We’ve all been in that situation. You’re at the shelter, or at the breeder’s and a dog gives you “the look.” What’s a person to do?!
Those eyes… make it stop!
By all means- if you’ve already fallen in love, then do what you have to do and adopt the dog already! But if you aren’t already too far gone, then here are some things to consider before deciding who, what, where and when. A lot of dogs dumped in shelters end up there due to well meaning but ill prepared owners- people who didn’t realize how big the dog would grow, how much exercise he would need, or what health problems dogs of his breed are prone to. After all, a dog is for life.
The first and most obvious is consideration to what breed of dog is best for you (if any). If you are partial to a particular breed, then by all means- go for it. If you’re not, then may I suggest looking around in your local shelter for the muttiest mutt you can find? Inbreeding and other unethical breeding practices have led to sick purebreds prone to various ailments. Your best bet in terms of health and longevity is probably the mutt.
And remember, even if you do have a purebred in mind, it doesn’t rule out adoption from a shelter or rescue. Approximately 20% of dogs up for adoption in shelters at any given time are purebreds.
Dogtime has an excellent database of dog breeds to help you do your research.
2. Energy level
Are you a type A or a type B? Do you spend most of your time off curled up on the couch binge watching TV, or are you hitting the trails every chance you get?
Of course there are no guarantees and personality can vary wildly from dog to dog, but there are certainly breeds known for being either high strung or low key.
Low energy breeds:
High energy breeds:
If you are a very active person and are looking for a running partner, it’s probably best to avoid so called “brachycephalic dogs”- dogs with flat faces. These include Bulldogs and Pugs. Unfortunately due to the shape of their faces, they often have breathing difficulties with heavy exertion.
Many so called “behavioral issues” stem from a bored dog. If you do go with a high energy dog, you will be making a commitment to exercising with the dog come rain or shine. Dogs that are considered to be “active breeds” will require a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day. A lack of sufficient exercise usually results in unwanted behaviors such as destructive chewing, rowdiness, biting, and barking/whining.
Certain dogs are easier to train than others. Who doesn’t love a smart dog? At the same token, these dogs require constant mental stimulation, or else they are likely to revert to similar destructive behaviors.
Just as we argue about what makes people intelligent, many still argue over how to determine the intelligence of a dog. Remember that the ability to learn and obey commands is only a very small portion of it. Intelligence also involves the ability to problem solve, the speed at which they learn new tasks, interpretation of vocabulary, etc. Certain dogs are considered “difficult to train” due to stubbornness, but are by no means dumb and may excel when it comes to trailing game. For example, even if a particular dog is of high intelligence, he will not be well suited as a service dog unless he is obedient and a “people pleaser”.
Here is a great article on dog intelligence; here a ranking of dogs for obedience/working intelligence by breed.
Although there is no such thing as a “hypo-allergenic” dog, some dogs are certainly more friendly to allergy sufferers than others.
The best dogs for allergy sufferers are those light on shedding and animal dander. Remember- many of these dogs have high maintenance coats and will require considerable time and attention in terms of grooming.
Some of the best dogs for allergies include the Portuguese Water Dog, Westie, Bichon Frise, Scottish Terrier, Labradoodle, Goldendoodle, and of course, the Poodle. Don’t forget that certain hybrid dogs such as the Labradoodle and the Goldendoodle may be better for allergy sufferers, but they are not guaranteed to be “non-shedders.” Even dogs from the same litter can have wildly different coats.
See Barkpost’s great article on the 18 Breeds Less Likely to Make You Sneeze.
5. Kids and dogs
I think we can all agree that dogs can bring enormous joy to a family. Many of my best childhood memories involve my dog. If done thoughtfully, a dog can be a wonderful addition.
Most issues arise when bringing a dog into a family where there are children under the age of six. A high energy, very large dog may not be a good choice for a small children that is easily knocked over. Any dog with a history of aggressive tendencies or biting should not be considered. Not every dog is right for every family, and not every family is right for every dog. A dog with issues of resource guarding may thrive in a home with patient adults and/or older children with the appropriate time and training, but would not be appropriate for younger children.
Consider whether of not you can devote the time and resources a dog needs. Households with small children tend to be extremely busy, and bringing a dog into a home where people are usually gone or too busy to pay attention to a dog is only setting him up for failure.
6. Living situation
Be sure to check the rules of dog ownership if you live in an apartment, gated community, or are part of a home owners association. Even if dogs are considered “allowed”, more areas have imposed breed restrictions, unfortunately.
It should go without being said that a puppy is going to require a LOT of work up front. Though some people like the idea of being able to “mold” a dog, a dog is never too old to teach a new trick to.
Senior dogs are often overlooked, but they provide wonderful companionship and usually have already been taught basic commands, and typically house trained. Perhaps you and your family have enough time and love for a dog but just aren’t in a position to take a puppy out every two hours.
The Senior Dogs Project on Adopting an Older Dog…
Remember that a dog is going to cost much more than just an “adoption fee.” You will need to have enough money for vaccines, regular well visits, grooming, spaying/neutering, toys, and unforeseen expenses in the instance he/she were to become ill.
Dogs.lovetoknow.com provide a comprehensive list of estimated expenses (remember this only accounts for the first year of ownership and doesn’t take in to account that poor puppy who swallows a sock, or god forbid develops cancer).
|Dog||In this case, zero|
|Collar and Lead||$20.00|
We hope this has been helpful to you. Remember, many behavioral problems arise from a lack of exercise, training, or attention. Preparedness and a proper introduction into the family will make for much happier humans and four legged companions!