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How to Chose a Dog that’s right for You and Your Family

Are you and your family ready to get a dog? Have the kids been asking, more like begging for a furry friend? Is your family in a place where you can take on the added responsibility of a dog? Do you have the room and the time to commit to a pet? If the answers to these questions are yes, then read on because, while there is nothing quite like having a family dog and growing up with one, there are some things to consider before rushing out and taking home the first dog you see.

Here are Seven factors to consider before you chose a dog:

1.) Size. Yes, size does matter, especially when it comes to dogs. Which size is best for you and your family will predict to a great extent which breed you get. Do you have a large home with a spacious yard for a large dog to run around? Great, go for a big breed. If you have a smaller space or live in an apartment, perhaps a smaller breed would be better. Remember, if you don’t have a yard, someone in the family — I ‘m talking to you Mom or Dad — will be responsible for taking the dog out to do its business. And yes, this means in rain and snow so consider carefully which size dog will be best for your family. Smaller breeds can be fragile and possibly not best for families that have children on the very active side. Large dogs can easily knock down small children so be sure to consider this too. In most cases a mid size dog, around 40 lbs. or under will work well for families with small children.

2.) Age. Should you get a puppy? While puppies do have their advantages, they come with a heavier workload. Puppies need to be potty trained and this means a commitment to crate training and being at home to let the dog out, at least every few hours, to do its business. Puppies might not sleep through the night, in fact, I can guarantee you, they won’t. This might not be ideal for families who have to get up early for school and work. Remember, if you get a puppy, there is a ton of more work involved, including constant round the clock monitoring and cleaning up. Keep in mind that a puppy is a baby dog. Consider carefully what this is going to look like realistically in the terms of added work.

Adopting an older dog means there is a possibility that dog has already been potty trained and hopefully has had some basic obedience training. So, if you know that you don’t want a puppy, consider adopting a dog that is a bit more mature and already has been potty trained. Make sure your new dog gets along well with children and can tolerate kids. Some dogs do not mix well with children. Teach your kids to always keep their face away from any new dog they meet. Dogs can be unpredictable and suddenly bite or nip small children that get in their face. Set your family and dog up for success by choosing a dog with the best temperament for your family, which leads me to my next factor to consider:

3.) Temperament. While some dogs are happy to chill on the couch, others need lots of activity to wear them out. Making sure your dog gets the proper amount of activity for their breed is crucial to their development and happiness. Remember, a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Dogs that have too much energy tend to look for trouble by chewing on things they shouldn’t and running around in the house. Find a dog that is about the same speed as your family. If you are very active, look for younger dog with plenty of energy for outdoor games of fetch and hiking. Ideally, your family will be bringing your new dog on outings and vacations. Remember, the dog will become a much loved member of the family in no time so be sure the dogs physical fitness matches your family’s.

4.) Breed. This is a personal preference, and from experience I know that most people gravitate towards choosing the breed that they grew up with. Do a little research about dog breeds, but be willing to throw it all out the window when you fall in love with an unexpected sweet face, despite the fact it’s not what you had in mind originally. Labrador and Golden retrievers most always make fantastic first dogs, as do the hybrid doodles, which are hypoallergenic and shed less. Dogs with mixed breeding are less predisposed to genetic disorders which is another factor to keep in mind when considering which dog is right for you and your family. There is no rule of thumb here as any dog breed and mix can be fantastic.

Keep your heart and mind open. Use common sense; breeds such, as boxers, which can be quite jumpy, are perhaps not best with toddlers who can easily be knocked down. Tiny dogs like teacups are more delicate and need to be handled with care. It is probably best not to mix them into a family with children running around as they can easily get stepped on. Look for a dog that is size appropriate, healthy, friendly and a good fit for your family. Wondering where can you find such a dog?

5.) Adopt! I advocate adopting a dog from your local shelter. The folks there have been around the dogs in the facility long enough to steer you in the right direction towards a dog, or even two that will be a good fit.

In most cases these dogs have passed temperament and social tests. Ask the employees which dog is right for you. Plenty of times these dogs were previously in a family home and find themselves in a shelter due to circumstances beyond their control. Make sure the dog has zero sign of aggression or biting towards you and your children. Arrange for a visit with the entire family to see how the dog interacts with everyone.

If you have your heart set on a specific breed, search the Internet for a rescue for your breed or go to Pet Finder.  Pet Finder has a quarter of a million adoptable pets in the U.S. alone. You can search by your location and choose breed, age and sex of the pet you want. Pet Finder partners with many different rescues and I can almost guarantee you will find your dream pet on this site. And, given the increase in natural disasters both here in the U.S. and abroad, more pets than ever have been displaced and are in search of good homes.

Please consider opening your heart and home to a pet in search of a forever home. Remember too, that dogs in shelters are under a great amount of stress; they need you to overlook the fact that they might not be looking quite their best. This is a good opportunity to teach your children about compassion towards animals.

Adopt, adopt, adopt, please don’t shop, there is absolutely zero need to spend additional money with a breeder to get the dog you desire. Before you adopt a dog you need to accept that this is an investment and will cost money. Even if adoption fees are waived, all dogs need shots, spaying or neutering and the basic supplies, food, treats, chew toys, beds so they can have a happy and long life which leads me to health.

6.)Health. Of course, everyone wants to adopt a healthy pet and while all precautions must be taken to make sure this is the case, sometimes illnesses come to light after the pet has already become a fixture in our homes and hearts. As unfortunate as this is, cash expenditures for pet ownership must be accepted and planned for. As pets age, there is a good chance they will require medications and perhaps even surgery’s to make sure they remain with us as long as possible. Consider pet insurance or specialized credit cards to handle the unexpected costs of pet ownership when they arise. Remember, once you adopt your dog, that dog is relying on you to give him or her the best possible love and care — FURREVER.

7.) Commitment. While there is no unmatched joy for having a dog, adopting a dog is a lifelong commitment. On average, you can plan on having your dog for at least thirteen years. Smaller dogs typically live longer than larger ones. Pledge to teach your dog basic obedience commands. This is a great way to get the entire family involved with the dog, and will build the bond between your family and the dog.

Dogs require a lot of care, make sure everyone in the family is on board to pitch in and help raise the dog. It is no fun if the responsibility for the dog and his care falls entirely on one person. Young children can be taught lessons in responsibility by giving them age appropriate chores that have to do with taking care of the dog such as feeding and walking. Remember, your commitment to your dog is for its lifetime. Make sure to consider this carefully before deciding to bring one home.

To recap, when beginning your search for a family dog, consider which size and breed would be best for your family. After that, consider carefully the temperament, activity level and health of the dog. Once you bring your dog home, be sure to microchip them in case they are lost, you will increase your chance that your dog is returned to you. If your dog has been micro chipped by the shelter or rescue already, be sure to update the microchip information to your address and contact information.

Be open to falling in love with and adopting a dog you might not have seen yourself with. When I rescued my dog, Dexter, I had my heart set on a Pomeranian but the rescue had already adopted out the one I was going to see and there was Dexter, in need of a home. I have had him for almost 10 years and consider him my canine soul mate.

If you have the room and the energy, consider adopting two dogs. Many dogs that are in shelters have been given up but were already paired up with their best friend in their previous home. Remember, when you adopt a dog from a rescue or shelter, you are saving the life of that dog AND the dog that the shelter now has room for. You’re a hero, go you!

Please share your new dog story with me. I’d love to see the pictures of the dogs as they get adopted out. Wishing you many happy woofs!

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