Are you thinking of getting a dog?
Choosing to bring a new dog into your life is a major decision. Be sure you are ready for a dogbefore you start the process. It is also essential that you understand the cost of dog ownership. If you have decided that the time is right, congratulations! Now it is time to figure out what type of dog is right for you. There are several factors to consider before choosing a dog. Most importantly, examine your current lifestyle and consider what adjustments you are willing to make for a dog. Look at the needs of your family – especially if you have children or other pets. People with allergies, or those who prefer low-shedding dogs, might want to look into hypoallergenic dog breeds. Next, think about the ideal size, energy level and age of your new dog. Then, determine where to get your new dog. Just remember that getting a dog requires a firm commitment to responsible dog ownership. Here are some tips to help you choose the best dog for you and your family.
You may already know you want a little lap dog that you can carry around. Or, you might have your heart set on a large or giant dog breed. If you cannot decide, then perhaps a medium sized dog is a good choice.
Remember that some small dogs are delicate and vulnerable. Being stepped on or mishandled can cause serious injury. Also, little dogs can be much more sensitive to colder temperatures, so be ready to help keep them warm. Don’t forget that small dogs need obedience training too! Some little dogs can develop “tough dog” attitudes, seemingly to compensate for their small size. Be sure you are prepared for this possibility.
Very large dogs need a bit more space to move around. Big, happy dogs with long, whip-like tails need "wagging space" to avoid tail injury or damage to household objects. Another consideration is expense: the larger the dog, the more expensive things like dog food, dog supplies and medical treatments become. Training is also a key factor here. If you get a large or giant breed puppy that is allowed to act like a lap dog when young, he will grow up to walk all over you – literally!
You probably already know that some dogs have more energy than others. A dog’s activity level is often determined by breed, but it does not mean you can rely on breed alone to determine how energetic your dog could become. Every dog needs routine exercise, regardless of breed or size, so make sure you can to provide this. If you know you can not commit to more than one or two casual walks per day, then you will probably be better off with a lower energy dog, such as a Basset Hound. If you are looking for a dog that can be a jogging partner, agility competitor or “disc dog,” consider a breed like the Border Collie.
Be willing to adjust the amount of exercise and attention you give your dog if necessary. A dog that is barking constantly, digging up your yard, destroying your home, or acting out in some other way is most likely in need of extra activities. Many behavior problems are the result of excess energy. Unfortunately, many dogs are given up or even euthanized because of a behavior problem that could have easily been avoided with the proper amount of exercise and attention.
Your dog’s appearance has a lot to do with his maintenance needs. All dogs need basic grooming, but certain types need more based on the type of hair coat. If you get a dog with hair that keeps growing, then advanced routine grooming is essential. Most short haired, smooth-coated dogs are major shedders, so be prepared to do some extra cleaning up. Some grooming tools can help reduce shedding. Be aware that dogs with long, floppy ears are more prone to ear infections and require frequent thorough ear cleanings. In addition, certain types of dogs can do a lot of drooling. Many owners of Mastiffs, Bloodhounds and similar dogs actually carry a “slobber cloth” with them to wipe the drool. If they shake their heads – watch out!
Puppies require the greatest amount of training and attention, especially over the first six months. Be prepared to dedicate much of your time to housebreaking and raising your new puppy. You dog will likely have plenty of accidents in the house and will probably chew your furniture and personal belongings. These problems will gradually resolve with dedicated training, but patience is a must. You should also be aware that your puppy might grow up to be different then you expected, especially if you adopt a mixed-breed dog. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just something to keep in mind.
Adult dogs can be an excellent choice. An adult might be a better choice if you want to have a good idea of the true energy level, attitude, and temperament of your new dog. However, just because the dog is an adult does not mean he is trained, so you should still expect some degree of dedicated training at first. Fortunately, many adult dogs have been trained and socialized to some degree and can easily adjust to their new lives in their forever homes.
Senior dogs should not be forgotten! Welcoming a senior dog into your home can be a wonderful way to bring joy to the golden years of a dog. Unfortunately, senior dogs are less likely to be adopted and often end up living out their lives in shelters or being euthanized. A senior dog can make a wonderful companion if you are looking for a lower energy dog. However, it is important to know that your senior dog needs special attention, more frequent veterinary check-ups and is more likely to develop heath problems that cost time and money to address. Unlike a puppy or adult dog, you must know that you will not have as many years with your senior dog. If you are willing to accept the responsibilities, consider adopting a senior dog. It can be one of the most compassionate things you can do for these precious creatures.
HOW TO SELECT A GOOD PUPPY
When choosing the puppy, it is so important that all family members agree. You want to select the puppy you all like best, and you want to select a puppy that likes all of you. Sit down quietly as a family and see which puppies make contact first and which ones stay around the longest.
You want to select a puppy that likes you and enjoys being hugged and handled (restrained and examined). You want to select a puppy who is socialized, confident,housetrained, chewtoy-trained, and obedience trained.
For years it was dogmatically stated that puppies that approached quickly, jumped-up, and bit your hands were totally unsuitable as pets, since they were aggressive and difficult to train. On the contrary, these are normal, well-socialized, eight-week-old puppies, which are simply saying hello in true puppy fashion without the benefit of manners. With some very basic training to redirect the pup's delightful exuberance, you'll have the fastest recalls and the quickest sits in puppy class. Also, puppy biting is both normal and absolutely necessary. In fact the more dogs bite as puppies, the softer and safer their jaws in adulthood.
I would be more concerned about puppies that were slow to approach or remained in hiding. It is completely, utterly, and absolutely abnormal for a well-socialized six- to eight-week-old puppy to be shy when approaching people. If the puppy acts shy or scared, then without a doubt he has not been sufficiently socialized. Look elsewhere. If, however, you really have your heart set on taking a shy puppy, only do so if each family member can coax the pup to approach and take a food treat. A shy puppy represents a substantial time commitment, since he will need to be hand-fed kibble every day from a variety of strangers. To rehabilitate this pup, you'll certainly have your work cut out for you during the next four weeks.
Make sure the puppy quickly and happily approaches all family members.
Handling and Gentling
Your prospective puppy should feel thoroughly at ease being handled by strangers — you and your family. Handle each puppyto see how he enjoys being cuddled (gently restrained) and stroked and massaged (examined) around his neck, muzzle, ears, paws, belly, and rear end. Your puppy should relax like a rag doll. If the puppy struggles, see how long it takes for the pup to calm down.
Make sure all family members handle the puppy.
Exposure to a variety of sounds should commence well before the eyes and ears are fully opened, especially with sound-sensitive dogs, such as herding and obedience breeds. It is quite normal for puppies to react to noises. What you are trying to evaluate is the extent of each pup's reaction and the pup’s bounce-back time. For example, we expect a puppy to react to a sudden and unexpected loud noise, but we do not expect him to go to pieces. Judge whether the puppy reacts or overreacts to sounds, and time how long it takes for the puppy to approach and take a food treat (the bounce-back time). Expect immeasurably short bounce-back times from bull breeds, and short bounce-backs from working dogs and terriers, but be prepared for longer bounce-back times from toys and herding breeds. Regardless of a dog's breed or type, however, excessive overreaction, panic, or extremely lengthy bounce-back times are all proof of insufficient socialization. Unless successfully rehabilitated, such pups may become extremely reactive when they grow up.
Evaluate the puppies' response to a variety of noises: people talking, laughing, crying, and shouting, a whistle, a hiss, or a single hand clap.
If the puppies have no available toilet and the entire puppy area has been covered with sheets of newspaper, the puppies will have developed a strong preference for going on paper and will need specialized housetraining in their new home. Moreover, if there is no toilet and the entire area has been littered with straw or shredded paper, the puppies will have learned they may eliminate anywhere and everywhere, which is what they will do in your home. The longer the puppy has been raised in these conditions, the more difficult she will be to housetrain.
Try to observe the litter for at least two hours and pay attention to where each puppy eliminates and what each puppy chews.
Evaluate each puppy's response to your lure/reward training attempts using pieces of kibble or chewtoys as lures and rewards. Make sure each family member trains the puppy to come, sit, lie down, stand and rollover.
Most pups have adequate opportunity to play with their littermates during their first eight weeks. Singleton and hand-reared pups have had insufficient opportunity to play (play-fight and play-bite) and therefore teaching bite inhibition is a top priority. If you select a singleton puppy, make sure you enroll in a puppy classes as soon as your puppy reaches three months of age. Play and socialization are essential for puppies to develop and maintain a soft mouth.