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Things to consider when Choosing a Dog

So, you’re thinking of adding a dog to your family? Do some serious research.

Dog breeds tell a lot about a dog’s temperament or “personality” if they are well bred. Cross breeds will represent a mix of its basic heritage.

Mutts often don’t have the hereditary health and behavioral problems of the pure breeds, which often have been over-bred to fit a physical standard.

Rescues and Humane Societies have often already screened their dogs for temperament and whether they are good with children, cats, and other dogs. You can sometimes pretty much know what you’re getting, and sometimes the dog is already housetrained, neutered, and vaccinated.

Rescues offer purebreds and mutts a 2nd chance for a home. Many of them were given up for reasons due to family allergies, moves to apartments, lack of money to care for the dog, etc. and not due to the dog’s fault.

Dogs have been bred for hundreds of years to fit into one of 6 major groups. The categories and basic traits follow: 1) Companion dogs were bred to be lapdogs and bed warmers. 2) Hounds were bred for hunting and many were trained to kill their prey. They are usually reliable around children.

3) Terriers were bred to hunt rodents and small animals; they are often spunky and require a lot of exercise. They may snap at loud, high-energy children.

4) Sporting dogs, like retrievers, pointers, setters, and labs, were trained to track game and sometimes kill it. 5) Herding dogs could be trained to round up sheep, cattle, other animals AND often consider herding children fair game.

6) Working dogs were trained for specific jobs like hunting wild boar (Great Danes), guarding (Rottweilers), or herding (St. Bernards). They usually require a lot of space and really need a job or, perhaps, a career. These are often large, powerful animals that are not good for first time dog owners.

Please study up on the breed you are considering before making a 10 to 15 year commitment to owning a dog.

Of course, you need to decide if you want a large or small dog. Will it be around children or handicapped people? How big is your house? A St. Bernard does require more space than a dachshund. Some dogs drool, a lot. Some dogs snore, a lot. Do you have a big yard? Is it fenced? Do you live in an apartment? Do you have cats? Some dogs consider them snack food.

Furry dogs shed more. Do you want a non shedding dog? This doesn’t mean non allergenic, but dogs that grow hair, like poodles, get hair cuts like people. And that’s another expense.

Reasons NOT to get a dog: “My 3-year-old wants a puppy.” But that child will not be the caretaker, and if the child is too rough, you might be playing referee for months.

“A dog will force me to exercise by walking him.” Maybe, but that can become very tiring when Fuzzball needs exercise, and you want to watch TV.

“A dog would make a nice Christmas present.” Nix this idea. If you travel, have overnight guests in, or have noisy parties with strangers, you can lose some precious bonding time, mess up housetraining schedules, and have some real problems with confusion over who is the real pack leader.

If you have bad winters and heavy snows, it can be extra hard to train a pup to go outdoors for bathroom duties. (Newspaper training is often confusing and creates a 2-step process instead of one.)

Some humane societies and rescues won’t adopt out pets around the holidays because of so many disruptions.

If you are thinking of a dog for Christmas, prepare ahead of time with the bedding, leash, collar, quality food, a good dog training book like (“The Dog Whisperer”) Cesar Millan’s “Cesar’s Way,” etc. and pick up your new friend after the holidays.

We are discussing owning an indoor companion, not an outdoor guard dog or hunting buddy. Again, many agencies will not adopt out a dog that is going to be kept outdoors, and they will do a follow up after placement.

Of course, you know not to buy any dog on impulse, and you are going to research the seller/breeder with your vet and Humane Society for a “background check” to know you aren’t dealing with an unethical breeder or puppy miller.

Now, you’ve decided on the breed by the temperament, size, shedding or not, whether it is good with children, cats and other dogs, or not. Now you need to line up a trustworthy vet.

Your vet should become your dog’s best friend. He can pick up on diseases or problems before they occur or get too advanced. Of course, the dog needs to be vaccinated against rabies and distemper. Perhaps he needs to be wormed.

The vet will check his eyes, ears, teeth, and temperature. He’ll check over his whole body and maybe trim the nails while he’s at it.

Some dogs are prone to hip dysplasia, diabetes, or thyroid problems. Your vet knows the breeds and what to watch for, and should offer preventive care and treatment.

Your vet can show you how to brush your dog’s teeth. You can also add Oxyfresh oral hygiene solution to the dog’s water bowl, and stretch out the time between dental visits.

Of course, as a responsible pet owner, you will have your dog spayed or neutered by the time (s)he is 6 months old. It will help prevent some forms of cancer. It will help avoid the embarrassing humping behavior of sexually frustrated dogs. Intact dogs will often run away “looking for love” in all the wrong places. Some get killed in the road while roaming.

Millions of unwanted dogs are euthanized annually for a lack of good homes. I did dog rescue for 4 years, and this is a human problem. The dogs can’t go to the vet by themselves. Please don’t let your dog add to the overpopulation problem.

Food makes the dog. Quality food might sound expensive, but it can save vet bills and add quality years to your best friend’s life. Look for quality foods like Natural Balance, Solid Gold, Millennium, or Pinnacle.

Ask your vet or someone you trust at a quality pet shop about food, treats, and safe toys for your age and breed of dog.

Now, plan to exercise your dog by taking walks together. This is a special bonding time when you take control as pack leader. Your voice, demeanor, and attitude are very important in establishing dominance.

A good fence allows the dog more freedom, and you know he’s safe from other dogs, cats, disease-carrying strays, and predators, including dog thieves.

Start training early. Your dog should recognize you as pack leader, and he should not show aggression around food or toys to any member of the family. Don’t play aggressive games or allow the dog to take over the house or bed if you don’t want long-term re-training problems.

A crate can help with creating a housebreaking schedule; give the dog its own den of safety from young children or during over-stimulating times like parties. It’s also good during convalescent times, and it makes some shy dogs feel safer. It’s also great for travel times.

Plan ahead. Adding a dog to the family is a long-term commitment of time and expense. Maybe you can spend time around a dog you think you like. Use due diligence in your research.

Then, go choose your next best friend and you should have, at the least, a great decade together.

 

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