So You Want a Dog Part 1: What kind to get

In honor of our new puppy, Paisley, I thought I’d do a little series about getting a new dog.  Each day I’ll talk about some aspect of dog ownership and help you make decisions so you bring home the perfect dog for your family.  In case you’re wondering how a mommy blogger qualifies to offer puppy advice, my day job, when I’m working, is a veterinarian.  I’ve got the low down on the ins and outs of puppies.  So, let’s get started. Today we’re starting from the beginning, answering the question what kind of dog should you get?

There are lots of breeds of dogs out there, so how do you go about choosing one for your family?  It’s definitely something you need to think about before you go get a dog, so you know what you’re looking for and don’t get sidetracked by puppy cuteness and wind up with a breed that just isn’t what you’re looking for.  Figure out the answers to the following questions, and you should have a good idea where to start.

1. Can I have a dog where I live?

If you’re in an apartment or renting, find out before you get a dog.  Landlords are not generally forgiving about breaking the no pet policy. You don’t want a puppy with a side of eviction notice.  Also, are there limits or exclusions for where you live. Some rental properties allow dogs under 30 pounds or some other weight, while some allow dogs of any size and some allow cats but no dogs. Again, find out.

If you own a home, there are some cities that have breed bans which, although I disagree with them, they’re the law for now, so make sure you find out if such exclusions exist.  Also, check your homeowner’s policy! This is one people often don’t think about.  Your insurance may have specific breeds they don’t cover. Trust me, you don’t want to find that out after your dog bites someone and you’re facing a lawsuit with no coverage.  Insurance companies exclude breeds generally based on the number of bite complaints they get for a breed.  You might expect Rottweilers and Pitt Bulls to be on those lists, but sometimes they also include Cocker Spaniels and even Golden Retrievers.  It’s a statistics thing.

2. How Much Room Do I Have?

If you have a large yard, then an active breed is fine.  If you’re more restricted with your space, than look for a more sedentary breed.  Active breeds in confined quarters lead to destructive behavior.  It’s not a good thing for the dog, and I guarantee you won’t be happy with your pet either.

3. What Size Do I Want?

Are you a big dog or little dog person? Do you want a running companion or a dog you can carry in your purse? How much dog can you handle? Big dogs are strong and can pull, you don’t want to be pulled around by your dog, so make sure you can handle the size dog you want.  For example, Mastiffs are really nice dogs, but maybe not for a 110 pound adult.  If there are children in the house, think about size a little. If you want your kids to walk your dog, they have to be able to keep it under control.

4. How Much Activity Do I Want?

Active or not active?  There are both active and more sedentary breeds of all size dogs.  Think about what kind of activities you do now and what you plan to do with your dog.  If you’ve always wanted a running companion, you need a dog that can keep up. If you want to be able to stroll through crowded streets, you’ll need a calmer dog.  A calm dog isn’t going to want to go for a five mile uphill hike with you, and an active dog isn’t going to be content laying next to you while you read the newspaper cover to cover in the morning.

5. What Age?

Do you want a puppy? If you think you do, ask yourself if you want to potty train it.  Maybe if you’re potty training young children, adding a puppy into the mix isn’t what you want.  Maybe you’d like a young dog, 4 mos to 1 year old, who is potty trained and has all their shots already.  Maybe you’d like a little bit older of a dog, 2-5 years old, who is potty trained, vaccinated, and not so, well, puppyish.  Maybe an older dog is better suited for you.  They’re more mellow and more content to be left alone and generally need less attention than a younger dog.

6. Do I Have Special Requirements?

Do you have allergies?  You’ll want a non-shedding breed.  Do you like long coats and have time to brush them? Go for it. Do you want a low maintenance dog? Maybe a short coat is best for you.

What about working dogs?  Are you going to take your dog hunting or use it as a therapy dog of some kind?  Does your dog need to live or sleep outside mostly?  Make sure your dog fits in with your needs.

Once you answer these questions, write down the specifics of the dog you want and start looking at different breeds. You can google them, go to the library or bookstore and get dog breed books, ask your friends about their dogs.  Make sure whichever breed you’re looking at fits all of the requirements on your list.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about Purebred vs. Mutt, and the pros and cons of each

Wednesday will be Where to get your dog.

Thursday will How To Introduce a Dog into Your Home. I’ll talk about kids, other dogs, and cats, and how to make the intros smooth.

Friday will be puppy basics. Basic info on potty training, vaccines, and care.

Let me know if you have any questions I can answer. I may try to work them into one of the other posts or finish up next week with a Q&A post if there are enough questions.

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