Tip of the Month

1/26/2009 Choosing the Right Type of Dog for You and Your Family (Part 2)

Now that you’ve determined that you have the time, money, and necessary resources for dog ownership and, of course, dog training, it’s time to choose what type of dog is right for you. Before you peruse shelters and adoption websites in search of the perfect pooch or purchase a dog that is of your “favorite” breed, keep in mind that the breed, size, age, coat type, and energy/activity level of a dog may contribute to his or her ability to fit into your lifestyle. When in doubt, it’s recommended that you consult a Certified Dog Trainer for assistance in choosing the right dog for you. Here are some guidelines.

• Size – It may seem like a realistic deduction that the size of the dog should be relative to the size of your home. However, depending on the breed and temperament of the dog, larger dogs can be much calmer than smaller dogs and can thus have better manners in a small apartment or condo. In comparison, small dogs are typically energetic, needing more space to run in the house. This means that potential owners of small dogs must be prepared to provide tons of exercise options to their small pooches while keeping them primarily indoors, such as bi-weekly training sessions with a Certified Animal Trainer. Large dogs need exercise options, too, so a person living in an apartment must be prepared to take his/her dog for daily walks, to the park to play ball, or to focused training. An owner who is unfamiliar with how to train dogs should consult a professional for helpful suggestions on methods of exercising his/her dog. Another thing to consider is that larger dogs cost more in regards to supplies such as bedding and toys (they will need to be larger), surgery and medications (they’ll need to consume larger dosages than smaller dogs), and especially food. Larger dogs also normally live shorter lives than smaller dogs.

• Breed – If your heart is set on a purebred dog, do your research. Learn all about the personality traits of the breed you’re hoping for, and seek animal training for your new pup as soon as he or she is of age. Also, consider mixed-breed dogs. They often experience fewer health problems, such as hip dysplasia, which is all too common in purebred pups, and breathing problems that are frequent in dogs of brachycephalic breeds (those with short snouts such as Pugs and English Bulldogs). Your veterinarian or a seasoned dog trainer can help you to decide on a dog whose breed does not carry too many medical hindrances. However, keep in mind that mixed-breed dogs can be just as enjoyable as purebreds, and even have the advantage of a unique appearance.

• Age – One of the biggest pleasures of dog ownership is watching your new puppy play and grow gradually into an adult canine. Puppies are so cute, playful, and delightfully irresistible that most people looking to get a dog are searching for a puppy. It must be kept in mind, however, that puppies carry many more responsibilities than adult dogs do. Puppies are practically a blank slate; besides any traits that may be ingrained in their breeding, they do not have any training or manners. They must receive intensive, focused instruction – potty training, obedience training, and socialization – and they must be taught that they cannot chew up anything and everything. If you do not know how to train dogs yourself, a certified professional may need to be consulted, especially for new dog owners. New puppies will need to be spayed or neutered and vaccinated. Also, the disadvantage of adopting a puppy over an adult dog is that you do not know how their temperament will develop, whereas adult dogs already show their true personality. The assistance and guidance of a Certified Animal Trainer is strongly recommended for new puppy owners as temperament flaws can be ingrained for life and must be corrected early on. For a new dog owner without the proper time to devote to a puppy’s immense needs, a young adult dog may be a better choice. Usually, adult dogs have already undergone dog obedience training (which commonly includes housetraining) and may have even had some obedience training by a professional trainer or shelter volunteer. This will save new dog owners a lot of time and anxiety when bringing the new pooch into their home.

• Coat Type –The type of coat of the dog you choose can be a blessing or a curse, especially if you are opposed to dog hair on your furniture. Ask any dog trainer– she will tell you that her clothing is constantly blanketed in fur, especially after a long day of dog training. Long-haired dogs as a rule shed more, need more coat care, and can also become very dirty when exposed to grass, weeds, brush, and dirt. Keep in mind that dogs with specialty coats will require frequent trips to the groomers, which will cost even more money in addition to food, veterinary bills, supplies, and animal training. If the dog is going to spend time in the backyard on somewhat cold days, however, you may need to sacrifice the time and money of upkeep to choose a dog with a thicker coat for warmth. Dog owners with allergies would be benefited by a dog of a breed with very short hair.

• Energy Level – Sure, that Jack Russell Terrier is adorable, but his energy level is so high that he will require walks more than once a day, games of ball, and specialized dog training to keep his four feet on the floor. For a jogger, this spunky pup may be a perfect companion. For elderly persons whose level of activity barely stretches beyond brief trips to the supermarket, this breed would drive them crazy. The laziness of a Bassett Hound could be a benefit to these individuals, who are most likely looking for a dog to lie by their armchair while they watch TV. When researching a breed, make sure to choose a dog whose energy level fits your lifestyle. If you do not have the time to take a 30-minute walk twice a day, avoid breeds that have excessively high energy levels. Even with animal behavior training, a dog’s energy level isn’t going to diminish. Again, if you have questions regarding your breed choice or need assistance, your local dog trainer can assist you in making an informed decision.

Choosing what type of dog to bring into your life is a big decision. The most important factor to consider is what type of dog you will be able to best accommodate, and what type of dog will fit into your lifestyle most appropriately. Make sure you have enough time for your new four-legged family member and that you complete all routine veterinary examinations as well as professional dog obedience training with a professional. Also, before purchasing a pricey purebred, browse shelters and rescues (most of them have websites with pictures and descriptions of the dogs they have available) as many could have purebred dogs waiting for homes. You may even opt to bring your animal trainer with you to help you make this crucial choice. Remember that mixed-breed dogs are just as joyful companions as purebreds; keep your mind and heart open to them. With careful consideration and the help of a Certified Dog Trainer, you can and will find the canine companion of your dreams. May you have a happy and healthy life together!

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