Author, Jan Casey
Make the Right Choice When Choosing Your Four-Legged Friend
No doubt about it – the weather is beautiful, people are spending more time outside, and activities with our four-legged friends are on the rise. Wait! What’s that? You don’t have a dog? Well, no better time than now to find a new furry friend with whom to spend the next ten to fifteen years. So how do you choose a dog that’s right for you? Start by asking yourself the right questions.
What age dog do I want? Puppies are so cute. They have energy, they are easy to train, they are easy to handle. They also mess in the house, need lots of attention, and need a great deal of training. Middle aged dogs are more likely to be house trained, have some basic manners, and you are more likely to know what you have as far as personality goes. It’s also possible they may have a habit or two that will require effort on your part to change. Older dogs are likely to be calmer, house trained, and ready to enjoy life at a slower pace. They may be more prone to health problems. Decide how you like to spend your free time – outside playing and hiking, or inside reading a book. If it is the former, look at a younger dog or puppy. If it is the latter, consider an older dog who will be happy to just relax next to you and cuddle.
How much grooming do I want to do? While all dogs must be groomed to some extent, think of how much time and money you want to spend. Long haired dogs will require daily brushing. Some dogs will need special clips to keep them from becoming matted, requiring the services of a groomer.
What type of dog should I choose? Knowing the characteristics of dog breeds is a must. A great place to check out this information is http://www.akc.org/breeds/index.cfm . If you prefer a quiet lifestyle or have small children, do not look at dogs in the herding group. To paraphrase Dr. Patricia McConnell, “they need a job to do and if you don’t provide it, they will make one up. Chances are you won’t like it.” If living space is an issue, check out the toy or terrier breeds. Since dog characteristics can vary greatly even within a breed group, this site can provide much needed information. This site offers breed rescue group information, but remember that many shelters also receive purebreds . Check with them first. Putting your name on a specific breed waiting list can connect you with a dog you’ve always wanted.
Where should I purchase a dog? You may be aware of the story presented by Oprah Winfrey just a few weeks ago. Her show exposed puppy mills and the horrors that occur within their walls. Even if you are not worried about the senseless over-breeding of these dogs and the horrors of their living conditions, you should worry about buying a puppy from one of these unethical breeders. Their puppies generally have severe health problems throughout life and behavioral problems, too. Do not be fooled into thinking you are being heroic, saving a puppy. Chances are the puppy will become a drain on the family finances as well as the family’s mental well-being. If you want purebred,know that the word “registered” will not guarantee a good pup. Look for a breeder who is committed to improving the breed. They will generally be able to show you the puppy’s pedigree and any titles in the lineage. They will also have, in writing, a guarantee to take the puppy back should there be a problem. Ask for references from people who own dogs from previous breedings, then check on their satisfaction. Also look for health test certifications which rate specific breed weaknesses such as heart, eye, or hip problems for each parent. The best of the best breeders will also be involved in breed rescue. Purebred or not, you should meet both parents of the puppies and they should be friendly and well-mannered.
Please consider that some of the best dogs in the world are the ones that have no pedigree and who have been abandoned by a previous owner. Just because a dog is a shelter dog does not mean it has a problem. Some end up there because families are undergoing financial hardships or divorce, some because their owners must move to locations which do not allow pets, such as nursing homes. A dog adopted from a shelter is truly rescued and he will repay your kindness with unconditional love for life. Please consider saving a life and adopting a new friend today!
Jan Casey is a reward-based trainer in