Choosing the Right Dog: Part 1
Updated: Apr 10, 2020
Adopting a dog is a huge commitment of your emotions, your time, and (yes) your finances. This post will discuss some of the things you should consider when you are looking for a new furry family member.
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the right dog for your household. One of the first things you should honestly and seriously consider is: how much time and money you are willing to spend on your dog? Between exercise, training, grooming, food, vet bills, accessories (and more), dogs require a huge investment from you. On a bright note, that investment is absolutely worth it!
You will also need to consider your personality, the personalities and make-up of your family, and which kind dog might best suit that. It is a good idea to first make a list of the characteristics and traits that you would want in your ideal adult dog. Some important things to consider are:
Energy level and Mental stimulation
Ease of training
Coat and grooming
Energy Level and Mental Stimulation:
A lot of people get a dog with a high energy level as motivation to increase their own exercise. While this might work for some, more often people don't actually change their lifestyle and the dog suffers for it. A high energy dog that doesn't get the exercise they need can lead to a number of issues including destruction of property, jumping, barking, mouthing, and all-around obnoxious behavior. These problems can also arise if your dog isn't given an adequate amount of mental stimulation (training, problem solving, social interactions).
You can avoid all of these issues by being honest with the amount of exercise and mental stimulation you can give your dog. If you know you can only do one walk per day for a half an hour, consider a lower energy breed (eg: Bernese Mountain dogs, Basset hound, King Charles Cavalier). Remember that many sporting and herding dogs are bred to be able to work all day and have the energy and drive to do it (German Shepherd, Golden Retrievers, Border Collies). This means that they will need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
Ease of Training:
Some dog breeds are notoriously stubborn and can be difficult to train for novice trainers (terriers, bulldogs). Others are very smart and eager to learn which is great if you have experience with training and have great timing, but frustrating if you don't (Border Collies, Aussie Shepherds, Jack Russel terriers). Be honest with your level of experience with training and whether you're willing to take more classes and practice with your dog.
One of the most common reasons given for surrendering an adult dog to a shelter is "they got bigger than I thought they would". In addition to ease of handling, size can also affect travel, cost, and living arrangements. Small dogs can travel in the airplanes cabin with you while a large dog will have to travel in the cargo space below where it is less safe and more stressful. So consider a small breed if you plan to do a lot of air-travel with your dog. Some of the costs that increase with size of the dog include the cost of food, medication, accessories, and grooming. Also there are a lot of condos and apartment complexes that have restrictions of the size of dog that you can have. So size is a very important factor to consider.
Coat and Grooming:
Are you the kind of person who would enjoy brushing your dogs coat every evening? Do you have the money to spend on getting your dog groomed regularly? If the answer is "no" to either of those questions, maybe a dog with a coat that needs a lot of grooming isn't for you. Also think about whether you are bothered with having dog hair on the floors or furniture. Perhaps a dog who doesn't shed as much might be a better option.
Certain dog breeds have certain tendencies and temperaments depending on what they were bred for. If you are looking for a breed that tend to be very friendly towards strangers, children, and other dogs, maybe consider a more gregarious breed such as a golden retriever or a lab. If you want a dog who is will protect your home and family, look into some of the molosser breeds (mastiffs, great danes, etc). If you're interested in a dog who will be very focused on you, maybe avoid getting a scent or sight hound.
Purebred dogs tend to have pre-dispositions to certain health conditions so it's a good idea to do your research not only into a breed's health problems but also into the breeders and the health of their dogs. A good and reputable breeder will do all the necessary tests available to keep their lines and dogs as healthy as possible. Mixed breeds generally have less pre-disposition to these breed specific health concerns. Size also matters when it comes to life expectancy. Giant breeds such a Great Danes and Mastiffs tend to have lower life expectancy as low as 6 or 7 years, where as the small breeds such as the Chihuahua can have a life expectancy into the high teens.
The more time you take into figuring out which is the right dog for you, the more likely you will end up with a wonderful dog who fits perfectly into your family and lifestyle. I have met many people who did not take the time to figure out which dog would suit their lifestyle, and have ended up with a dog who's needs they are not able to meet and have subsequently resulted in behavioral problems. Even if they are friendly and lovely, the wrong dog for you and your family can be disruptive, frustrating, and expensive. Many times these dogs end up in shelters.
The right dog can be one of the most wonderful additions to your life and family. Please take the time and choose the right dog for you. I hope this post helps you when it comes time to find your new family member!