You have decided that you want to bring a dog/puppy into your life.
You realize the commitment that you are making. You are willing to invest the time, energy, and money necessary to make this relationship work for you and your future dog. With those decisions behind you there are lots of questions left to answer. In choosing the type of dog you want, you need to consider your specific needs and lifestyle, the space you have, and your activity level. The breed, age, and sex of the dog will also be important factors in your decision.
The American Kennel Club recognizes over 150 breeds and there are many different shapes and styles of mixed breeds. So which one should you get? In some instances, your individual needs or lifestyle may guide you to your choice. Other people may have fewer restrictions and they are able to choose from a wide range of breeds without making a mistake.
You also need to consider whether you want to start with a puppy or an adult dog. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Usually, the time you have available combined with what you want in a dog should help you to make this last decision.
What Characteristics Should Your New Dog Have?
The dog you select should be one that closely fits your lifestyle and what you perceive your needs to be. To say there is one and only one correct dog for an individual just is not so.
Will Your Dog Have a Specific Purpose?
The first, and most important, question you must ask yourself is what purpose your new canine companion will hopefully serve in your life. Some may acquire the animal to satisfy very specific needs. He may be used as a hunting partner in the field, a guard to protect the home through barking or his aggressive appearance or behavior, a playmate and learning experience for children, etc. In most homes, however, the dog’s role will simply be that of companionship. That is to say, he will be a four-legged friend that you enjoy being with regardless of your activity.
If the dog is acquired for companionship alone, he can come with an infinitely wide range of characteristics as to size, hair coat, general appearance, and behavior. Almost any member of the canine species regardless of his lineage would be acceptable.
Does Size Make a Difference?
People vary greatly in their ability to train and care for dogs. Their physical size, age, intelligence, financial worth, or occupation are factors, but their ability to train a dog is far more important.
Remember that larger breeds will cost more overall due to increase in food consumption, larger crates and beds needed, larger size toys, and increased cost for surgery and medicine.
What is Your Activity Level?
Your activity level dictates to a certain degree what type of a dog will best fit for you. A jogger can handle almost any breed providing the dog can keep up with him. A backpacker that hopes his four-legged friend can carry part of the weight needs a strong but not necessarily large counterpart.
How Much Space Do You Have?
The amount of space available to the pet should also be considered as it relates to the activity level and overall size of the dog. Someone who has a rural home surrounded by 80 acres can probably accommodate any breed, while the person living in a fifth floor, one room apartment may not want a 200-pound Great Dane.
Please understand that over ninety percent of the dogs owned by Americans today are housedogs, i.e., they spend the vast majority of their life within the owner’s home. If this will be your situation, look at your home and yard and be realistic about the amount of exercise your pet can achieve within those confines. Remember that before they partnered with us, dogs in their natural state spent all of their time outside. They led very active lives and only a few of those living with us today have given up very much of their natural desire for exercise.
A small, active dog is obviously easier to accommodate than a large one, but sometimes size will be found to be a moderator of behavior.
How Much Grooming Are You Willing to Do?
Most dogs with longer hair coats need more care. Longhaired/Wooly coat dogs are usually a disaster if they are outside in long grass, weeds, or brush. Their coats become matted and filled with everything they can snare. This may entail special grooming and frequent trimming, brushing, or baths. Some owners enjoy keeping their pet looking her best, while others consider it a burdensome chore. In either case, while this may not be a problem while the animal is a puppy, later in life, she will require additional time or expenses from the owner.
Is the Sex of the Dog Important to You?
Many future pet owners take little consideration into whether they get a male or female.
Is the Age of the Dog Important to You?
For most prospective owners, getting a dog means bringing home a month-old puppy. This is a decision that you need to think through carefully. For some first-time dog owners a puppy may be the worst possible choice.
There are disadvantages in starting out with a puppy versus an adult dog. It is always more difficult to determine the ultimate personality of any dog when he is evaluated during his first few weeks of life.
Remember that if we use the old adage about one year in a dog’s life is equal to seven or more years in that of a human, then a seven-week-old puppy you may be looking at is approximately a year old in human terms. Anyone would admit that it is nearly impossible to judge a human’s personality from what you are seeing as they lie in their crib.
Many experienced dog fanciers and trainers would remind us that this is a two-edged sword. While we may not be able to predict the future personality of the puppy, by starting with a dog of this age we will be able to have a greater effect on his development and ultimate behavior. Dogs are just like people in that many traits of their personality are a result of their genetic background. However, they are also a product of their surroundings. A puppy that finds himself in a loving home with lots of attention will probably turn out much differently than a littermate that was tied to a tree in the backyard and whose only exposure to humans comes in a once-a-day feeding. By choosing a puppy, you have the potential to have a much greater effect on the dog’s personality than if you started with an adult.
Selecting a puppy versus an adult typically means you will spend a lot more time in training. That includes everything from housebreaking through leash training and verbal commands. Additionally, puppies have to grow through some less-than-delightful phases such as eating shoes, chewing on everything in sight, frequent trips to the veterinarian for vaccinations and dewormings, additional expenses for neutering, and so on. The selection of an adult dog bypasses most of these. Without exception, dogs take a lot more of your time during their first year of life. To many, this is the best part and they love the involvement – other potential owners simply struggle to find the extra time.
Puppies, even with all their additional requirements, are usually more expensive to purchase. There simply is a greater demand for them. They are cute, very appealing bundles of joy and in America it has become the typical method of acquiring a new dog.
Older dogs on the other hand are often given up because their owners discovered they could not give the time required or realized that having a dog was not for them. Adults are not as cute as puppies and the market for them is much smaller. Typically, they do not command high prices. In fact, many go “free to a good home.”
There are several advantages in choosing an older dog versus a puppy. One is the predictability of what you will have in the future. The model you will have for the next several years is standing right in front of you. You can judge his temperament, size, whether he will shed excessively or not, etc. Additionally, with the help of your veterinarian, you can determine if he has any medical problems such as hip dysplasia. With a puppy, we can sometimes only guess if conditions such as these will develop later in his life, but when examining an adult, most of these problems have already reached a diagnosable stage even if the animal is not yet showing signs.
Do You Want a Purebred or Mixed-Breed Dog?
For many, the answer to this question is obvious because subconsciously they are only thinking about purebred dogs.
It is ironic that many future dog owners seek out a purebred without any idea of what breed they might want. They never consider a mixed. Before you leap into a selection between the 150 or so currently listed and officially recognized breeds, you need to understand the differences and pros and cons of a “canine blue-blood” versus what is often referred to as a mixed breed.
There are differences between purebred and mixed breed dogs, but they are mostly in what the buyer wants or perceives
Possible Advantages of Purebreds
If you are seeking a dog and need it for a specific purpose, you may be better off choosing a purebred that has been selectively bred with those traits in mind. While it is often said that any dog can be trained to do anything, you may be wiser to use the years of experience and efforts of others than try to start on your own.
Based on your own physical makeup or problems:
For some people, their choice as to which dog they should get is based on their own physical makeup or problems. If a respiratory condition means you should not be around dogs that shed excessively, you should select a breed that is appropriate for your own health. Certain kinds of dogs are well known for their non-shedding characteristics. In reality, they do shed, but generally much less than typical breeds. In these situations in which a specific physical trait such as the amount that an animal sheds is important in your dog, it is probably better to choose a purebred. It would be very difficult, if not impossible to predict, the degree of shedding that a mixed breed puppy will display as an adult.
Some Advantages of Mixed Breeds
Keep in mind when thinking about purebred dogs that many man-made alterations in the basic structure and behavior from the original historical canine model have brought along some disadvantages. Some dogs, especially those with short noses that at times seem to be pushed back into their heads, may have difficulty breathing or giving birth to their puppies naturally. Excessively large or giant breeds usually have shorter life spans, often by several years. Breeds with excessive skin folds are generally more prone to bacterial skin infections.
When considering your choice between a purebred and mixed breed, do not forget the cost. Purebred puppies have been known to cost $300 to $3000 depending on the particular lines and breed. Mixed breed models are usually free or go for only a small adoption fee. In some households, this can mean the difference between getting a dog or not. We promise you, the child that receives his first puppy will rarely care about his color, hair coat, size, or the price paid.
The dog you bring home will hopefully be a part of your life for many years. For this partnership to be the best for both of you, it is important you make the right choice.
Make sure the dog fits into the environment you will be able to provide. Remember the word relationship and how it is a two way street with each party making both commitments and compromises. In this case, the majority of these burdens will fall on your shoulders. And that is fair because you are the one who gets to make all the choices.