So you’ve decided you want a dog. Congratulations! Have you started looking around you? Maybe you already have a breed in mind. That’s great.
But before you dive headlong into the selection and purchase process, it might be wise to step back for a moment. It doesn’t matter if you already have strong preferences or if you are still wide open.
What matters is that you fill in the gaps in your knowledge about your future pet now, instead of regretting something later. So let’s do some fundamental research by considering the following questions on how to choose the best dog breed for you.
These guiding questions are based on 60 years of pet ownership, helping friends and family choose their new dog, and my volunteer work at our local Humane Society.
What can you afford right now? Remember to consider the full costs of owning a dog and not just the initial purchase price. Things like food, toys, medicine, vet bills, size, and appetite. Calculate a monthly operating expense and include annual check-ups, vaccinations, emergencies, etc.
2. Place of purchase
Where will you get the dog: a rescue shelter, a pet store, a breeding farm, or a humane society?
How will the dog be trained? For example, will you send your dog to Crate Training or Obedience School? How smart should your dog be?
4. Age of the dog
How old will the dog be? Should you get a puppy or a mature, trained dog? Puppies can be a lot of fun, but they take a lot more work. What is the life expectancy of the dog?
5. Dog size
How big will the dog grow, and how much room do you have for a dog, in your apartment, house, yard, or car? Puppies grow quickly and you will want to provide them with a spacious and happy environment.
6. Activity level
How much energy will the dog typically have? How often will it be necessary to walk and/or run? How much game time? Some dog breeds require more maintenance than others.
7. Attention Needs
The American Humane Society considers it animal cruelty to leave dogs on a leash or in a small space for long periods of time. They have found that dogs abandoned in this way become depressed, antisocial, sick and even aggressive.
How long will the dog be left alone? What will the dog do while you are not home? Many owners have come home to disaster because their dog was lonely, angry, sick or just had to ‘go’ and couldn’t wait any longer.
How much time will you need to spend walking, grooming, training? Owning a dog is a responsibility of time, energy and finances. Make sure you can make this commitment.
8. Physical characteristics
How soft do you want your dog’s coat to be and what color? Can you tolerate seasonal shedding? Is there an allergy problem in your family?
What are the socialization skills of this breed of dog? Will the dog be compatible with people, children, neighbors and other pets? Ideally, you want the dog to fit into your lifestyle and get along with everyone.
Will the dog be protective? Will the dog bite? Dog breeds differ and will adapt somewhat to their environment. Be sure to consider this when determining which breed of dog to purchase.
Remember to do your homework before falling in love with a dog that may not be a good fit for you and your family. Make it a decision of both your mind and your heart, so you can enjoy years of comfort and love with your new best friend.