Dogs are great companions. Most dog owners will agree that their dog is a valuable and cherished member of the family. Having a dog can be a very rewarding experience. But picking the right dog for your situation is not a decision you should make lightly.
There are a number of things you should factor in when choosing a dog. How much weight you give each item is dependent on you and your circumstances, but these are all things to consider. Picking the right dog for your family can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
Most dogs live a decade or longer.
Dogs’ average life spans vary, depending on the size, breed, and individual dog, but with luck your furry companion will live for ten or more years. Maybe you’re thinking of getting a puppy for your 12-year old to teach your son responsibility. Your son does a great job caring for his dog. But what happens when he goes off to college and isn’t able to keep a dog at his dorm? Will you be willing to continue to care for the dog? A dog is a lifetime commitment.
Dogs cost money.
Although you may initially get your dog from your neighbor who’s giving away free puppies, there will still be costs involved. Your dog will need food and toys. You will likely get him at least one bed, a couple of bowls (one for food and one for water), and maybe a crate. You may also want to get him a dog sweater or coat for colder weather.
You may want to get him a doghouse if he spends time in the backyard. You may need to install a fence or repair or replace your existing fence. He’ll also need a collar (several as he grows) and probably several leashes, since as he grows and gets stronger, you’ll want a sturdier lead for walks and outings.
He will need shots and regular exams from the veterinarian. The costs vary with you and your dog’s needs, and most are not astronomical, but they can add up over time. You may also factor in the costs of medical insurance for your dog. If your dog is injured or becomes ill, you could be facing some significant bills.
Dogs require grooming.
All dogs need some grooming; although again, the amount needed varies greatly depending on your dog. But nails will need to be trimmed, even short-haired dogs need to be brushed, and your dog should be bathed on occasion.
Although short-haired dogs don’t require as much grooming as long-haired dogs, they often shed more, so the time you save grooming your dog may be eaten up by cleaning your house.
Dogs require exercise.
If your idea of a workout is walking across the room to change channels on the TV instead of using the remote, don’t get a dog that needs a lot of exercise. Just as people have different tolerances for inactivity or exercise, so do dogs. Do your homework and find a dog whose preferred activity level is similar to yours. Dogs are remarkably adaptable creatures and they want very much to please their owners. Your dog will adapt to your lifestyle: but you will have a much happier, healthier pet if you don’t take a dog who’d rather be a couch potato for a 3-mile run twice a day.
If your space is limited, or if you want a lap dog, be aware when you get a puppy. Some puppies are so large you know they’ll grow into a big dog. But relatively small puppies can grow into much larger dogs than you may expect. Try to get some idea of how large the puppy could be before you take one home that grows to be larger than your apartment complex will allow.
Consider getting an older dog.
Although many people think of getting a puppy when they consider getting a dog, give some thought to adopting an older dog. Shelters are full of adult dogs, from young adults of just a year or so old, to senior citizens that are seven years old or more.
A full-grown dog has several advantages over a puppy. First, you know what size they will be. Secondly, you know what characteristics their coat will have (a dog’s fur sometimes changes character as he matures). Adult dogs usually have at least some training. You may also have a better insight into their personality, overall health, and any known behavior or congenital issues.
Be open to getting a mixed breed.
You may have decided on a certain breed or list of breeds you want to get, based on characteristics of the breed (size, exercise needs, grooming requirements, etc.)
Remember, though, that although breeds have standard characteristics, there’s no guarantee that each individual dog will have all the characteristics of that breed. Not only can you usually get a mixed breed for far less than it costs to get a pure-bred dog or puppy, you may find that the combination actually is a better fit for what you’re looking for than any one breed is.
Getting a dog is a commitment, not only monetarily but also of your time. But if you take the time to find a dog who is a good fit for your lifestyle, you will be rewarded with a friend and companion whose love and adoration for you is priceless.
About the Author: Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer (FuzzyFriendsWriter.com), where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently, she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.