You probably have a favorite breed of dog, but is that breed a good fit for your particular lifestyle? Adopting or purchasing a dog is a long-term commitment, so don't make the decision lightly. There are many factors to consider before adding a pet to your family, so do your homework and investigate different breed characteristics first to learn of any quirks or health issues that might be more than you bargained for. Here are five things to research and think about before choosing which dog is right for you.
Cost - Even a dog that starts out free or cheap can be costly to keep. Some dogs will bite you in the pocketbook more than others, and those prone to health problems can send you to the poorhouse quickly. Less than desirous qualities aren't limited to purebreds; my Molly is a mix of Golden Retriever, German Shepherd Dog and St. Bernard, three breeds that are known to have hip dysplasia. Guess what $240 worth of x-rays diagnosed Molly with at her first birthday? Don't overlook other health issues predominant in some breeds, such as respiratory problems with dogs with pushed-in noses.
Beyond health issues that can keep your veterinarian in new golf clubs, dogs that destroy your clothing and furniture can eat up your budget (and your sanity) too. Some breeds of dogs tend to settle down after the initial chewing stage that most puppies go through, but others are notorious for tearing a house apart because they don't like to be left alone. Look for breeds that are more laid back if you'd have to leave your dog while you go to work.
Size - Yes, size does matter. I've always loved the larger breeds, and while most are generally good with kids, they can be intimidating to those who are fearful of dogs. If you're looking for a large dog, make sure the entire family is on board so that your pre-teen daughter doesn't stay locked in her room because she's afraid of your behemoth buddy.
Some small or toy breeds are prone to being nervous and yap a lot, which would be extremely irritating to me. If you don't mind that they need a lot of attention and are constantly underfoot, you might be satisfied with a purse-puppy -- but be careful that you don't step on him.
Space - Whether you live in a studio apartment or have a large fenced-in yard can help determine which dog is best for you. Surprisingly, some large dogs adapt very well to apartment life (the Great Dane is one), as long as they are walked daily. Even so, a giant of a dog might do better with a bit more room to turn around (think bull in a china shop).
Having a small dog doesn't necessarily mean you don't need space, however. The Jack Russell Terrier, for instance, is diminutive in size, but makes up for it in temperament. This feisty little fella is a very high energy dog and daily walks aren't enough to keep him busy. He needs a place where he can run and explore, and to hinder him from that is asking for trouble.
Grooming - With few exceptions, all dogs shed, but some more than others. Anyone with a German Shepherd Dog will tell you that it's almost impossible to keep up with their shedding, but many think it's a small price to pay for such a loving companion (myself included). If you can't stand dog hair on your furniture or clothing, look for a Poodle or Poodle-mix.
Many breeds can get by with a simple brushing a few times a week, but others require more extensive primping that might include a trip to a professional groomer every month. Be aware of grooming requirements before you fall in love with a dog whose haircut will cost more than your own.
Several dog breeds are notorious for drooling. If a slobbering dog is a turn-off, you won't want to share your home with any of the Bulldog and Mastiff breeds.
Activity - Some breeds need a job and will make up their own if you don't give them one. Terriers were bred to dig, and dig they will if not kept occupied. Beagles are known escape artists and won't let anything get in the way of their nose on a scent (I had a Beagle who would walk into a tree because he 'looked' with his nose rather than his eyes). All hounds will howl or bay in excitement when they catch sight or whiff of any small critter in their territory, no matter the time of day or night.
You might be able to tolerate any or all of these activities, but consider how they might affect your neighbors too.
What about a mutt?
Mixed breed dogs can take on the characteristics - both good and bad -- of any breed in their genetic makeup. If you're considering a hybrid dog, make sure that you're acquainted with the qualities associated with both breeds. Better yet, for a loving dog with fewer genetic predispositions, head to your local shelter to adopt another of my favorites - the Heinz 57.
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