As dog trainers we see that many problems people have with their dogs simply come from the fact that they did not choose the right dog for their lifestyle. When choosing a dog for your family there are several things in the selection process that many people fail to consider. Breed, size, drive, energy level and grooming requirements are all things you should take into consideration when planning on adding a dog to your family. Visit any animal shelter and they can tell you that the number one thing people fail to do when selecting a dog is to not take the commitment seriously. Any time you add a dog to your family it is imperative that you are willing to make a life long commitment to that dog. Dogs are not disposable.
Bringing a dog into your home should be as serious a decision as adding another child to your home. Bringing a dog into your life is a 12-15 year commitment. By making the proper selection those years will be much easier than if you do no planning at all. Dogs are Dogs and all dogs will do certain things that come natural to dogs such as barking, digging, chewing, jumping up etc. Through training you can minimize these behaviors and teach your pet more constructive behaviors. Even though all dogs have certain natural behaviors, some of these behaviors will be more prevalent in certain dogs.
Different breeds have different drives. The term “drive” simply means one breed will have a higher propensity to do certain things over another breed. For instance, cattle dogs are bred to chase cattle so will have a “herding drive” which may make them chase small children or other animals. Beagles or other hunting breeds have been bred with a higher drive to bark and will do so rather they are on the hunt or in your apartment. Terriers such as the Jack russel or Rat terrier were bred with a drive to dig and kill varmints which means they will dig in your garden and may not be good with other small animals. Many people choose certain breeds because they like the way they look, however before adopting any dog, you should research the characteristics of that breed to realize what you are getting into.
Another thing to take into consideration is energy level. Many breeds are known for their high energy levels such as the border collie, Australian shepherd or Queensland heeler. Each breed of dog has it’s specific energy levels but there are also different energy levels between each individual dog as well. Dogs energy levels range from low, medium and high. If you have an active family who likes to hike, run, camp etc. then a low energy level dog would not be a good fit. If you are a couch potato and adopt a high energy level dog, the dog will quickly become bored and will start acting out with destructive behaviors. Very high energy level dogs are the most difficult and require the most time and attention. So it is important that no matter what breed of dog you consider, to spend some time with the individual dog to determine its energy level.
Many people adopt puppies because they are so cute. However puppies are not for everyone. Puppies require a lot of time and attention and need to be house trained. If you work full time and are gone for 8-10 hours a day, then a puppy is not for you. Just as you would not leave a new baby at home alone all day, you should not leave a puppy. With a puppy it is also difficult to determine what energy level the puppy is until it becomes a little older. If the energy level of the puppy ends up not fitting your lifestyle then you are in for years of frustration. Adopting an older dog is often times a better decision. There are many good dogs at shelters waiting for homes and you will have a variety to choose from. If you are a senior citizen, a senior dog is a perfect fit. Many senior dogs have a hard time finding homes and have the perfect energy level for an older person to deal with. Most adult dogs are house trained and you can determine what energy level they are before bringing them home.
Grooming requirements are another important thing to take into consideration when adopting a new dog. Some dogs need more grooming than others such as the Poodle, Shih-Tzu, Cocker spaniel, Maltese, Bichon etc. Most of these breeds have daily requirements such as brushing and combing but also need to be groomed professionally which can become costly. If you like the look of the “fluffy” breeds but do not have the financial resources for professional grooming every 4-6 weeks then adopting a short coated dog would be a better fit for you.
Some breeds shed considerably such as the Labrador retriever, Pug, Dalmation and the husky breeds. If you are a clean freak and don’t like dust bunnies then these breeds are not for you.
When selecting a dog it is important to realize that a dog is just that “a dog”. Dogs do not automatically know the rules of our household. Dogs need training and time to understand what is acceptable in our human environment and what is not. Dogs are not “plug and play”. No matter what breed or age of dog you select, you will have to put time in to teach him the rules of the household. So, before rushing into a decision about bringing a dog home, do your research and determine what breed, drive, energy level and age is right for you. Making the proper dog selection will ensure you will have a new best friend for years to come.