The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes over 150 breeds of dogs. The AKC only registers purebred dogs, and when you factor in all the combinations of mixed breed dogs, the choices facing a prospective owner can be overwhelming. Here’s a guide to help you choose the dog that’s right for you.
Consider Your Lifestyle
Most dog trainers agree that a happy dog is a good dog, so when choosing a dog, you’ll want to find a dog who will fit your lifestyle. Do you live on the top floor of an apartment in the city? A big dog isn’t out of the question if you enjoy going walking in the park or hiking. Living in a house with a big fenced yard doesn’t necessarily mean a big dog is right for you if you plan on the leaving him outside most of the time. Dogs are pack animals and to do best when they can be near their owners. Dogs who are left alone outside can become easily bored, and boredom can lead a dog to excessive barking, digging, and other unwanted or even destructive behaviors.
Puppy vs. Adult Dog
When considering a dog, many people limit their search to puppies. Conventional wisdom says that owning a dog from the time he’s a puppy gives the owner greater control over the dog’s behavior, but this isn’t always the case. Puppies can experience significant changes in personality as they grow up, and the work involved in housetraining a puppy and providing obedience training is considerable.
Adopting an adult dog from a local shelter or rescue organization is a rewarding experience. Adult dogs will usually be housetrained and may have some obedience training. If the dog you adopt needs additional training, keep in mind that contrary to old expression, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Most shelters have an animal behaviorist on staff to screen incoming dogs. The shelter may be able to tell you whether a dog is good with children or is compatible with other pets. Aggressive dogs and dogs with severe health problems are typically not put up for adoption.
Whether you decide on a puppy or adult dog, purebred or mixed breed, learning about the characteristics of the type of dogs you are considering will help you find the best dog for you.
Many pet websites offer dog breed quizzes to help you select a breed based on your living situation and time you want to devote to exercising and grooming your dog. These are good questions to ask yourself when choosing a breed, but the questions on these quizzes are so general that you’ll end up with between 50-100 breed recommendations.
A better place to begin your breed research is with a breed book. Two excellent books for prospective dog owners are “The Perfect Match: A Dog Buyer’s Guide” by Chris Walkowicz and “The Dog Breed Bible” by D. Caroline Coile .
Finding a Breeder (and Avoiding Puppy Mills)
If you decide to purchase a dog from a breeder, be sure to find a reputable one. Breeder referrals are often available from organizations devoted to specific breeds, for example, the Doberman Pinscher Club of America.
When purchasing a puppy, always make sure you are able to meet at least one of the parents. The parents’ temperament can give you an idea about the puppy’s temperament, and you will also have the opportunity to see how the parents are cared for.
Avoid buying a puppy from a pet store unless you able to see where the puppies were born and meet one of the parents. A puppy from a pet store may have come from a puppy mill. Larger pet supply chains such as Petco and PetSmart, as well many independently owned pet stores, are committed to animal welfare and do not sell puppies or kittens. Instead, they frequently host adoption events where local shelters can bring animals in need of a new home.
Once you’ve brought your new dog home, get the entire household involved in training and caring for him. The dog will learn to respect every member of the family, which will go a long way toward a positive, long-term relationship with your dog.
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