How Do You Find the Right Dog for You and Your Family?

The “Lucky Dog” Series: So You Promised Your Child a Dog, Now What?

Can we get a dog? your child (or children) asked, for perhaps the umpteen-thousandth time. Whether it was a moment of weakness, exhaustion at the sheer tenacity of your child asking yet again that fateful question, because you lost a bet you made with your child, or because, deep down inside, you’ve wanted a dog all along, but were just waiting for the “right time”… instead of saying “No” or “Next year” or “When you’re older”, you finally said that magical, fateful word, “Yes”.

Now what?

It’s easy to find a dog, but how do you find the right dog for you and your family?

First, do yourself, your family, and every dog out there a favor…. Please, do not rush out and just pick any dog. If you were looking for a car, you wouldn’t just go to the nearest auto dealer, walk onto the lot and randomly pick a car and buy it would you? Of course not. You’d think about what you really want in a car, what options you have to have, and so forth, before going out to do test drives.

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You need to also give some serious consideration as to what you want your family dog to be like, before you rush out and pick the cutest puppy at the nearest store, or the most sad-faced dog in the local shelter, or spend top dollar at a breeder.

Ask yourself and your family members the following questions. If you disagree on an answer, then you need to work out an agreement or resolve differences in expectations… before you go out in search of your soon-to-be family member.
Do you want a very young puppy, an older puppy, a young adult dog, or a mid-life to senior dog?

There are advantages and disadvantages to every age.

For example, a very young puppy most likely will not be housebroken, will not be crate-trained, may think that ripping apart one of your shoes (usually your favorite, newest, or most expensive shoe, I might add) is great fun, and a puppy will need training to meet all your expectations. Conversely, puppies typically are easily impressed, tend to bond quickly, and of course, generally look adorable as puppies.

An older puppy may have received some training and may even be housebroken, and may retain some of that “puppy cuteness” that so many people ooh and ahh over.

A young adult dog often has some training, and may have reached full height already, but may have learned some habits that you may want to retrain. Young adult dogs typically still have plenty of energy, yet may have calmed down a bit. The same holds true for mid-life dogs.

Senior dogs are often calm dogs, after all, they are more mature. Since no one knows how long any given dog will live, it’s not wise to assume that a senior dog is about to cross the “Rainbow Bridge” into doggie-heaven. My first dog had her third litter of puppies when she was thirteen years old, and lived to be nineteen years before finally succumbing to old age. If you think that getting a dog is a short-term commitment of just a few years, think again, and strongly consider a senior dog.
What size dog are you comfortable with?

A common mistake is to go out, see a cute puppy, and forget to think about the size that cute little puppy might grow up to be. Shelters are filled with dogs that were once someone’s “cute little puppy”, that grew up to be Some people prefer small lap-dogs; they are easy to transport, require less food, and can only pull so hard on a leash. However, they can have a habit of getting underfoot, being so small.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, super large dogs require more space, more food and can pull quite hard on a leash if they choose to… but you’re not likely to trip over a Mastiff, Great Dane, or St. Bernard.

In between the tiniest and super-sized dogs are the medium and large breeds.

Also, remember that the larger a dog is, the more food the dog will require…which means more money spent on food, and it also means the more poop you’ll need to pick up and dispose of properly.

Consider what kind of temperament you would like in your new dog.

This is where understanding something about a dog’s breed heritage becomes useful, but remember, the breed heritage only gives an indication a dog may be like based on breed; every dog is an individual. This is even more true for mixed breed dogs, who may inherit a variety of traits. A good place to research about breeds is the official website of the American Kennel Club, www.akc.org, but remember – every dog has their own personality that goes far beyond the breed.

Some dogs are naturally more playful, others are naturally more laid-back. Some dogs tend to be more sociable with other dogs, and others prefer to be left alone. Some breeds have a tendency to be better guard dogs, while some will roll over at a hint of a belly rub – even from a burglar. If you spend a lot of time at the beach or a pool, consider a breed that tends to like the water. Hopefully, you get the idea; you want a dog whose temperament will fit into your family and your lifestyle.

Now that you hopefully have an idea of what age, size, and dog temperament you might like… it’s time to find out where to find your new “fur-panion”, and you can read that in my next article in the “Lucky Dog” series of articles.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. Should you think that your pet needs medical attention, please contact your local veterinarian.  
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