There is one question you need to answer before you decide how to choose a dog. And that is:
Should I Get A Dog?
Bringing home a new dog is a big responsibility.
This article will help you do your homework. After you decide that you truly want to own a dog we will help you choose a dog that makes the perfect pet for you and your lifestyle.
Often when there is a poor or less than ideal match between dog and owner, the end result is many headaches, including:
- Many dog behavioral problems
- Frustrated calls to the dog trainer
- Searching for a new home for your dog
- Even at times leading to a euthanized dog
When you first make the decision to get a dog, everyone that lives in your household should be on board with the decision. Every family member should agree to help take care of the dog, walk it, clean up after it and feed it.
This helps the dog assimilate quicker. And it makes him feel like he is a part of the family.
It also takes burden off every family member since responsibilities are shared.
You should also take into consideration any young children, the elderly and other pets that may not get along with the dog you choose, or who may play too rough and possibly injure the dog.
Once the decision has been made and you feel that you have the time, energy, space and financial ability to be able to take care of a dog.
And that the dog will not be imposing on any of your current pets or children’s feeling of safety and security, the real work to choose a dog begins.
Choosing the Perfect Dog Breed – 6 Most Important Things You Must Consider First
There are over 800 different dog breeds, and countless varieties of mixed breeds.
How can you possibly choose a breed that is right for you?
Here are several things to consider that may help you narrow down the list.
1. Financial Obligation – Can You Afford The Dog's Daily, Monthly, Yearly Costs?
For a dog to be healthy, emotionally grounded and happy, it takes more than just feeding him and providing him with shelter.
- Dogs require yearly vaccinations (some may be legally mandatory in your state)
- Regular veterinary check-ups
- Some may need medications or emergency veterinary care
- High-quality dog food
- Toys, treats, bedding, bowls, etc.
Even if you provided just the basics, you are still looking at spending anywhere from $30-$200 a month on your dog depending on how much you spoil them rotten and without any major veterinary issues.
If something should happen and you find yourself taking your dog to an emergency clinic, expect
- To pay no less than $200 just for walking in the door
- Blood work can run you $50+, x-rays can run $80+ PER VIEW (usually they need 2-4)
- And surgery can run you into the thousands.
Pet insurance is becoming a popular way to handle this financial burden and can be considered, but only if it also covers routine care like vaccinations and check-ups.
Different breeds have different resilience and needs so costs can vary. Be honest with yourself and choose a dog that won’t put a strain on your finances.
2. Size (and Space) Matters – But It’s what you Do With It That Counts?
Apartment – If you live in an apartment, some have strict breed or weight restrictions that can greatly limit your options. In this case, you might be forced to consider only smaller size dogs due to your space limitations.
House – If you have a house with a yard, pretty much any breed is fair game. However, some breeds such as Huskies and Border Collies are known for being able to jump great heights, so a fence higher than 8 feet may be necessary.
If you are not limited by weight or breed but are concerned that your yard is not big enough for a dog then my advice is this,
“It does not matter how much space you have, but what you do with it.”
Meaning, you could have acres of land for your dog to run around in, but without any form of interaction or activities to keep his mind occupied, he will still be more unhappy than a dog with no yard.
That's because the dog with no yard might get to go on walks, goes to the dog park, has fun toys to play with, and owners who spend lots of time with him to break up his day.
3. Energy Requirements – Choose a Dog That Matches Your Energy Level
Are you a marathon runner who goes on daily jogs? Then a high energy dog such as a Jack Russel Terrier or a Border Collie might be right up your alley.
If you don't have the time or desire to go on daily walks, then less energetic breeds such as Greyhounds (known affectionately as the “60 mph couch potato”), Yorkies or Bull Mastiffs may be more your speed.
If you make the mistake of bringing a high energy dog into your home and you live a less active lifestyle, no walks, no runs, etc or just don’t have much time, your dog will make you pay dearly.
Some high-energy breeds can walk for miles and still have the energy to keep going long after you tire out. And if these breeds do not get their daily workout they can quickly become destructive or anxious from all that pent-up energy.
Working and sporting breeds tend to be more energetic, so if a calm, quiet dog is what you are looking for, then try toy or companion breeds.
4. Health – Know what might be in store for you down the road
Some breeds are prone to certain diseases and common dog health ailments.
Toy breeds: – Tend to have heart and kidney issues
Deep-chested breeds: – Can get Bloat
Floppy Ear breeds: – Prone to Ear Infections.
Before you choose a dog you should research your breed’s health history. Then you must mentally prepare yourself for two things:
- To take preventative actions to lower the risks of your dog developing health problems
- To be prepared to not abandon your dog should these health fears materialize.
5. Grooming – No Time To Groom Yourself? How ‘Bout Your Dog?
Short hair breeds might better fit a busy lifestyle because they require minimal grooming and only need a bath, an occasional brushing, and a nail trim. All of these you can do it yourself for free or have a salon do them for a low price.
Shedding is also minimal and can be decreased by feeding a high-quality dog food.
That includes a bath, a hair cut and a style, in addition to regular nail trims and daily to weekly brushing.
Toy breeds tend to need more grooming than larger breeds, and some breeds, such as Pulis, require intense coat maintenance to prevent hot spots or other skin disorders.
6. Breed Quirks
Some breeds have special qualities about them that make them great pets or can give you headaches. for example:
Once you have narrowed your list to a few breeds, research them more thoroughly and try to imagine each one in your home. These quirks may help bring the list down.
Purebred or Mixed Breed?
After you have narrowed down your list, you must decide on whether to look for a purebred dog or a mixed breed dog. Here are the pros and cons of each:
This is typically important only if you are breeding, competing with or showing dogs, or if you just have a particular affinity for a certain breed.
One big draw back for purebred dogs, especially for very popular breeds, is that often a lot of selective breeding has been done to exaggerate certain desired physical traits. This sometimes can have a negative effect on the dog and its health as a whole.
For example, in the case of Collies, breeders wanted to breed for a narrower snout because it looked better. So with each generation, their snouts got even narrower. Now there are some Collies being born with skulls that are too small, leading to neurological problems.
If you decide to get a purebred dog from a breeder, be sure that the parents look and act normal and that they have been checked out by a veterinarian before being bred.
Mixed breed dogs are a good option if there are characteristics that you like about more than one breed but just can’t decide on which one to get.
Mixed breed dogs are often less susceptible to hereditary diseases or defects typically associated with some purebred dogs. Mixed breed dogs are a good option if you aren't picky about your dog’s bloodline.
How To Choose A Dog – 7 Places To Look (or Not) For Your Dream Dog
So you have done your homework, talked to your family, and decided on what kind of dog you want to get, so where do you go to get your dream dog? Here are the most common options:
1. Animal Shelter
Often dogs end up at the shelter because:
- They were found on the streets.
- Their owners turned them in for various (and often ridiculous) reasons,
- They were removed from a bad situation,
- Or they were born in a shelter.
No matter what happened in these dog’s pasts, it is their future that matters now.
Dogs that are adopted from shelters and are given a second chance can turn out to be some of the most loving companions you could ask for.
They are also not expensive to adopt. And they always come spayed or neutered with their first veterinary visit provided for free.
If you prefer to just look around and let the right dog find you, then a shelter may be the best option for you.
Note: Our country is in a pet overpopulation crisis and millions of dogs are euthanized every year. For every life that is unnecessarily brought into this world through careless owners, owners opting not to spay or neuter, or individuals breeding for profit, an innocent dog or cat has to be euthanized because there is no home available for him. When deciding where to get a dog, think about adoption!
Read 5 Tips For Conducting A Dog Temperament Test Before You Adopt From Shelter to help guide you on how to choose a dog from a shelter.
2. Animal Rescue
Rescues operate in the same manner as shelters, except they may cater to one breed only. Or they may take in only the dogs most at risk of being euthanized.
These dogs often have higher adoption fees and require a home visit. However, you can be assured that rescue dogs are only going to be placed in the best homes. They can help match you with a dog to suit your lifestyle. That's because they have fewer dogs at a time than a shelter. And they know their dog’s personalities better.
Breed specific rescues mostly take in purebred dogs or specific breed mixes. They can be a great option if you want a purebred dog without the purebred price.
3. Friend/Family Member
Sometimes things just happen. Your mom’s dog got out, and the next thing you know, she is having puppies on the bathroom rug. Now your mom is up to her ears in puppies and needs to find homes for them all.
This can be an advantage for you. You know the person, how well their pets are cared for, and if they are healthy or not. Not to mention your puppy might even be free!
If you know who the dog is coming from, this can be a great way to find a dog to welcome into your home. It can help ease the burden on someone else you know.
BUYER BEWARE! You know little to nothing about the dog’s background or who the people are that currently own it.
If they are selling puppies, there is a good chance they might be backyard breeders (see below). And your patronage will only fuel their desire to breed again.
Don’t get me wrong, there are also individuals just like your friends or family members above. They might just be trying to find homes for that accidental litter they got. Use your best judgment when wading through those ads.
If you decide to contact a stranger regarding a dog, interview them and ask to meet the parent(s). If they don’t know very much about the dog. Or they don’t come across as a dog lover like you. Then you should probably move on.
The last thing you want to do is to get a dog from an irresponsible pet owner that is full of worms, under-socialized (a frequent occurrence), aggressive, unhealthy or has other hidden problems.
5. Pet Store
Unless the store specifically announces that their puppies come from local rescues, these puppies are most likely coming from puppy mills.
Puppies coming from puppy mills are, more often than not, prone to genetic problems, develop serious health issues, are sick, and often die prematurely.
They may look cute bouncing around in the window, but the sticker price is nothing compared to the future veterinary bills and heartache you could end up paying later. Not to mention they can cost a lot of money.
If you are looking for a purebred dog and are prepared to shell out that kind of money, consider it as important as an investment. Take the extra few steps and do your research first.
There are two types of breeders, the “backyard breeder” and the “responsible breeder.” Let’s discuss each:
The Backyard Breeder – Be Careful
It is a smaller version of a puppy mill. Typically a backyard breeder will have one or two dogs that he mates for the sole purpose of making money.
He breeds them over and over again and often puts little to no effort into making sure the parents are healthy and genetically sound before breeding them.
Backyard breeders are particularly bad because often they see no point in having their dogs fixed. And they may not ensure that the puppies are vaccinated, fed a healthy diet or properly socialized after they are born.
The backyard breeder does not always come off as a bad person though. He could even be your neighbor down the street. He appears to takes care of his dogs, but he simply continues to turn out litter after litter.
They may not know any better or maybe they just see nothing wrong with their dogs having puppies. No matter what their reasoning, allowing a dog to repeatedly have multiple litters is still considered being a “backyard breeder” because it is irresponsible.
The ResponsibleReputable Breeder – As Good As It Gets
Is a breeder who is a night and day difference from a backyard breeder.
When speaking with a responsible breeder, sometimes called a hobby breeder, you can tell right away that they are passionate about that breed. They can tell you the history of the breed since it first began.
They know famous examples of that breed, and what they love about them.
If you look around their house they will probably have items and photos of their beloved breed on display as well.
These people LOVE that breed.
A responsible breeder will have kept their own dogs in great shape with exercise.
The dogs will have good manners and training.
Most importantly, they should be in excellent health. A responsible breeder will have the male and female examined by a veterinarian prior to breeding. And will sometimes have x-rays and blood work done.
After breeding they will ensure the female is healthy by providing prenatal care and ultrasounds. Also feeding her a healthy diet, including high-quality puppy food while she is lactating.
After the puppies are born, they will handle each puppy daily and socialize them while they are growing and developing.
They will be active participants in the puppies’ lives and ensure they receive their puppy vaccinations on time.
Their living environment will also be kept very clean so the puppies do not get sick.
Going this route is the only way you can be sure that you are getting the very best quality puppy that money can buy. But prepare to pay a hefty fee and sign a contract ensuring the puppy is well cared for.
A Few Final Words on How To Choose A Dog
There are a lot of ways to tell if the puppy or dog you are looking at will end up being the perfect pet for you.
But in your heart, you will know when you have found THE ONE.
Falling in love with a dog happens almost instantly.
The wag of their tail, those big brown eyes, something about this dog just feels RIGHT.
When you get that feeling, go with your gut.
If you have done all of your homework and know which breed is best for you, then the perfect dog will almost certainly find you.
Calvin is the co-founder and one of the main contributors to dogtemperament.com. He has been an avid dog lover all his life. He enjoys researching and sharing great ideas on how you can avoid common pitfalls of dog ownership and build the most loving and enjoyable relationship with your dog.