Dogs can be cuddly buddies, little scrappers, or agressive tough-guys. But no matter what personality your dog is, one thing's for sure: Dogs are a major long-term responsibility.
Many people decide to get their own “best friend” before they understand all the ramifications. There are many different breeds of dogs, which mean there are many different sizes, shapes, colors, and behaviors. Your new pet can present some unwanted surprises if you have not done your homework. Before bringing home a new member of your family, research different breeds and be prepared to assume the many responsibilities ... including walking, grooming, feeding, training, playing, cleaning up hair, and of course, scooping the poop!
The Right Fit For Your Life
Be sure to consider your personal schedule and environment. If you work at home, a noisy dog can impact your ability to do business. If you're at the office for 10-hour stretches, can your dog get outside to do its business? Or will you hire a dog walker so your pet has enough attention? These are all things you need to consider before you pick a pooch.
Puppies are cute, but just like children, they learn most quickly when they are young. Young dogs require considerable time for training and discipline. Be prepared to take them outside every two hours for a bathroom break, at least for the first few months, and give them constant attention. Adult dogs require about 1 to 2 hours of attention per day, depending on their independence. Before bringing home a pet, determine if there will be someone home during the day and/or evening to take care of it. Your house, or apartment, should also be environmentally friendly and welcoming to your new companion.
Be very careful when selecting dog breeds. Breeds are unique, not only in their appearance, but also in behavior and temperament. Certain breeds are constantly excited while others are generally calm. Some are cleaner than others are. For example, if a potential dog owner loves labs, but has a weak stomach, this canine choice may not be a good option because many labs have a propensity to eat animal stools.
Children and Seniors
Experts often cite Golden Retrievers and Collies as being ideal around young children because they get along well with children and have lots of patience, but both require daily brushing. Boxers, on the other hand, have short hair, so daily brushing is not imperative, and they are also very affectionate and fun to be around. Dalmations are one of the breeds not recommended for families with young children, as they can become very jealous of attention paid to children.
For older people, small dogs can be easier to handle and care for, particularly since they are easier to transport to the veterinarian and require less daily maintenance. A pug is a great breed for seniors because they are very obedient, require less physical activity, and make great lap dogs, though they can have breeding problems that make their care costly. Yorkshire Terriers are loyal and assimilate well into a house where cats are also present.
Something else to keep in mind: All breeds of dog can be agressive. While pitbulls get a bad rap for biting, golden retrievers and labs have also bitten strangers. A good breeder will not sell an agressive puppy to a family with young children, but if you're picking up a dog from the pound or your breeder is wiling to give you your pick, pay attention to how your potential pick plays with its siblings—if a pup exhibits signs of dominance over other pups (biting, rolling on top of other dogs, or bumping others out of the way), the pup in question is not the best choice for a household with children.
Male or Female?
A prospective dog owner should give careful consideration to deciding which gender the family's new friend should be. Male dogs tend to be larger, territorial, more outgoing, and have conspicuous genitals. On the other hand, females tend to be more focused when being trained, and are excellent at sulking. Choose a gender that works best for your family and the neighborhood.
Big Dog or Small Dog?
Big dogs can be good for the whole family, and they often provide a certain level of security as guard dogs. However, there is also a price to pay for the bigger breeds, starting with larger food bills, and larger bills for medications if your dog gets sick or requires surgery.
Bigger dogs also require more space. Bringing a big dog home to a tiny apartment may not be the best idea. You will not be able to carry your Dalmatian around in your purse. If you live in a house, then make sure it is user-friendly for both the family and the dog. For example, high counter tops might prevent food from being stolen by you know who! If you choose a dog with a big tail, watch out for those breakables on the coffee table (or learn to live without a coffee table).
Ideally, big dogs require more room to move around, more time for activity, more grooming, and more food. If these are not concerns for you, then a big dog may be a sure thing. On the other hand, small dogs are more affordable, require less walking, and need less food. Small dogs also make exceptional companions for adults, but they are not always great with children. Small dogs transport easier and require lower maintenance overall.
Hair, Hair Everywhere
Most dogs shed, but they don't all shed the same. The length of a dog's hair can mean a significant time committment for grooming.
For the most part, a short-haired dog needs a brushing every now and then, whereas a long-haired dog requires daily brushing. However, some dogs not prone to shedding are high-maintenance in the grooming department. For example, poodles appear to shed very little, but their hair becomes trapped in their coat, necessitating regular grooming. Long-haired and high-maintenence dogs can be a perfect match for those who enjoy brushing and grooming (believe it or not, it can be quite calming for dogs and owners). Long-haired breeds include German Sheppards, Golden Retrievers, and longhaired Chihuahuas.
Short-haired dogs typically shed less than their long-haired breeds, requiring less vacuuming for the pet owner, and they can also be easier to manage, and are better for people with sensitivities or allergies to dogs. Examples of short-haired breeds include Weimeraners and German Short-Haired Pointers.
If shorthaired dogs still cause an allergic reaction or create too many problems in the grooming and vacuuming department, then consider owning a hairless dog. An attractive example of a large hairless is the Standard Mexican Hairless Dog.
When you're thinking about length of hair, don't forget to think about the color of hair as well. It may sound silly, but if you have a light-haired dog and dark furniture (or the reverse), any dog hair will stand out, and you may find yourself vaccuming daily.
After you have settled on a breed, there are still many other considerations. You need to choose a breeder, check out veterinary shelters, and determine if you are going to pay for professional training.
Remember having a dog is like having a baby, without going through the pregnancy bit. Be prepared to work hard, love them, and pamper them with natural and organic grooming products. Having a dog is fun and excellent for your health. However, before you head to the pound, stop, take a deep breath, and ask yourself ... Am I really ready for this?
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