With Christmas fast approaching, many children have a new puppy at the top of their wish list for Santa Claus to bring them. Although a new puppy in the house may delight your children on Christmas morning and provide lots of fun, adding a new member to your family is a decision that should not be impulsively made. Many families purchase or adopt a puppy around Christmas and then later realize they are in over their heads when that sweet puppy grows up to a giant eating machine that cannot stop bouncing off the walls, herding your children, or creating a minefield of holes in your backyard.
Currently, according to the Humane Society of the United States, forty-seven percent of all American families own at least one dog. If you are looking to add a dog to your family, it can be very tempting to visit the local shelter and pick out the cutest one that you see available. Unfortunately, this is one of the common pitfalls that families make when choosing a dog. Even if that little ball of fur is adorable, it does not mean that it will be the right dog for your family. Fortunately, there is a solution to finding the right dog and it is as easy as 1-2-3!
The first step is assessing your home life. This means taking a look at all the factors a new dog would have to experience in your home and figuring out what you expect from a dog. Things to take note of would be what is the activity level in your home? Are you a family that is on the go a lot, spending a lot of time outdoors, or would you classify your family as the all American couch potato? Are there small children in the home? Other pets such as a cat or even another dog. Other important things to consider are where you live. For instance, if you live in an apartment or a condo, then you may not want to consider a very large or high-energy dog such as a Border Collie or German Shepherd.
Second, you need to do your research. I know, the word research brings out a groan in us all, but it is vital to finding a dog that will fit to your family’s unique needs and environment. This can be done one of two ways. You can opt to research dog breeds on your own or speak to a professional such as a veterinarian or dog behaviorist for recommendations. If you opt to do the research on your own, a great place to start is the American Kennel Club. The AKC can give extensive information on the many breeds that are available. Things to take into consideration are the dog’s temperament, typical personality traits, energy levels, growth, and prey drive. This will provide you with the insight that you need to determine if you want a dog that can run and keep up with an active family, or if your family is looking more for a snuggle buddy. In addition, prey drive can be very beneficial if you already have smaller pets in the home such as a cat, ferret, etc. Paying close attention to the approximate growth of a dog is very important because not every family is thrilled with the idea of one day having a 100 plus pound shedding machine that has just stretched out in your spot on the couch. If you choose to speak to a professional, they can give you a few pointers, although it is important to remember that you know your family the best.
Lastly, when you have chosen the breed that is right for you, it is time to go find your dog. There are two choices when searching for your dog, purchase from a breeder, or adopt a dog. If you choose to purchase from a breeder, take time to make sure the breeder is reputable and complies with AKC standards. Alternatively, you can choose to adopt a dog from your local shelter or rescue group. If you decide to look at your local shelter, do not be dismayed if they do not have your desired breed. You can talk to the shelter workers and give them your information and what you are looking for and they can contact you if that certain breed comes available. Rescue groups are a great place to find a dog for your family because many of them are breed specific. Also, the staff at rescue groups routinely places their dogs in foster homes, to get a better understanding of the dog’s likes and dislikes and temperament. Most dogs in breed specific rescues are past puppy age, usually adults, however for some families this can be a blessing as they are past the common puppy behaviors such as chewing, potty training, and not sleeping through the night.
By taking the time to look at your family’s lifestyle, desires, and needs, you can get a better idea of what you are looking for in a dog. Then you can take that list and compare it to your research to find the dog that will blend in with your family’s environment the best. Spending a little extra time researching the breed that is best for you will increase your family’s success in finding the right dog that will be a life long match. As always, remember that despite breed, each dog may have its own unique personality traits and behaviors.