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You’ve been thinking about getting a dog for a long time and have finally made the decision that now is as good a time as any – congratulations! You are sure that you have enough resources, space and time to bring a new pet into your home, now all that’s left is to find the perfect dog that’s right for you and potentially the others in your home.
It is really important to think about what dog is right to make sure that you choose the type that would be a good fit for your lifestyle as it sets you up (and the others in your home) to be successful dog owners. Many times people who chose the wrong dog for them end up having to put them back into the adoption cycle with friends or family, or worse, sending them to a shelter. This is a new life that’s in your hands so it has to be looked at as a commitment for that animal’s life time, and with a little homework you can make sure you choose wisely.
Here are my top tips to set you up for success:
1. ADOPT A DOG OR BUY FROM A BREEDER
Adopting saves pet’s lives, and that’s an important factor to consider. As you probably know, adopting a dog has become very popular in the United States as there are so many rescues and shelters doing amazing work and so many incredible animals who need homes. According to the ASPCA, the number of adoptions have gone up every year and the number of animals being surrendered to shelters has gone down. That’s mostly because of the awareness the general public has now of the benefits of adoption. In addition, the revelation of the conditions of many puppy mills who supply pet stores and online distributors that sell puppies has made it a bad choice for people looking to get a puppy. Remember, if you seek a specific type of breed there are rescue groups based on breed. Buying from a breeder: there are plenty of reputable breeders around the country and if you do want to buy a dog, do your research carefully and certainly look for referrals to find the best breeders so that you know what you’re getting (the environment they are in day-to-day, get references from other buyers from that breeder, etc.)
Perhaps one of the most important decisions you need to make when considering a dog is whether to get a puppy, an adult dog or even a senior dog. All age groups need a home, and the impact of that age on resources needed vary. With a puppy you will know the dog their entire life and be able to train them from the start, but they take a lot of work (from feeding them more often, taking them out more often, potty training them, etc.) Remember, with a puppy you have the power to prevent unwanted behaviors before they start, but you also have the ability to inadvertently teach them bad ones as well. With an adult and senior aged dog you will likely have less training to do and the dog will probably be past their voracious chewing phase. These age groups make can amazing companions. One thing to to take into consideration with senior pets are medical issues and possibly behavior issues. But your rescue group should be able to present you with those before adopting.
3. ENERGY LEVEL
No matter the dog’s age, breeds will have different energy levels and you need to find a dog that will match what’s going on in your home. Make sure you choose wisely as a dog that has a lot of energy will not be happy if you just want them to sit next to you on the couch. You need to ask yourself:
- What kind of companion do I want? For instance, are you looking for a hunting dog, a dog to provide protection for your home, a family playmate, a running companion or a lap dog.
- What time do I have to commit to exercise daily?
- Do I have the resources to get a dog walker to help if necessary?
- Do I have access to the type of yard/dog park, etc. that will supply enough spots for me to exercise the dog properly?
- Does my day-to-day schedule allow for me to be with them enough to make them happy to run around, play, etc.?
It’s important to look at sizes as well. How much space you have and access to exercise helps you get to this answer. Many people who think they want a large dog have to come to terms with the fact that you and an 80 pound Setter might not make the best roommates in a smaller home (small apartment, for example). The good news is that size doesn’t always equal energy level. Some larger breeds may actually sleep 16-18 hours a day whereas a tiny Yorkie may run a million miles an hour all day long. But their size will impact how compatible you will be and how happy the dog will be (how you can get them to the vet, etc. plays a role, too). The space that they have available to them, especially during the day when they may need to be confined to one area of the house, will impact the dog’s level of comfort.
5. GROOMING AND SHEDDING
Some dogs shed way more than other breeds. The dogs that tend to shed more are breeds/mixes such as Corgis, German Shepherds, and Labradors/Retrievers. Dogs that tend to shed a lot let less are breeds/mixes like Bijon Frise, Poodles and some Terriers. If you are averse to having dog hair become a major issue in your home or if someone has allergies, be sure to look for a dog that will have less of a shedding issue and are actually hypoallergenic. This also comes into play in terms of grooming required on a monthly (or more infrequent) basis.
Just as every person is different, so is every dog. If you’re seeking a full breed (not a mix) puppy, you should give some thought as to how easy/difficult a specific type of dog is to train, and also look at how capable you feel in providing training for the dog. Are you someone who is patient, positive and willing to work towards a strong relationship with your dog? Or, are you a little more impatient and don’t have the time to commit to training? Either way, you can consider getting a trainer to help you get on a training course 1:1 or do a group class. Some breeds tend to take more easily to training than others such as Border Collies, German Shepherds, Boxers and Labs. On the other hand, dogs that show less aptitude to picking things up quickly or are a little more on the stubborn side would be Dalmatians, Basset Hounds and Beagles. Remember, both you and the dog are factors here so include both in this calculation. When choosing a trainer, make sure you select one that uses positive reinforcement as their method of choice!
Every dog is unique and how they are/were treated by humans will determine much of their personality. If a dog that you are bringing home is going to be around small children you will need to give some thought to not only the dog’s natural characteristics but also the level of energy that the children can display. At all times, until you know a dog inside and out use caution. When you start with a puppy, you do have the ability to help develop the dog’s personality from a young age so they’re adapted to children from the onset. But, if you’re not going the puppy route you won’t always know exactly what an older dog has been through. Though a good shelter will generally evaluate a dog for even the slightest aggressive tendencies, teach your children to behave appropriately around them as it’s humans who have to respect the dog’s natural tendencies.
Before you make your final decision about the type of dog to bring home, be sure to evaluate each of these things above as it will really help you narrow down your options. Doing plenty of research upfront will help you find the right dog and then create a strong bond with the furry family member from the beginning.
ABOUT TRAVIS BRORSEN
Travis Brorsen is one of the most sought-after dog trainers in America today. Travis is Founder and CEO of Greatest American Dog Trainers, and is Animal Planet’s pet expert and dog trainer, hosting their new show, My Big Fat Pet Makeover, which premiers Fall 2017. He is a regular contributor to both Dogster.com and DogingtonPost.com
In 2008, Travis and his 14-month old, highly energetic and untrained boxer, Presley, won the grueling 12 week CBS’ national dog training competition, Greatest American Dog. Because of the show, Travis discovered he had a passion to help other dogs and their
owners create similar positive learning and relationship building experiences.
Today, Travis and his team of trainers specialize in basic and advanced obedience training utilizing positive reinforcement, dog health and fitness training, as well as correcting behavioral issues. They’re focused on helping pets become more holistically healthy and happy.
For more information please go to www.greatestamericandogtrainers.com.