It seems like the world is more enamored of dogs than ever. With so many ads for pet products and countless photos and videos on social media featuring cute canines, you might think that everyone has at least one dog. Perhaps, however, you're one of the holdouts and are just now planning to bring home a brand new puppy or full-grown rescue dog.
If you are wondering how to choose a dog, before you rush to the rescue shelter, or registered breeder, it's important to do your research. Sadly, millions of dogs are abandoned or left at rescue shelters every year. One reason for this is that people buy or adopt animals impulsively without considering the circumstances and consequences. A dog is a big responsibility and there are quite a few issues to consider before making your choice, including the choice of whether you should get a dog at all.
Ask Yourself These Questions Before Getting a Dog
Many people get dogs impulsively without adequately considering their circumstances. For example, you might love big cuddly dogs such as Alaskan Malamutes or St. Bernards but if you live in a small apartment in the city, this isn't the ideal choice. Here are some questions to ask yourself (and anyone who will share responsibility for dog care):
- How much space do you have? Large and energetic breeds need exercise and they'll feel cramped in a small space. If you live in an apartment or condo there may also be restrictions on breeds based on size or weight.
- Are your schedule and lifestyle compatible with owning a dog? How often is someone home in your household? Some dogs require more attention than others. If you live alone and work long hours this may not be the ideal time to get a dog. The same is true for couples where both partners work full-time.
- Are there children in your household? If you have kids, you'll want to make sure you choose a dog that's patient and good-natured with children. If you have a baby or young toddler, however, you must exercise caution with even the gentlest dog.
- Do you have any other pets? If you have any other animals in the house such as cats or another dog, you have to consider how a newcomer will fit in.
- Why do you want a dog? Are you getting a dog mainly for companionship or are you also looking for a watchdog? Some people require service animals to help them function. If you have specific needs, make sure you choose an animal that suits your purposes.
How do I choose the right dog for me?
Here are some of the main factors to consider when choosing a dog.
• Breed - There are approximately 200 breeds recognized by the Australian National Kennel Club and countless mixes. Each breed has its virtue and mixed breed dogs are just as intelligent, affectionate, and loyal as full breeds.
• Age - Many people want to start with a puppy. Keep in mind, though, that training a puppy requires lots of time and patience. There are benefits to choosing a full-grown dog as well.
• Gender - While it's hard to generalize about the characteristics of male and female dogs, some people have preferences in this area.
• Size - This gets back to your space as well as personal preference. Some people like larger dogs because they're more likely to scare away intruders. Remember also that bigger dogs eat more.
• Temperament - All dogs are not alike. Some are more energetic and high-strung. Some are easier to train than others.
• Health - Certain dogs are prone to certain health issues. Bulldogs, for example, are prone to respiratory issues while German Shepherds often suffer from hip dysplasia. The average lifespan of a dog also differs according to breed and size, with smaller dogs generally living longer.
Where Should You Get Your Dog?
You can get a dog from the RSPCA's Adopt a Pet website, a registered breeder, or an animal rescue organisation. Sometimes you find a dog through circumstances as when a friend or family member tells you he or she is putting up a dog for adoption. Some dogs advertised on unverified websites or online groups come from puppy mills, where animals are often kept under harsh and even abusive conditions.
There's a compelling humanitarian argument for rescuing dogs from shelters rather than supporting the puppy mill industry. While some people think it's better to get a dog from a breeder because they can know the dog's lineage and get papers, this isn't a guarantee of good health and temperament. In fact, mixed breed dogs without papers are often healthier because they have greater genetic variation. If you're set on a certain breed, your best choice is to find a trustworthy breeder. The RSPCA publishes guidance on how to find a responsible dog breeder.
Meet Your Dog
Before bringing home a dog or puppy you should spend a little time with it. If you're looking at a puppy from a litter, you have to make a choice. While some people are quick to choose the puppy that's friendliest and most eager, this isn't always the best choice. The most aggressively social puppy can be a handful once you get it home! On the other hand, you don't want a puppy that's overly timid or unsociable.
Whether you're dealing with a puppy or adult dog, it's best to get some alone time with it. If it's a litter, ask the owner's permission to take the puppy away for a few minutes. If you're looking at animals in a shelter you can usually take dogs out on a leash. This gives you a chance to establish some rapport and find out if there are any undesirable traits such as timidity or aggressiveness.
Of course, not everyone is deterred by problematic traits in dogs. Some good-hearted people actually seek out animals that others avoid in order to rescue them. That's commendable. However, if this is your inclination, make sure that you consider the needs of anyone else with whom the dog will interact such as your spouse, kids, and even neighbours.
In some cases, you can arrange for a trial adoption. This can be useful if you want to make sure your dog behaves appropriately in your home, around your kids, or with another pet. However you arrange it, make sure you spend at least a little time with a dog before making a choice.
Getting a Dog is a Big Decision
Choosing a dog isn't a trivial matter and you have to consider as many relevant factors as possible. Don't make the mistake of picking up an adorable puppy or a sad-faced dog you see in a pet store window without considering all of the implications. It will be better for both you and your prospective pet if you make sure you're really ready before adding a new four-legged member to your household.