How To Choose A Dog

Written by Beth Marlin Lichter
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There are many factors to consider as you prepare to choose a dog. Are you ready for the responsibility and can you provide a healthy and safe environment for your new pet? If you are not the only member of the household, what kind of dog would be a good fit? If you have a child with allergies, you might want to be looking for a breed that produces less dander, such as a Maltese or a poodle. You should also consider a breed whose personality integrates well with small children.

Size matters. If you live in a small apartment, a big breed might be too much to handle. If you don't want to commit to walking a dog, consider a teacup-sized dog that can be trained to do his stuff on a pad. These tiny companions are also easy to travel with, even on airplanes. Be wary of working dog breeds if you cannot provide enough exercise and stimulation. They will get bored and demand more attention than you can afford. Consider energy level as well as size. Do you want a dog who can be easily trained to play frizbee in the park, or go for a run with you through the woods? Or do you want a more sedate canine, such as a basset hound, English bulldog or Yorkshire Terrier, who can get their exercise while playing indoors?

All dogs need a certain amount of maintenance, some more than others. Long hair dogs require more grooming, bathing and brushing. Big dogs are more expensive to feed. There are vet bills to consider as well, including yearly shots to protect against rabies and other diseases. There are pure-bred dogs and mixed-breed dogs, all with different personalities and charms. What kind of dog companion can you imagine yourself happily co-habitating with?

Next there is a question of where to look for your canine friend. It is advisable not to buy one from a pet store, as they tend to ignore how the dogs are bred, and often breeders who supply dogs to stores, have a "puppy mill" mentality, which should not be supported. If you are searching for a pure-bred, go directly to a breeder. You can research breeders online, hopefully close enough to home so you can go and visit the dogs and see what kind of environment they come from. Going to the American Kennel Club's website, www.akc.org, you can begin your search. Referrals from vets or other pet owners are also valuable.

There are also so many animal shelters with dogs who need good homes. Although you are taking a slight risk, not knowing the precise history of a particular dog, most good shelters are going to make sure you are getting a loving pet. Rescue groups also abound, and there are even organizations that specialize in finding homes for specific breeds. AKC can help with that as well and there are other online resources you can use such as www.petfinder.com. Sometimes rescuing an older dog can be very rewarding.

Make a list of everything you want in a dog from size to tempermant and go slowly, making the right choice. Spending time with the canine you are considering is very important. Does he make eye contact and is he responsive to your voice, your touch. Is he relaxed in your presence, or shy and nervous? Can you picture yourself devoting time and energy to training this dog? Every dog, even a mature one, will require lots of attention, patience and strategy when it comes to teaching him what he needs to know about living with you. Likewise you will need to learn a lot about what your dog needs to be a happy companion. Think of it as the start of a beautiful relationship.


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