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Ask the Trainer: Choosing the Right Dog for You

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I receive many questions from dog owners, most of which are common and relatively easy to solve.  However some issues boil down to the simple fact that they own the wrong dog for them.

The reality is, not every dog is right for every home.  This article is not in reference to one specific question, but rather it is meant to address the overall concept of how to pair the right dog with the right home.  In doing so, I hope this preemptive measure will prevent owners from having issues in the future.  It’s far better to be proactive and prevent issues, than it is to be reactive in addressing problems down the road.

It’s essential to choose the appropriate pet for you and your family.  This decision should be based on many factors including: your dog owning experience, number of hours you are home and away from home each day, if you have children or plan on having them in the near future, do you have other pets, is your lifestyle active or more sedentary, are you financially capable of owning a dog with a predisposition for health issues, would you prefer a puppy or adult dog, etc.

I am here to provide you “food for thought” when it comes to deciding on your next pet.  Having this forethought is vital in making a realistic and appropriate decision, which impacts the long-term health, happiness, and safety of you, your family, and your dog.

The first topic I want to bring up, as I consider it to be one of the most important, is the decision to adopt.  I am a HUGE proponent of adopting dogs and puppies from shelters or rescue organizations.  The benefits of doing this are endless, but the most obvious is you literally saving a dog’s life.  Whether it be from euthanasia or a life stuck in a cage.

If saving a life isn’t enough reason to adopt, most dogs (check with your organization) are fully vaccinated, spay/neutered, microchipped and assessed by a trainer.  This saves you a significant amount of money than if you purchased from a breeder or pet store.  When you adopt, you have the peace of mind in knowing you did not support the exploitation and abuse of innocent dogs through your purchase of a puppy mill dog.  Not all breeders and pet stores buy from puppy mills, but a large majority do.  I am not going to belabor this point anymore.  I have had this conversation with enough people, and any “objection” you can give as to why you should not adopt, can easily be refuted.  This simple fact is: this is 2015, not 1945 – so adopt, don’t shop.

The next thing to consider is the choice between puppy and adult dog.  Almost everyone makes the knee jerk reaction in saying they want a cute fluffy puppy they can “raise the way they want”. What they don’t realize is, a puppy is A LOT of work.  I am by no means “anti-puppy”.  I think they are great and I work with puppy owners every day, but you must be prepared for the work that comes with it.

People get a puppy because they want a loyal, calm, obedient and relaxed companion.  But in reality, what they really want and need is an adult dog.  When you adopt a young adult dog (1+ years old), you are better able to see their temperament, energy level, and disposition.  You are never 100% sure what your fluffy puppy will grow into.  The other option which would be surprisingly perfect for so many owners, is a senior dog.  Senior dogs are much calmer and relaxed.  A simple walk and a little play, along with your attention and affection is all they want. There are countless senior dogs in shelters who would love nothing more than to have a loving home to call their own.

On a side note:  When you visit your local shelter or rescue, it can be sensory overload: dogs barking, jumping and “acting crazy”.  Please do not be turned off by this.  These dogs are often kept in cages for 23+ hours per day.  This contributes to pent up mental and physical energy, which leads to frustration and kennel stress.  Think how stressed we can get when we are stuck in traffic, at work for a long day, or cooped up in the house during a winter snow storm.  Traffic jams only last for an hour and cabin fever gets to us in a day or two.  Kennel stress causes dogs to act out in uncommon ways: shredding/biting blankets, pulling the leash when on walks, hyperactivity, etc.  Please do not judge a dog by the way they act in their cage.  Ask an organization employee if you can meet, play, walk, and spend some time with that dog.  Once they are out of the cage, had a chance to relieve their energy and enjoy your much needed attention, I am sure you will see their happy and loving side.

The dog’s energy level is the next facet you MUST consider, as this is a problematic issue for many owners.  It’s critical that owners choose a dog with the right energy level and behavior tendencies for their lifestyle.  An active young couple who hikes and exercises daily may do better with a high energy dog, where as an elderly more sedentary individual might not be.  A family with young children, very little free time and lives in a NYC apartment, should not get a high energy vocal breed like a German Shepherd.  I am not a generalist when it comes to breeds.  Yes, predisposition of certain traits and attributes can lead to greater prominence in certain breeds, but I look at each dog as an individual and encourage you to do the same.  Just as we are all humans, with each of us having varying energy levels and unique characteristics.  Take special care when deciding on what dog is right for your lifestyle, energy level and competency as a dog owner.  This decision will either set you and your dog up for success or failure.

Once you have determined if a dog is right for you, decided to adopt, made the appropriate choice of puppy or adult/senior dog, and are now ready to bring your new addition home, take advantage of this opportunity by properly “Introducing a New Dog to Your Home”.  My previous article will help you create a proper introduction which sets the foundation of teaching your dog to respect and properly behave in the home.

The ability to share our life and home with a dog is one of the many privileges we have.  However it does not come without responsibilities, one of which is choosing the right dog for you.  These key points will help you make an informed decision, so you can live a happy life with your dog.

Steve Reid is a Certified Dog Trainer and owner of S.R. Dog Training in Westchester, NY.  For more information about S. R. Dog Training and to sign-up for his newsletter, visit www.srdogtraining.com. Please also become a fan of Steve on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SRDogTraining.

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  1. How to Raise a Puppy: The Complete Guide – The Dogington Post


    […] level in order to see how it matches your family’s lifestyle.  You can read my articles on Choosing the Right Dog for You and Adopting From a Breed Specific […]

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