great Dane all the time if you live in a one bedroom apartment!
How much can you afford to spend on a dog? As we’ve mentioned, large dogs cost more than small dogs. They eat more, and they cost more in worming tablets and flea control products. They’re also more expensive to neuter. Choose a dog that you know can afford to take care of, for the rest of his life.
Do you have children, and how old are they? Children can love a dog to death, and can often hurt them by poking eyes and pulling tails. Most breeds will get on well with children, particularly if they’ve been raised with them from puppyhood. However, some breeds are more protective, and others like to herd and will chase running children. Although these dogs can live happily enough with children, it takes extra commitment and training on your part. You may be better off with a more relaxed dog while your children are young. While we’re on the subject of children and dogs, don’t ever leave a child unsupervised with a dog, and don’t let your child tease or torment an animal. It can lead to tragedy.
How much time do you want to spend grooming your dog? A busy household is much better off with a dog with a short, low maintenance coat. However, there’s no reason not to choose a dog that has a longer coat, providing you’re prepared to invest the time and money into looking after it. A long coat that isn’t cared for can become matted and knotted, and this can be painful. Short coated dogs are also easier to check for ticks and fleas, quicker to brush, and dry faster a bath.
Are you an active person? Some dogs are real couch potatoes, and only need a short walk every day. Other dogs will run for 10 miles with you, then want to play ball. Be realistic about how much time you have to exercise a dog, and choose an appropriate breed. A high energy dog that doesn’t have the opportunity to burn off that energy will be bored, and that’s when you’ll have problems with him digging, barking and even escaping from your yard.
What about temperament and intelligence? Smart dogs, such as those in the herding group, need more than just physical exercise. They also need something to do with their minds, or they can develop behavior problems. Don’t take on one of these breeds unless you can commit to training him, and perhaps participating in a dog sport such as agility. He will be very unhappy, and so will you. A mixed breed which is part herding dog is likely to be just as high maintenance as a purebred.
Pure breed or crossbreed? Either will make a great pet. The advantage of adopting a purebred dog is that you’ll have a better idea of his temperament, trainability and size as an adult. If you’re considering a crossbreed, try and work out what breeds may be in his family tree. That may help give you an idea of what he will grow into, but you may still get a surprise when he grows up.
Male or female dog? If you’re adopting a shelter dog, he will probably already be neutered, so it doesn’t really matter what sex you choose. Both male and female dogs make great companions.
Just as you didn’t rush the decision to adopt a dog, don’t hurry through these questions. Take your time, there really is no rush. The right dog is out there for you.
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