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Do You Know The Right Type Of Dog For You?
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Choosing the Right Dog

There's lots of things to consider before bringing home a new dog as a pet for you and your family. Your lifestyle, household, children, and other pets are all factors in the decision. Whether or not it's a good time in your life to even get a dog is also vital to consider.  Here are some tips and resources to help choose the right dog for you from the Association of Professional Dogs Trainers.

Selecting the Right Dog for Your Lifestyle
Selecting a new pet can be a very emotional event. Those puppy dog eyes, the cute wagging tail. Even the most logical person can have difficulty looking past the adorable package to think about whether you are ready to adopt a dog and whether a particular dog is the right one for you, your family and your lifestyle.

One of the most common mistakes people make when adopting a dog is to select one based on the look rather than the personality. Your next furry best friend may live with you for the next decade or more, so this isn’t a decision that you want to rush into.  Some planning and research could help reduce your chances of disappointment and heartache later on.  Here are a few suggestions to begin your pet finding process:

    • Research a variety of breeds so that you know their “hardwired” characteristics.  Every pure breed of dog has characteristics that typically accompany the breed.  Knowing what these traits are may help you decide if a particular breed or breed type may be a good match for you and your lifestyle.
    • If you decide on a mixed breed instead of a purebred, it can be helpful to know what breed characteristics it might have based on its heritage as well.
    • There are no guarantees that a dog will exactly match a breed standard, but doing your research on breeds will stack the odds in your favor.
    • Search on the internet and read breed-specific books for information about breed standards and the wide variety of breeds that are available. You will begin to get a feel for what different breeds are like. For example, you might learn that herding breeds, such as Shetland Sheepdogs and Border Collies, have a strong inclination to herd livestock, are bred to run and work for hours at a time, and will use barking, nipping/biting, chasing or a combination of all of these to control their herd. So, if you live in an apartment and have small children who take up much of your day, a dog that requires abundant exercise, loves to bark and chase small moving objects is not a good fit for your current lifestyle. You might instead want to consider an older dog with a mellower personality that will mesh well with your children and your household.
    • Realistically assess how much time and money you have to spend on your new dog. Breeds with significant grooming needs will require regular trips to a groomer. Some breeds will need a lot of exercise and a lot of time from you. Some breeds may be more assertive breeds, such as terriers or working breeds, which are likely not the best choice for novice dog owners or will require more time for training and socialization.
    • You should also decide on whether you have the right lifestyle for a puppy or an adult dog. While many people enjoy the thrill of having an adorable new puppy in their home, they often don’t anticipate the needs of what basically is a “baby” in your household. Housetraining, socialization, basic training, and “puppy proofing” your home all take much time and effort and patience on your part. If you have a busy, hectic life, then a puppy may not be the best choice for you. There are many advantages to taking home an adult dog, such as the likelihood that the dog is already housetrained as well as may have had some training from the previous owner or owners. An adult dog has an “established” personality that you can observe and while all dogs require daily exercise, depending on the age and breed of the dog, the adult dog you acquire may not require the same amount of physical work as a puppy.

Selecting A Dog For A Family with Children
The best dogs for kids are those receive proper socialization, humane family-friendly training, and proper amounts of exercise and attention.  Here are some tips for selecting a dog for a family with children.

    • Small dogs such as toys and mini’s are not suitable for toddlers and young children. These tiny dogs are too fragile to endure rough handling and supervising children 100% of the time is unrealistic. If a little dog feels vulnerable and threatened, his fear of the child may result in biting.
    • Families with very young children should look for a dog no smaller than 25-30 lbs., a sturdier companion who will not feel so vulnerable.
    • In general, very large dogs are often a better choice than very little dogs when the family includes babies and toddlers. Many of the large breeds are generally more easy-going and are less likely to be hurt when accidentally stepped on or tripped over.
    • In households with active older children and teens, high energy medium and large breeds may be an appropriate choice if enough exercise will be provided.
    • Babies and young children must never be left alone unsupervised with any dog.
    • Even well-behaved children are still children. They do silly things from time to time and sometimes those silly things can hurt or frighten a dog. Try to provide your dog with a quiet retreat area where he can go to safely escape from the children if he needs to.
    • Even as the children get older, parents must understand that getting a dog requires an ongoing commitment to the supervision and training of both the dog and the children to assure a safe and happy relationship for all.
    • Puppies are a lot of work! Young families in which all the children are babies and pre-school age, are well advised to delay getting a dog until the youngest child is at least five years old.
    • Many families with young children choose a puppy believing they are safer, easier to train, and more adaptable than older, larger pets. But this isn’t always true. Because puppies are fragile, require much more time and care, and are prone to play-related scratching and biting, they may not be appropriate for homes with young children.
    • The best choice for most families is to look for a young adult dog who has previously lived successfully with children.
    • Look for a dog who obviously LOVES kids and not merely tolerates them.
    • The best way to teach your children how to be responsible pet caregivers is to be one yourself.
    • Parents should never assume that they are getting the dog “for the kids”—that the children will be primarily responsible for the dog’s care. No matter how old the children, the adults must understand that the dog’s daily needs, training and care will be their responsibility.
    • Taking care of the dog can be shared by all family members. Children can, and should, be assigned tasks appropriate to their ages and abilities.
    • Pre-adolescent kids may be intensely involved with their dog, capable of handling much of the dog’s care and training.  As they become teens, kids’ social, athletic, and other interests may take precedence, and the dog may not continue to get as much attention.
    • Think ahead. Dogs will often live 12-15 years. As the children grow and leave home, it will be the parent’s sole responsibility to continue to fulfill the dog’s daily needs.

Selecting a Dog for a Multi-Pet Household
Living with multiple dogs can double the pleasure and double the fun but sharing your life with more than one dog is not without its unique considerations and challenges.  Here are just a few of the special considerations to keep in mind when making that decision about whether it will be one or more dogs you keep. More than one pet can add to the pleasure of your life, if you’re prepared for it. Not thinking it through 100% can sometimes make more than one dog add up to be an unnecessary and unwanted annoyance for all involved.

    • Training time is doubled. When it comes to training, dogs learn better when worked with individually. Whether it’s training a fun new trick, loose leash walking or polite visitor greetings, multiple dogs just can’t perform well together until they master a behavior by themselves first.
    • We want our dogs to get along and enjoy being with each other, but it’s possible to create too much of a good thing. Dogs that spend all day-everyday together often become so bonded to each other that they experience extreme stress in the absence of their counterpart. Something as simple as a vet or groomer visit – even choosing to take one dog for a walk and not the other – can become an unnecessarily stressful experience for the dog at home. Magnify this stress ten-fold when one dog passes away. Owners of multiple dog households can help inoculate their dogs against this type of stress by practicing the following:
      • If you practice crate training, make sure each dog has and uses his own crate.
      • Practice walking your dogs separately or take them on separate dog-friendly errand-running adventures each week. Leave a wonderful chew bone or stuffed KONG for the dog that stays home.
      • Integrate “apart time” into your dogs’ daily routine.

    • Dogs who live with other dogs have built in play pals! They can help keep each other occupied throughout the day, and their antics can be quite entertaining. However, similar-aged dogs who spend hours on end engaged in rambunctious play are at risk for developing an overly rough and tumble play style that could contribute to bully-ish tendencies when out with other dogs. Dogs with regular access to rough play with other dogs are also at a greater risk for developing leash aggression. Because they spend so much time engaged in play, they begin to think they should have equal access to every dog they see and get frustrated when leashed out in public, unable to run and greet fellow canines. Excessive barking and lunging out of frustration is the result, and in extreme cases, that frustration turns into aggression. (Think doggie road rage!)
    • When managing dog-to-dog play, owners should watch for give and take exchanges between dogs. If one dog is always pinning the other to the ground or always the one doing the chasing and never letting himself be chased, that dog may be coming on a little too strong for the liking of his playmates and should be taught to redirect some of his energy and focus.
    • While each household is unique, there are some generalizations to consider when deciding which gender dog to add to your family at any given time. The most obvious consideration in a male/female pairing is the prevention of unwanted, accidental litters. Dogs of the same sex, similar age and the same breed are more likely to undergo a power struggle as they reach maturity. For this reason, sometimes the best pairings are dogs of opposite sex, but all dogs are individuals making it important to evaluate the personality of your existing dog(s), not just the gender, when considering a new canine companion. In addition, training and management go a long way toward creating a harmonious household of dogs regardless of age, breed or sex.
    • Special consideration should be taken when integrating a puppy into a household with an elderly or ailing dog. Don’t allow the puppy to continually pester the older dog or allow an older dog to unnecessarily intimidate and frighten the puppy. Closely manage interactions to ensure that dogs on both ends of the age spectrum have a positive experience with each other. Puppies 14-weeks and younger hold a “puppy license” that often allows them to get away with things that won’t fly in the eyes of older dogs as they approach 16-weeks, so be mindful of a potential change in dynamics as the puppy ages.
    • Whether raising a puppy with the resident feline or adding an adult dog to the mix, a little management goes a long way toward fostering a peaceful co-existence. Consider creating a “safe-haven” for the cat by installing a baby gate in one room of the house. This allows the dog and cat to familiarize themselves with each other without the dog being able to engage in a chase. It also prevents unwanted pillaging of the litter box and cat food dish! As the novelty begins to wear off under controlled settings, it will become easier to teach your dog how to properly conduct himself around the cat.