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How To Choose The Right Dog For Our Family

While almost any shelter dog can make a wonderful, lifelong companion for you and your family, some dogs will need more training, some will need more exercise and some will be happy to just sit on your lap staring into your eyes, trying to hypnotize you into providing more kibble.

Which kind of dog are you looking for? You may have an image of your perfect dog in mind, but often time your new canine best friend is the one you weren’t quite expecting. So keep an open mind as you browse our adoptable dogs, and consider the following questions:

1. Are you capable of caring for a new dog financially?
Licensing fees, food, heartworm prevention medicine, vaccinations, leashes, and regular veterinary care are just a few of the costs associated with having a dog. Among other unexpected occurrences, dogs may get injured or otherwise require extraordinary veterinary care, and they can also cause damage to clothing and property.
2. Is your household sedentary, active, or somewhere in between?
Do you want to settle down on the couch at the end of the day with a dog in your lap, or do you go on runs, hikes, and camping trips regularly? If you like the idea of a dog in your lap, consider adopting a senior dog. Many senior dogs are already well trained and they generally require less exercise than their younger counterparts. Even if you are active, ask yourself if your activities are dog-friendly (e.g., hiking, running) or not (e.g., rock climbing). If your dog can’t join in your activities, you may wind up spending less time with your dog than a more sedentary person would.
3. How much time will you have for your new dog?
Do you have a job that requires you to be out many hours each day? Are you a homemaker with a house full of young children? What are the schedules of the other members of your household?
If everyone in the household is out all day, and no one will exercise or train the dog regularly, select a relatively sedentary dog. Be sure to set up either regular daycare or walks for your dog; otherwise he will lead a rather lonely life. On the other hand, if you or another member of your household works from home and likes to walk outside while taking breaks, an active dog that will enjoy lots of training and walks might be a better choice.
Bear in mind that both puppies and dogs from more “active” breeds tend to require more training and exercise. If you have little free time, consider choosing an adult or senior dog from a relatively calm breed, or a dog that has already learned basic cues and manners.
4. How tolerant are you of slobber and fur?
Some dog breeds tend to slobber more than others, while others shed a great deal. If you don’t mind grooming your pet every day, you can reduce the shedding significantly, but grooming time cuts into exercise and training time, so be sure to plan accordingly.
5. Are there other animals in your household already? If so, are they likely to welcome a new dog?
Do you have other pets in your household? They may not be particularly thrilled about the addition of a new dog. If any of your pets are likely to be viewed as prey by dogs (birds, rodents, cats), make sure the dog you choose can understand that these pets are not prey. It’s also critical to set things up so that your other pets are not only physically safe, but also feel¬†safe. A bird in a cage may not be at risk of being eaten by your new dog, but being stalked all day will likely cause the bird stress.
Getting everyone in the household to create and sign a contract outlining responsibilities and expectations can be very helpful.
6. Does everyone in your household want a new dog?
If only one person wants a dog, that person will not only have to do all the work, but will also have to defend the dog if the dog annoys another member of the household. It’s also harder to train a dog when the household isn’t united. Getting everyone in the household to create and sign a contract outlining responsibilities and expectations can be very helpful.
7. Is anyone in your household allergic to dogs?
If anyone in your household is allergic to dogs, getting that person’s permission to have a dog is even more important. That person will be more affected by the presence of the dog than the rest of the family, no matter how well behaved the dog is.
8. Are you allowed to have a dog where you live?
If your building does not allow pets, or your community sets a limit to how many or what types of pets you can have, getting a new dog could result in a fine, or even an eviction.
9. Are your expectations reasonable?
Do you picture nights by the fire with a perfectly behaved dog at your feet? A dog that stays in the yard for 12 hours a day unattended, without barking or bothering the neighbors? A dog that trots at your side as you run along the beach?
Life is not like a big-budget motion picture. Dogs require time and attention, and no matter how much training you do with your new dog, there will be occasions when your dog does something wrong. Dogs left alone in the yard tend to bark and dig up flowerbeds. Dogs chased by unattended toddlers may growl or snap. Dogs eat things left on the floor, and may stop to sniff just when you are hitting your stride on a run. Set reasonable expectations for your new dog.
10. Are you prepared for a worst-case scenario?
What will you do if the dog you adopt turns out to have a terrible habit or two? What if he or she gets very ill? Many dogs wind up in shelters because someone wasn’t prepared to stick by them when the going got tough. Dogs are living beings, and bringing one into your home is not a decision to be made lightly.
No matter where you get your dog, or how many pets you already have, treat your new dog like a young puppy at first. Limit unsupervised access to the house, keep valuable items out of reach, and take the dog out for lots of potty breaks. He or she may turn out to be perfectly housetrained and well-behaved, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
If you take the time to prepare, you have much better odds of a successful match. The investment you make in selecting a pet carefully and introducing him or her to your home properly will pay dividends for years to come.
-Excerpted from Irith Bloom, Karen Pryor Academy (KPA), Certified Training Partner