The minute you decide to bring a new family member into your home, your next objective will be to answer the infamous question: What dog should I get? The answer, unfortunately, does not lie exclusively within the realm of all breed choices; there’s significantly more to the course of action you’re about to take.
Making the choice to get a dog is not something to be taken lightly, and there are lots of things to think about. Will you have the necessary time to spend with your pooch? What about the added expense of feeding your dog, and then taking him/her to the vet whenever necessary or even just a regular check-up?
Weigh your options and talk it over first
Once you have discussed the option of adopting a pet dog for your home with the members of your family, and you all unanimously agree that it is the right time to bring a canine into the house – then it’s time to start researching the right dog for you.
There are lots of questions that you need to answer for yourself before making the final decision. After that, you’ll be blown away by the number of different kinds of breed choices you guys have to pick from, and like a kid in a candy store, the abundance of possible options makes it just that much harder for you to make a decision.
However, after educating yourself on dog ownership and going through a catalog of breeds, you should be able to narrow it down to a few specific breeds. At that point, it might be time to start shopping for your first dog, but let’s break it down a little bit.
What dog should I get?
“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” – Mark Twain
1. Consider your own and your family’s needs
First things come first: consider the needs of every member of your family.
– What do you guys like to do?
– How often each one of you will be at home?
– Who’s going to be spending time with the dog at certain times during the day?
– And so forth…
There are a lot of similar questions you need to cover before you can start choosing the breed. Especially with children, the choice becomes a little more difficult. You will need to choose a dog that will mix well with your family and be an appropriate pet for your kids. Note that even though a recent study has shown that dog’s breed doesn’t influence pet’s aggression (humans do), there is still some breed-aggression correlation in a couple of examples.
Now, if you have no partner and no children, it will be slightly easier: you will probably be interested in a companion that will enjoy doing what you do. This is usually what single people look for in a dog. “What you do” could mean anything from traveling, hiking, boating, swimming to simpler things like taking short walks in the park, spending more time on a bench, or finding other ways to relax and maybe connect with the nature in less physical ways.
On the other hand, maybe you or your family are just interested in having someone else to keep you company around the house. In that case, you would be more likely to pick a dog that likes to lounge, relax and be your couch potato companion. These are just a few random questions that I use as an example of what you need to ask yourself.
There’s a breed – in fact, there are plenty of dog breeds – for every case scenario, whether you have children or not, live with your parents or grandparents, have a small apartment or a big house.
For example, in case you’re looking for a working dog, it’s best to have one that will listen to your commands no matter what, and researchers have proven that certain breeds are better at this than others.
Making the appropriate pick is what’s going to make or break this endeavor for you, so be considerate and choose wisely. Once you have decided what your family needs, it is time to try and select a breed, or at least narrow down the search.
2. Decide on the size of your future dog
The first thing to consider is the size of the dog that would suit you best. You may already know that you want a small dog, have your heart set on a bigger breed or something in between. If you are having trouble deciding, make sure to do research on both to help you make the appropriate choice.
When it comes to size of your future pooch, there is some key information to keep in mind.
Since small dogs are delicate and more vulnerable, they might not be the best choice if you have small children or other pets in the home that like to play rough. When you do your research, you will also learn things such as that smaller breeds get cold easier and cannot stand the elements as well as larger dogs, so they may need to spend more time indoors.
Similarly, large breeds also have their advantages and disadvantages depending on your situation. Because of their size, big dogs take up more space around the house. This might be an issue for pet owners, but not every dog will feel uncomfortable in small apartments.
Great Danes, for example, are one of the best apartment dogs, while some other types of large breeds won’t be as ideal, like German Sheppard whom requires a lot of exercise and activity.
Larger dogs will be more expensive to maintain because they eat more and cost more to groom than smaller breeds, but then a small dog also doesn’t come without any disadvantages. The more you read on them, the more sense it will all make.
3. Evaluate your dog’s (and your own) level of activity
You are probably well aware that certain dogs have more energy than others, and that can become a major factor if you care about keeping your dog healthy.
First thing to make sure is to choose a dog whose energy and levels of activity are on the same page as yours and/or some of your family members’. If you are looking for a dog that will follow you on all your outdoor family adventures, than a mellower dog with a low energy level wouldn’t be a good fit.
And it works both ways: studies have proven multiple times that getting a dog will make you exercise and bring a variety of health benefits, which is some of us couch potatoes need to consider without a doubt.
However, if you are looking for a laid back and coach potato kind of dog that will join you on your binge watching marathons of House of Cards – you probably shouldn’t be in the market for a breed that likes to hunt, run, and chase. But there’s still a breed for you!
Always assume that you will have to exercise your dog regularly based on his/her requirements anyway. To greater or lesser extent, this comes as part of the contract in order to keep your loyal pal happy and fit.
4. Think about how much grooming you’re prepared to do
Next thing to consider is the length and type of your dog’s coat.
Since virtually every dog breed is different, considering the maintenance of your pet’s coat and appearance can really affect which breed you choose. The long beautiful coat of Golden Retriever certainly looks great, but it also takes a lot of work to keep it clean and free of mats.
Again, proper and diligent research regarding every one of your potential picks will help you to easily narrow down your choice to a “t.”
For example, did you know that canine breeds with big floppy ears – while looking cute – are more prone to ear infections and need regular ear cleanings? That’s something that we as responsible dog owners should keep in mind.
5. Consider the age of a dog at the time of adoption or purchase
Age is also one of the most important things to consider when picking your future companion for life.
Everyone loves puppies, but keep in mind that they don’t stay puppies forever, and they can be quite a handful when they are little.
Young dogs require lots of time, attention and energy to train and their requirement for regular exercise is higher.
You will also need to house train a puppy, teach at least the most basic obedience commands and that requires lots of time, unavoidable messes to clean and sometimes frustration. That is not to say it can’t also be very fun and rewarding.
Usually, adult dogs will be the best choice for families and individuals alike that are looking to become new dog owners.
You can get an understanding of exactly what a dog is like if you choose an adult whereas a puppy can turn out to be completely different than you expected by the time it reaches adulthood. Most adopted adult dogs will come with other perks as well: they may already be housebroken or trained to follow commands.
Let’s also remember our amazing senior dogs, because their mellow demeanor can be a great addition to absolutely any kind of household.
Sadly, preloved senior dogs are usually less likely to be adopted even though they always have many years of love left to give. If you are looking for a loyal companion that will be more likely to live a passive lifestyle with you, this could be a great option to consider. But while senior dogs do have lower energy levels, they may need special attention and more frequent veterinary checks to stay healthy, which is also something to consider when thinking about which dog should I get.
According to HumaneSociety.org and ASPCA.org statistics, we’ve made some big progress with adoption of preloved adult and senior dogs in the last few years as more people choose to adopt (and save!) their future pets rather than buy a puppy from a pet store; and the numbers continue to get better.
Whether you are thinking about adopting or buying, purebred or mixed breed, big or small, puppy or senior – take your time and never buy a dog on an whim.
Getting everyone in the household on board with the choice is also not a bad idea. After you’ve done the research and you’ve narrowed down your choices to three or four breeds, you should try to visit lots of local places to check out many different dogs so that you can find one that fits in with you, your family and their personalities. Every dog is different and you want to be sure to get one that meets the needs of everyone in your home, and that your home meets the needs of your new family member.
Here’s to happy and responsible dog ownership!
- Rachel A. Casey, Bethany Loftus, Christine Bolster, Gemma J. Richards, Emily J. Blackwell. Human directed aggression in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): occurrence in different contexts and risk factors. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2013.12.003
- Udell, M. A. R., Ewald, M., Dorey, N. R., Wynne, C. D. L. (2014). Exploring breed differences in dogs (Canis lupus familiaris): Does exaggeration or inhibition of predatory response predict performance on human-guided tasks? Animal Behaviour, 89, 99-105. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2011.03.031
- Hayley E Cutt, Matthew W Knuiman, Billie Giles-Corti. Does getting a dog increase recreational walking? International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2008, 5:17, DOI: 10.1186/1479-5868-5-17