Decisions, Decisions…

Written by: Marie Collett20140808_123549

You’ve decided it’s time!  You’ve been considering adding a dog to your family and have decided to take the plunge!  So how do you go about choosing the right furry friend to join your family from the hundreds available?  What should you take into consideration?  Here are some helpful tips for starting the search.
First, it is important to research different breeds.  While every dog is absolutely an individual with his own personality, there are certain tendencies associated with each breed.  The American Kennel Club’s website is a resource which offers a lot of great information on the different breeds.  You can also check out our previous blog on the seven major breed groups here.  Certain breeds may also be predisposed to particular health concerns.  Make sure you’re aware of what to watch for and that you find a qualified vet that you’re comfortable with.
When researching breeds, you will want to make sure to look for a dog that will fit into your lifestyle and activity level.  Are you looking for a jogging partner?  Or would you rather have a dog that loves to cuddle on the couch with you?  How much exercise are you willing to provide?  If you have a relatively laid back lifestyle and choose a dog that has energy to burn, he may end up finding inappropriate outlets for that energy, like chewing furniture.
Have you had pets before?  Some people may not have grown up with pets in the home or may have only had experience with fish or guinea pigs or some other pet with a comparatively lower level of effort investment.  It’s important to note that dogs will need a certain amount of exercise (at least 30 minutes a day, either with walks or play, preferably both), a regular feeding schedule when at all possible, and can not be left alone for extended periods of time.  An adult dog should not be alone for more than 8 hours a day (puppies will vary by age), so if your work schedule can not accommodate this, you may need to employ a reputable dog walking service.  Certain breeds will also require grooming, so may need to visit the groomer regularly.  Be sure that a walker or groomer is included in your budgeting.
Are there other pets in the home already?  It’s best to consider how the pets will be able to interact and introduce them properly.  We should also note that some dogs may see smaller pets as prey, so adoption trials are usually a good idea as a sort of test run to be sure everyone will get along.
Another consideration would be whether there are children in the home, and their ages.  Some dogs get along great with kids while others don’t prefer their company.  Some dogs can find kids scary, over-stimulating, or stressful and would do better in a home with only adults.  When possible, find out if the dog has had experience with children before.  You will also need to teach your child(ren) the best ways to interact with dogs appropriately.  Doggone Safe offers wonderful kid-friendly advice on canine body language, helping owners and kids both learn when a dog is open to attention and when he needs his space.
Now that you’ve done your research and know what kind of dog you want, how are you supposed to choose among the hundreds of dogs available?  There are typically four main places to consider when choosing your dog: pet shops; shelters; rescue organizations; a breeder.  The vast majority of pet shops get their dogs from puppy mills, where dogs are kept in deplorable conditions and can suffer from a variety of health and behavior problems.  Since buying from a pet store would only serve to support the puppy mills, we would not recommend this option.  Instead of shopping for your dog, we recommend adopting.  Many shelters have great dogs available who simply had to be re-homed for issues that had more to do with circumstances of the owners than for any issues on the dog’s part, such as the owners had to move, a new family member is allergic, or a number of other reasons. You may also want to examine your options with a rescue organization.  Reputable rescue groups, like Mutts’N’Stuff, are worth their weight in gold.  These places will do thorough temperament testing and foster the dogs until the right owner comes along.  Because of this, they can give you details on the dog’s behavior, health, and personality.  A good rescue group will want to ask you plenty of questions and ask for references, as well.  Some people may prefer going to a breeder to adopt their new family member.  It’s important to note that if taking this route, it will be your responsibility to research the breeder thoroughly.  Responsible breeders will never adopt out a puppy less than 8-10 weeks old, as this period of their life is crucial to their social development.  The puppies learn bite inhibition and body language cues from their mother and litter mates and should not be separated from them too early.  The first 16 weeks of a dog’s life are critical to their socialization and development, and it can have an impact on the dog’s personality as he grows.  Dr. Sophia Yin, veterinary behaviorist, has a remarkably helpful book titled Perfect Puppy In 7 Days, which includes tons of information for puppy owners and includes a socialization checklist of things puppies should be exposed to (in positive ways!) during the first 16 weeks of their lives.
The next subject of note is training.  How much training are you willing to provide?  We believe that every dog, regardless of age or breed, can benefit greatly from training.  The old adage ‘Old dogs can’t learn new tricks’ is absolutely untrue.  Dogs in general are eager to please and once they understand what you want, are happy to do so.  We offer a variety of training options, including group classes, private in-home training, and board-and-train programs.  You can contact us by e-mail at info@helpinghoundstraining.com or by phone at (314) 369-6557 and we will help you figure out which option is best suited to your needs.
Remember you will want to take your time and consider your options carefully, as your dog will likely be with you for the next 8-15+ years.  True, dogs require an investment of time, money, effort, and energy.  But the return on that investment is priceless.  He will cheer you up when you’re sad, keep your secrets, share your joys, be a loyal companion, and give you all of the love in his heart.  He will be a source of happiness and unconditional love as he becomes part of the family.

Gale and Stella“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.” – Anonymous

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