I find it fascinating to consider a person’s choice of breed for a family pet. It seems that with some owners, there has clearly been careful consideration choosing the “right dog.” With other owners, less thought appears to have gone into choosing their pet than in deciding where to vacation for a weekend. This has always seemed a little strange to me as the latter they will experience for a few days and the former will be a companion for many years.
So when I am asked for advice on how to choose a breed, I encourage families to carefully choose a dog whose temperament and needs will be compatible with the family’s lifestyles and I caution them not to make the mistake of choosing a dog based on an advertising image or one made popular by Hollywood. When deciding whether to adopt a dog there are some important points to consider prior to even exploring breed choices. These include:
1. How much time does your family have to commit to raising a well-socialized, happy dog? Your new family member will need to be cared for and exercised. With busy families, I often advise against bringing a puppy into the home as puppies are a tremendous responsibility initially and need a significant commitment to ensure the pup is properly trained and socialized. An older more mature dog may already be trained.
2. Who is the dog for and what role in the family will the dog play. General companion, running partner, recreation, etc. Into which category does your dog breed choice fall? Is it a sporting dog, a herding dog or a working dog? Dog’s that are bred to perform a specific purpose may need more mental and physical stimulation than your lifestyle permits. In choosing a dog, you want a breed best suited to your family and lifestyle or you may find your new shepherd herding your children around your backyard.
3. Most importantly for me, are all members of the family prepared to welcome a dog as part of the family and is there a genuine commitment to doing right by the dog?
4. And finally, does the family have the necessary disposable income to care for a dog over its lifespan? One does not have to be extravagant when it comes to caring for a family pet, but there are some basic necessary expenses.
Once these questions have been considered, the next important question is whether to buy a dog from a reputable breeder or to rescue a dog. Also consider whether a puppy or an older dog would be more suitable. There are pros and cons to each. Buying a puppy from a reputable breeder does give you greater assurance of the dog’s pedigree and you will have more accurate knowledge of the dog’s eventual size and breed characteristics.
However, rescuing a dog can be very rewarding and there is always a wide variety available for adoption from the Humane Society, City and County shelters and private rescue groups.
Once you have decided between a puppy or adult and whether to use a breeder or a rescue organization, you are ready to choose your dog. Wherever you decide to get your four-legged friend, do some research on the breed and the individual dog’s history (if possible) to assess the dog’s compatibility and suitability for your family and lifestyle. Spend some time with the dog to understand its individual personality and characteristics.
I recommend choosing a breed and then, considering the breed characteristics, needs and attributes, find every reason why the breed would not fit into your lifestyle. It is very easy for us to justify our initial decision after falling in love with a particular dog and then come to regret that decision when your dog begins to exhibit natural breed characteristics that do not fit into your lifestyle. If, after identifying reasons why your potential pet would be unsuitable, you find your lifestyle and your dog’s needs are still compatible, then it is time to adopt. If not, then keep looking until you find a more suitable breed. Do not be afraid to enlist the advice of a professional to help guide you in this decision.
Be an informed dog adopter, research, explore and make the right choice for your family and your future dog.
Dog Talk is a column by Niki Tudge, the owner and founder of The DogSmith, a National Dog Training, Dog Walking and Pet Care Franchise. You can reach Niki at 888-Dog Smith or visit www.888DogSmith.com or call 1-888-Dog-Smith (364-7648) ext. 702
© 2008 Niki Tudge