7 Steps to Choosing a Dog

How to find the right fit for your family.

7 Steps to Choosing a Dog

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The family fell in love with the pup at first sight. How could they not love the wriggly, squirmy ball of fun? But nine months later, they are questioning their decision. They didn’t expect the dog to get so big, possess endless energy, shed so much, and drool everywhere.

Unfortunately, this scenario plays out every day across Canada. And it can cause a lot of heartache for families and for dogs, which may end up in shelters. Here how’s to choose the right dog for your family.

1. Write down what you are looking for. Don’t let looks be the primary factor. List the traits you desire and the deal breakers. Do you want a small dog or a big one? A cuddle buddy or a running partner? Consider things like: intelligence, required grooming, energy level, playfulness, ease of training, how vocal (barking/howling), dog/cat friendly.

2. Be realistic about what you are willing to take on. Is there enough room in your daily schedule for a dog? Do you have the space, indoors and out? All dogs require daily mental and physical stimulation to keep them healthy, happy and out of mischief. Working breeds, in particular, need lots of stimulation. Regular vet care is essential but can be costly. Since the average dog lives to the age of 15, the personal and financial commitment is considerable.

3. Research breeds. Compare your family’s list of wanted characteristics to various breeds to find the best fit. Start your research at www.akc.org. Let your list guide your breed choice. The most popular dog, or the dog you always thought would be great to have, may not fit your lifestyle at the moment.

4. Consider an older dog. Everyone loves puppies; they’re adorable and sweet. But they’re usually a lot of work. For busy families or ones who like the idea of a calmer dog, an older dog is a great choice. There are no surprises when it comes to final size, temperament, amount of training and energy level.

5. Is adoption from a shelter or rescue an option? Not all dogs in shelters are problem dogs; many are there because someone didn’t do their research or properly train the dog. Get a history of the dog you are interested in. Find out if it was raised with kids, what its temperament is like, whether it’s been assessed by a trainer, etc. Many trainers will even help you determine the dog’s suitability for your family.

Rescue groups place dogs in foster homes til adoption, enabling you to find out how a dog behaves in a home environment. Plus, many foster homes work on training basics such as manners, housebreaking, and leash skills.

6. Research the breeder or rescue. Responsible ones care about the lifelong wellbeing of their dogs and want them to go to the best home possible. They will interview and screen potential owners, and offer contracts, health checks, and ongoing support.

7. Meet the parents. If you decide on a puppy, be sure to meet the parents. Are they friendly, in good health, and happy? Their living arrangements can have drastic outcomes on the temperament of your puppy. Some characteristics like aggression can also be hereditary.

Are you really ready?

If you decide your family isn’t ready for a dog, there are several ways to enjoy some furry love in your life. Offer to pet sit for friends and family or volunteer at a local shelter or rescue. The best dog to get is the one who comes into your life when the time is right.

Author: Michelle Black

Michelle Black is a dog trainer and owner of PAWSitively Happy Home; www.pawsitivelyhappyhome.com.

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