Are your kids begging you to get a dog? Does your spouse want to add a furry family member to your household? Whatever the reason, bringing a new puppy or an older dog into your home can be a challenging undertaking. A physically active family that loves the outdoor life will probably want to look at energetic, athletic dogs like the Boxer or the Labrador Retriever. Families that prefer watching television or playing on the computer may want to consider smaller, quieter lap dogs like the Yorkshire Terrier or the Bichon Frise.
Whatever your preference, you’ll want to carefully check your favorite breed’s temperament and physical characteristics, and ask yourself some important questions to help you decide which dog is the right one for your family.
How does your housing situation fit with the dog you want? Where, and how, your family lives should be a priority when choosing what dog to bring into your home.
Some apartment complexes have both weight and breed restrictions that affect what dogs are allowed to live in their apartments. You’ll need to check with your management to see if those restrictions apply to you. Some larger breeds – and some more energetic small breeds – prefer to be outside and active, rather than constrained in a small apartment. On the other hand, dogs like the Greyhound – a large, calm breed – don’t mind lying around all day and living in an apartment can work for them.
Suburbia with its big yards and fencing may be sufficient room for some animals, but you’ll need to watch out for “escape artists” like the Siberian Husky and the Parson’s Russell terrier. Both breeds are known for either jumping fences or digging out from under to take a turn out in the neighborhood. Country living requires that you take on an easily trained dog that comes when called and responds well to commands. Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, super intelligent herding dogs, do well on farms and large suburban plots, often taking care of sheep, cattle, and children.
Do you have the time available to take care of a dog? As a family, you’ll need to determine who is going to have the main responsibility of your new dog, and if every member actually has the available time to participate in the everyday care of a pet. Making a chore list and setting down some rules can help you determine if your family is really ready for a dog. Children and parents both need to be involved in feeding, exercising, training, playing with and cleaning up after your new family member.
For this reason, particularly large and energetic dog breeds – Boxers, German Shepherds, Huskies – may not be suitable for families with small children that can easily be knocked over during play. Small, sensitive, nervous breeds – the Yorkie or the Chihuahua – can be a bit snappish around toddlers and may not make the best pet for your growing family.
Can you afford a new dog? Dogs require food, training, toys, treats and veterinary care – all of which add expenses to a household budget. The best dog food for your dog often costs more money, so the kind of food your pet will be eating needs to be taken into account. Larger dog breeds must have more food than smaller breeds and, if your animal eats a special food, it may be more expensive than other options. Bedding, food bowls, leashes or halters, and training classes are all expenditures that many new dog owners overlook in their excitement of getting a new pet.
Different breeds are predisposed to medical issues that can be difficult – and expensive – to treat. Large breeds like Rottweilers and Labrador Retrievers are known to be prone to hip dysplasia, an orthopedic problem that requires extensive pain medications and possible surgeries to keep the afflicted dog up and moving. Small and toy breeds, the Pomeranian, Yorkie, and Maltese, for example, can suffer from a luxating patella. This condition causes the dog’s kneecap to slip away from its base when the animal is moving, causing pain and lameness. Surgery is the only option to fix this issue at this time.
Do your research to determine what breeds are susceptible to what diseases before bringing home a new dog, and, if you purchase from a reputable breeder, make sure the breeder has performed all the required veterinary tests to assure you your puppy is healthy.