This article is intended to provide anyone contemplating a new dog, whether a puppy or an adult, with useful information.
There is an enormous variety of dogs in shape, size, personality, and abilities. Different breeds will have certain characteristics for which they were bred. Ask breeders at dog shows, and look the dogs up in breed books for further information.
You should consider several things before deciding on a dog.
How much time can you spend with them?
Dogs are social creatures. They will not be happy left out in the backyard alone. You must be committed to spending several hours a day with them.
What space can you provide?
If you live in a small apartment, you must take this into consideration: Many dogs will not do well unless you expend a good deal of effort in meeting their needs.
Dogs can be pretty adaptable so long as you help them out. Don’t be fooled by size into thinking a dog will be OK in a small apartment — Jack Russell terriers require a lot of exercise. Conversely, many mastiffs are content to flop on the floor and do nothing while you are gone.
How much money can you set aside?
Even if you get a dog from the shelter or otherwise inexpensively, you will have to buy food, pay for veterinary checkups, vaccinations and routine medical care, and purchase other equipment over the lifetime of the dog. Not to mention replacing anything the dog may damage or destroy, or putting money out for medical emergencies.
Do you have the financial resources for this?
How much exercise can you give?
If your time is limited, you should look for smaller or less active dogs who can get enough exercise in your home or from short walks. Not all small dogs are less active, or larger dogs more active — research your breeds.
How much training can you do?
Regardless of the dog you get, training will make your dog much more compatible with you and what you want to do. A trained dog can go to more places with you without disruption, and can be more easily a part of your life.
How much grooming can you do?
How much hair are you prepared to have in your home? You should give serious consideration to these factors: Some dogs shed little and require no grooming (clipping, stripping, etc.); others shed little but require more grooming; others shed but do not require grooming; and still others both shed and require grooming.
Just about all dogs will require some nail clipping regardless of conditions.
If you get a dog who requires regular grooming, are you prepared to pay for the grooming or learn to do it yourself and to do either regularly?
Which sex do you want — male or female?
There are pros and cons to either sex, all of which are generalities and may or may not apply to a specific dog. By all means, if you have a preference, get the sex you want. If you are not sure, it really doesn’t matter — look for the dog you hit it off with.
What characteristics do you want in a dog?
Different breeds have been bred with specific purposes in mind. Dogs bred for scent, for racing, for retrieving, etc. will exhibit these traits. Consider which characteristics you would like and which will annoy you.
Reading up on dogs in breed books and talking with breeders will give you some idea of these kinds of characteristics. This also may be a reason to choose a purebred: Characteristics in purebreds appear more reliably because of their consistent breeding.
Do recognize, however, that dogs show individual personalities, and variety exists within each breed. Breeds are only a general indicator of what to expect.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- What sort of exercise do I want to do with the dog? Walking? Jogging? Hiking?
- Do I want a dog who is bouncy and ready to go, or more relaxed?
- Am I prepared for a dog with some protective tendencies? How about a dog with possible aggression (because of their background or breed)?
- Do I want an indiscriminately friendly dog or one who is more reserved?
- Do I want a dog who must be near me whenever possible, or do I prefer a more independent nature?
- Will I want a dog who readily accepts other animals (e.g., cats and rabbits)?
Next, in Part 2 of this article, we discuss the question of purebred dogs versus mixed breeds.