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Picking out the right breed of dog or puppy is the most crucial decision you will make when you decide to adopt your new family member. With the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizing 175 different breeds of dogs, and with countless mutts available for adoption, there are many distinctive personalities and variables to consider when deciding what type of dog to bring home. It is important to analyze your lifestyle with honesty in order to decide what type of dog you would be able to provide the happiest life for during the next 10 to 15 years. Below are some things to consider when finding the proper breed for your unique situation.
Think about your lifestyle
How much do I work? Some dogs require a lot of attention, while others are content alone. If you aren’t going to be home often, do you have someone that will exercise and feed your dog? If your job requires a lot of time at the office or frequent business trips, then a dog that is highly dependent or active would not be a compatible match, especially not a puppy. Some dogs can develop separation anxiety, so it is important to devote time to your dog.
Do I or will I have kids? Having a dog is a long term commitment, so it is important to consider them in your future decisions. If you have kids on the horizon, then it is wise to adopt a kid-friendly dog, rather than put your beloved, but not kid-friendly, pet in a shelter once the baby arrives. If you already have kids, then friendly and playful dogs such as Golden Retrievers or Labrador Retrievers make great additions to the family, since there will be many people for it to play with.
How active am I? Some people want their dogs to be jogging buddies, while others want their dogs to be cuddle buddies. If you plan on exercising with your dog, make sure you get a dog that enjoys running and can be easily trained on or off of a leash. If you don’t exercise frequently or enjoy the outdoors, there are plenty of companion or toy breeds to choose from.
Can I afford having a puppy or dog? According to the Humane Society of the United States, $248 is the average annual amount spent on veterinarian bills. This does not include the amount of money spent on food, treats, toys, or crates; the amount of money spent on professional training; or the amount of money spent on grooming and care. Puppies and senior dogs require substantially more vet trips than adolescent or adult dogs, so it is important to factor in the age of your prospective dog.
Do I have other animals? Some breeds are territorial and more likely to be alphas, while other breeds are friendly to other animals. Consider the aggressiveness or passiveness of the dog you wish to adopt, as well as the unique personalities of the animals you already have.
Am I allergic to dogs? While there is not a breed that is completely “hypo-allergenic,” there are breeds that are believed to not agitate allergies, such as Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, and Miniature Schnauzers. Doctors can administer allergy tests to see if you or anyone in your household is allergic to dogs, but the best test is to spend a significant amount of time with the adoptee in order to see if its coat or fur triggers any allergic reactions before taking it home permanently.
Think About Your EnvironmentWhat type of home do I have? Do you live in a small apartment or a house with a yard? Some breeds require large areas to run around and expend energy in, while other breeds are more relaxed and don’t need a lot of room. It is unfair to keep a dog that was bred for herding cattle or hunting cooped up in a small apartment or condo high-rise. Not all communities are pet-friendly and some have breed restrictions, so check with your community before you bring your dog home. Bringing a dog into the wrong environment will only cause issues for you and your dog down the road.
Do I have a fence? A fenced in yard is an ideal environment for a dog. Make sure that there are no holes in the fence, especially if you have a small dog or a curious puppy. If you do not have a fenced in yard, make sure you have plenty of time to walk your dog multiple times of day. Some big cities and neighborhoods have dog parks which provide a good place for both you and your dog to socialize. If you have to tether your dog to a post in order for it to be outside, do so minimally, if at all. Tethering dogs can cause immense psychological damage to dogs, and in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act, on July 2nd, 1996, the United States Department of Agriculture concluded that tethering dogs is inhumane. (www.humanesociety.org)
What is the climate like where I live? Some small dogs are hypersensitive to cold weather, while other breeds, such as the Husky, are bred for cold climates. You must examine a dog’s coat type and genealogy to judge if they will be comfortable in your climate for the entire year.
Can I “puppy proof” my house? Much like when there is a small child in a house, your house must be reorganized to remove all dangers. This includes removing hazardous chemicals and poisons that your animal may mistakenly ingest; hiding all wires and valuables that a puppy may chew through; and installing gates throughout your house to contain your dog to desired areas. Think About the Breed’s Traits It is important to consider the unique personality traits of different breeds. Is the breed active or lazy? Independent or dependent? Intelligent or laid back? Is the breed known to bark a lot or is it relatively quiet? Is it friendly or aggressive?
You must also consider the breed’s physical attributes. Will the dog require extensive or minimal grooming? How much will the coat shed? Does the dog drool all over the place or not at all? Are there any health conditions that the breed is at a higher risk of?
With lesser known breeds, it is important to seek information from veterinarians about your animal, to ensure your dog comes from a healthy lineage free of inbreeding that can produce undesirable traits.
Also consider whether or not you want a pure-bred or a mixed breed dog. Whether pure-bred or mixed, remember each dog has its own personality, likes, fears, and story that makes it a unique companion.
There are many helpful websites that provide quizzes to help narrow down the breed or breeds that may be right for you, such as: www.selectsmart.com/dog www.animal.discovery.com/breed-selector/dog-breeds.html www.petfinder.com and www.dogtime.com/matchup which provides a dog match quiz as well as an, “Is My Family Ready for a Dog” quiz.
Knowledge is power, and an insightful evaluation of your lifestyle as well as an understanding of what you expect from your four-legged companion will help you choose the right dog for your home.