How To Choose a Dog for a Family

A dog can be wonderful addition to your family, and hopefully you'll be spending the next ten to fifteen years or more with your canine companion. Keep this in mind when you're choosing your dog. Taking the time to find the dog that best fits your lifestyle can save you a lot of stress and heartache down the road. There is nothing worse than getting emotionally attached to your pet only to realize that he really isn't fitting into your family. It is one of the reasons our nation's shelters are overflowing with companion animals. There are several things you can do to find a dog who will become a loving member of your family.

  1. Take stock of your lifestyle. Think about the things that go on in your household on a daily basis. Is someone home all day or do school, work and other activities keep you away from home for eight hours or more? Puppies need a lot of attention and frequent potty breaks. If someone is home all day, or you aren't gone for longer than three or four hours, a puppy may be your perfect pet. If, however, no one is home for more than four hours a day, you may be better off with an adult dog.

Is your family more likely to go hiking over the weekend or sit down to watch a movie? Active dogs will do much better with an active family that plans to take their dog camping or on other high energy outings, and a pup who is a real couch potato won't be happy to be dragged along on your ten mile hike every Saturday. Also, you don't want to get a dog with the intention of changing your lifestyle. Many people go out and get high energy dogs thinking this will be a great way to motivate them to take up jogging or another activity. Usually after a few days, the dog owner reverts to his regular habits, and the active pup starts finding ways to burn off excess energy himself, usually by doing things like chewing your dining room table or digging up your flower beds. You'll be much better off getting a dog who fits into your current lifestyle.

  • Think about the future. If all goes as planned, your dog will be with you for quite awhile. Think ahead to what the next decade of your life may have in store. Are you planning on moving? Will you be having children? Keep these things in mind when you are choosing a dog. Moving may be easier if you have a small breed dog as many apartments only allow pets under a certain weight. Adopting a dog who isn't great with very young children may not seem like a big deal if you don't have any, but what happens if you decide to have a baby a few years from now? Obviously, you can't predict everything that may happen to you for the next ten years or so, but there are some things you can consider beforehand that will help make sure that your four-legged friend fits in with your family for the long haul.
  • Do your research about dog breeds. After you've taken the time to think about your lifestyle and the future, you should have an idea of some of the characteristics that will help your dog fit into your family. Specific breeds of dogs are bred for specific purposes, and this makes it easier to predict certain personality traits. For instance, Labradors are known for behaving like puppies well into adulthood. For an active family, they may fit in great. For a less active family, however, their antics may be exasperating. Knowing which breeds of dogs work best for your lifestyle can help make your choice easier.
  • Don't fall for a pretty face. This is a very common trap that people looking for a dog fall into. You do all of your research, you know whether an adult or a puppy is best for you, you have a few breeds in mind, and then you see the cutest puppy you've ever seen in your life. It's easy for all of your good intentions to fall by the wayside, even if the dog is the exact opposite of what you're looking for. Stay strong. No matter how cute the dog, if his personality doesn't mesh with your lifestyle, you'll be in for a rocky road ahead.
  • If you are adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue, find out if the previous owner gave any information about the dog and if the staff does any type of behavioral evaluation. Knowing about how the dog behaved in his first home is a good indicator of how he will behave in yours. Keep in mind, however, that many people who turn a dog into a shelter leave out some things in a misguided attempt to get the dog adopted quickly.

    A behavioral evaluation done by an experienced shelter employee can be a good tool to help you gauge a dog's temperament as well. These assessments can usually let you know if the dog has any aggression issues that could be a problem in your home. They also can give you an idea of how the dog will react to strangers, whether he has had any previous training, and whether or not he will be good with children or other animals. It's usually worthwhile to take some time talking to the shelter staff about the dog you're interested in.

  • If you're purchasing a dog from a breeder, ask about the parents. Ideally, the breeder will have at least one of the parents on the premises that you can meet before purchasing your pup. If the parents are friendly and approachable, chances are your dog will be, too. Also, ask where the dogs are housed and how much contact they get with people each day. If the breeder houses dogs in outside kennels, they may not get a lot of socialization with people on a regular basis. This can cause some temperament issues if not dealt with immediately. Ask the breeder as many questions as you need to in order to get a feel for the dog you are interested in. A reputable breeder will want to make sure that her dogs go to the best homes possible, and will be happy to answer your questions. If the breeder seems to be evasive about anything, be cautious about purchasing a dog from her.
  • Spend some time with any dog you are considering adding to your family before you bring him home. Plan on spending as much time as possible with the dog before making things official. This is the best way to get a feel for whether or not you've met your match.
  • Make sure everyone in the family agrees on the dog. Bringing home a new pet means a period of adjustment for everyone. Don't make the transition more difficult than necessary by bringing home a dog who is unwanted by one or more family members.

  • Even after you've found the perfect dog for your family, keep in mind that it can take a month or so for everyone to get used to the new routine. However, if you follow the advice on picking out a dog for your family, and add lots of love and a bit of patience, you'll have everything you need for a lifetime of love with the newest addition to your family.


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