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Choosing a Dog – 5 Things to Know

Take these tips to heart before getting a new dog.

Take these tips to heart before getting a new dog.

Getting a dog is a big commitment — after all, you can probably expect to share a life with your new dog for at least a decade, if not longer, so you want to make sure you and the dog are a good fit. Here are some things to think about before looking for a new furry best friend.

dogs in a bed 

1. Consider Your Lifestyle 

One of the most important things to evaluate before choosing a dog is your lifestyle. You will want a dog who will mesh well with your personality and way of life. 

Think about your lifestyle and personality. On weekends, do you like to do outdoorsy things like hike, bike, run and explore? Then you might enjoy a more active dog breed, such as a dog in the American Kennel Club’s Working Group (Australian Shepherd, Boxer or Siberian Husky) or the Sporting Group (Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Weimaraner or Viszla) or even the Herding Group (Border Collie, German Shepherd Dog or Shetland Sheepdog). 

If your idea of weekend fun includes lounging on the couch all day, then you might get along better with a more laid-back breed. Dogs from the Toy Group were bred to be little lap companions, so breeds like Pugs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Toy Poodles and Yorkshire Terriers might be more your speed. Certain other breeds, like Greyhounds and Basset Hounds, are pretty content with minimal exercise, too, so those also might be breeds to think about.

Another important factor is the amount of time you’ll be able to spend with your dog. No dog is happy when left alone all day in the back yard, or alone in the house to while away the hours, so if you don’t have time to dedicate to a dog right now, then perhaps now is not the right time in your life to get a dog.

2. Consider the Breed — or Mix of Breeds

How important is breed to you? Some people are drawn to particular dog breeds and acquire them via a reputable breeder or even a breed-specific rescue group, but others find lifelong doggie soul mates at their local animal shelter. At shelters, you’re less likely to find a purebred dog — most are mixes of two or more breeds. However, what you will find in abundance are grateful dogs who would love to share a home with you. Plus, choosing a dog from a shelter saves a life — literally.

Of equal importance as breed — and some would say more importance — is the dog’s temperament. Just like people, dogs have their own individual personalities. Some dogs are more active than others, and some are more mellow. Some dogs are strong-willed and need an owner who will be patient yet firm with training; other dogs are biddable and will perform tricks on cue with little prompting. Some dogs are loyal to one family (or person) and will act protectively around people they don’t know; other dogs don’t know a stranger. What kind of dog do you want? It’s important to know what personality traits you’re looking for before you fall in love with appearance.

Another important factor to consider is size. Depending on how much room you have in your home, the size of the dog could play an important factor. If you live in a small studio apartment, you might want to choose an equally petite dog (think Chihuahua). If you have a big house with a big yard, the size of dog might not matter as much.

Grooming needs should also be something to consider. Some breeds shed — a lot. If picking fur balls off of your clothes every day isn’t a major problem with you, then most breeds are up for the choosing. Also consider the time you’ll have to invest in simple grooming chores, like daily brushing. Some breeds that have long hair — like Lhasa Apsos and Afghan Hounds — will take considerably more brushing time than a shorter-haired breed, like a Bull Terrier.

3. Consider the Cost

From health and veterinary costs, to food and treats, to toys and entertainment, to grooming and even pet insurance — dogs cost money. Do you have it in your budget to take on a dog? Remember that you’re adding a new family member that will most likely live with you for a decade or more. Be sure you factor in the cost of a dog before adding one to your family.

4. Consider the Source

No matter where you get your dog, you’ll want to be sure it’s from a reputable source. If you’re looking to get a purebred dog, check that the breeder is registered with an established breed club, such as the AKC or United Kennel Club. A breeder who takes the time to affiliate himself or herself with a breed club must maintain certain standards when breeding. A reputable breeder will also screen their litter for genetic problems (and will also offer proof to back it up), will answer your questions, and won’t try to push you to buy a dog from them.

Of course, an animal shelter is another great way to find a dog. Check the Internet to find your local shelter. If saving a life and buying a purebred dog is important to you, there are many purebred dog rescues around the United States.

5. Consider Doing a Test

So now that you’re sure that a dog makes sense for your life, it’s important to carefully evaluate your dog before you take him home. Don’t rely on cuteness alone! You’ll want to be sure that this will be the dog for you. Whether you buy from a breeder, a rescue or a shelter, make sure you check out these factors:

  • The dog’s body language: Is he cowered in a corner and won’t come to you? That might be a sign of a fearful dog, which might need a lot of rehabilitation to become a suitable pet. You want the dog to come when called and be happy to see you.
  • His response to your touch: Obviously, you want the dog to welcome petting, not cower from you or try to snap at your hand.
  • How the dog plays: Does he let you take toys from him, or does he guard them?
  • His reaction to other dogs: Is he friendly with other canines?
  • His reaction to other people: How does he react to the people around him, especially men and children?

Asking these and other questions about the dog will help you go into the dog-choosing process with your eyes wide open.

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