Finding the breed of dog that fits your lifestyle and experience is a big part of how enjoyable your life as a dog owner will be. Often first time dog owners chose their pooch based on how cute, manly, or exotic the breed looks. These owners soon find out that looks aren’t everything. It is paramount to research and interact with a variety of breeds, as well as discuss your options with a dog trainer or Veterinarian. I typically don’t recommend only talking with breeders while choosing a breed, because let’s be honest, you’re likely to get a biased answer. Veterinarians and dog trainers have encountered many breeds at different life stages and are your best resources. Try www.vetsnearyou.com if you’re not sure where to look, and most Vets can put you in contact with a good trainer.
Before you even look through a breed book, you should ask not only yourself but whoever will be involved in the dog’s life on a regular basis, the following questions:
- How much time do I/we have to spend with the puppy on a daily basis?
(If you’re the type of person who leaves for work by 8am, comes home around 5 and is out the door again by 7:30 for dinner dates, to play sports or attend club meetings/events; a dog is not for you at this point in your life.)
- What do I know about raising and training a dog?
(There is help for you out there, however there are certain breeds that aren’t recommended for first time dog owners)
- Am I willing to wake up at all hours of the night to let the puppy out?
(Remember that puppies can only hold their bladder for a few hours at a time. You MUST be willing to wake up and let them out when they have to go. Letting a puppy soil in their crate or living space is unsanitary for them, and creates potty training problems down the road.)
- How large is my living space and yard?
(A high energy, large breed is not going to do well in an apartment with no yard unless you are willing to take them out on walks or to play frequently.)
- Am I financially stable enough to pay Vet bills should something bad happen, to put the puppy through training, to cover grooming costs?
(If you are not able or willing to cover these costs DO NOT GET A DOG!)
- Do I travel or relocate often?
(If you travel often make sure you have a friend, family member or find a good dog sitter who can take care of Fido while you’re away. Constantly kenneling your dog can be extremely stressful for them depending on their personality. If you have a job that constantly moves you around, you’ll always have to worry about finding a place that allows pets.)
- Do I want a dog that will just hang out and cuddle with me? Or do I want to be able to take it hiking and go for long runs?
(Don’t tell yourself that getting a dog will completely change your lifestyle, chances are it won’t and your dog will suffer for it.)
- How do I feel about fur and grooming? Is anyone allergic?
(Based on the severity of the allergy there are many different breeds to chose from. Keep in mind that even some short coated breeds can shed A LOT!)
- Are there breed restrictions where I live?
(Unfortunately breed restrictions are popping up more frequently. If you rent or your neighborhood has HOA policies, be sure to cover your bases. There’s nothing worse than falling in love with your pup only to find out you’re not allowed to have it.)
- Do you have or are planning on having children of your own or that you babysit often?
(Some breeds are more tolerant of children than others. For example, dogs that were bred as guardians are typically more patient than dogs that were bred to chase vermin.)
- Am I willing to do what it takes (whether the issue be medical or behavioral) to make sure my dog is happy and healthy?
(If you hesitated before saying “yes” to this question save yourself and your potential pooch the heartache, and DON’T GET A DOG.)
Once you and your family have agreed upon answers to each of the above questions, bring them with the “questionnaire” to a local Veterinarian or dog trainer. Based on your answers, these people can give you some breeds or breed types to check out. One piece of advice I give to potential puppy owners is that while you’re researching pay close attention to what the dog was bred for. While a Border Collie might seem like a good choice as a playmate for your kids, keep in mind they were bred to herd sheep and your kids probably aren’t going to think it’s fun when the dog is chasing them into a corner, nipping at their ankles! A characteristic like that can be managed but not trained out of a breed!
Good luck in your search and remember the only dumb question is the one not asked!