Like any commitment, the decision to buy or adopt a dog is not one to be taken lightly or made on impulse. There are many factors to consider. Here are just a few:
Are you really ready?
As fun as it is to own a dog, it is serious business as well. You are about to take responsibility for a live animal that is completely dependent on you. Dogs require food, exercise, shelter, health care, attention, and money. If you’re not completely prepared to provide these things for your dog, you’re not ready for dog ownership.
Do you have the time?
Think about your lifestyle. All dogs require attention but some need more than others and will not do well if left alone for extended periods of time. This goes hand in hand with providing your dog with exercise. Some breeds require a lot of time outside to run around while others can get by with less physical activity. If you’re the kind of person who is not home a lot, make sure you choose a dog that will manage well in your absence, like Mastiffs, Dachshunds, Welsh Corgis, and Yorkshire Terriers.
Dogs and Children
When many of us think about the ideal family situation, there’s usually a dog in the picture somewhere. When choosing a family dog you need to look for breeds that are non-aggressive and child-friendly. Typically speaking, smaller dogs and toy breeds are not a good match for kids. Always remember that dogs can be unpredictable and even the friendliest dog can bite if he feels threatened. To be on the safe side, you’re usually best off waiting until a child is at least 5 years old and can be trusted not to inadvertently hurt the dog while playing with it. Some good choices for dogs that are compatible with children include, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Irish Setters, and Bichon Frises.
Puppy vs. Adult Dog
There’s no denying that puppies are adorable. But ask yourself how adorable you’ll think they are when they’ve chewed up your favorite pair of sneakers. Puppies, like babies, require an enormous amount of attention and effort from housebreaking, to socializing, to teaching acceptable manners around others. On the other hand, adult dogs may come with their own baggage, so to speak. Some adult dogs have been abused or otherwise neglected and as a result have acquired some maladaptive behaviors of their own.
To Buy or Adopt?
When looking to obtain a dog you generally have two good choices: you can buy a dog from a reputable breeder or you can adopt or “rescue” a dog from an animal shelter. There are some really good reasons to adopt from a shelter. For starters, shelters screen all of their animals for health and temperament. If you’re looking for a dog that’s say, good with children, the shelter can match you up with the appropriate animal. It’s also nice to know you can adopt a pet with some degree of confidence that when you get it home they will be in good health. Another reason to adopt from a shelter is that, compared to the costs of buying from a breeder, adoption fees are considerably lower if not free in some instances. Probably the most important reason to adopt from a shelter is you’ll be giving an animal in need a home. One drawback with shelters is you don’t always find a huge selection of different breeds. So, if you’re looking for a specific type of dog, a breeder is your next best bet. When seeking out a breeder ask for references. A good breeder will generally only produce 1 to 2 litters a year and will guarantee their dogs against most major health defects. Stay away from “backyard breeders”, also known as “puppy mills”. They are characterized by unreputable people who produce many litters a year, are only in interested in profit and have no real interest in the well being of animals. Puppies from these places are usually not socialized properly and are often plagued with health concerns due to neglect. Because pet stores tend to deal with large numbers of dogs they are usually the biggest consumers of dogs from puppy mills so be wary of buying from pet shops as well.
When chosen for the right reasons, owning a dog can be a wholly satisfying and rewarding experience. Dogs can provide companionship and unconditional love. So, when you’re ready to make that commitment, just do your research and make sure you’re making the right choice for you.