Everything Animals: Picking the perfect pooch, Part 1
Shelburne, Vermont - February 22, 2011
Adding a dog to your household can be quite overwhelming. Once that initial decision is made then the things to consider seem endless. Luckily, there are a few simple questions you can ask yourself to help you start your search.
"Buying a dog is sort of like buying a car," says Dr. Liam Bisson of Shelburne Veterinary Hospital. "You want to do your homework ahead of time and make sure you're getting what you want."
Dr. Bisson says there are three key things to keep in mind and consider when starting your search.
1. Get a dog for the lifestyle that you have, not for the lifestyle that you want.
Dr. Bisson says a prime example of that is people who want to take up a new exercise regime, like jogging or hiking, and want a dog that would be a workout companion. He warns that life is unpredictable and even those with the best intentions when it comes to a new workout plan may find they aren't able to take it up, at least not to the level they'd like. That could leave a dog that was meant to be a jogging companion under-stimulated and restless.
"In my opinion it's always much easier to bring a lower energy dog up to your level of activity or your lifestyle versus bringing a high energy dog down," Dr. Bisson says. Matching a dog to your current lifestyle will make for a much more compatible partnership.
2. Pick a dog that physically fits your living situation.
"One thing to consider with that is physically where you live," Dr. Bisson says. "Do you live in an apartment, do you live in a home, do you have a fenced-in yard? In general smaller dogs do better in smaller spaces and bigger dogs do better in bigger situations."
Living situations go beyond physical space. Dr. Bisson says the number of people in your household, as well as their ages, should be taken into account. Some dogs are simply not suited for small children.
Another thing to take into account is your own size. Dr. Bisson says to be realistic about your physical capabilities; it can be dangerous to get a dog that's too big for you to safely control. For example, a smaller person may want to think twice before getting a dog that outweighs them, especially if they'll be walking them on a leash. This isn't a cut-and-dry rule, however. Dr. Bisson says proper training can go a long way toward helping a big dog control their strength.
3. Do you want a couch buddy or a jogging buddy?
"Again, this goes back to being honest with yourself," Dr. Bisson says. Certain breeds are better suited to certain lifestyles and activity levels. Some dogs are primarily companion dogs, like many of the 'toy' breeds, while others are historically working dogs. Bear in mind that every dog, like every person, has a unique temperament, so Dr. Bisson says keeping an open mind can't hurt.
Once you've answered those three questions and have a better idea of what you want from your dog, how do you then go about finding which breed fits those needs?
"One of the easiest ways is to go to a bookstore and get a book," Dr. Bisson says. There are numerous books that list hundreds of dog breeds. "They have useful information like the history of the dog, size, temperament, what it was used for."
"Do the homework and do the investigation ahead of time to make sure you get a dog that fits into your lifestyle," Dr. Bisson says.
Now hopefully you have some tips to help you narrow down your dog search, but there are still lots of other things to consider: Should you get a dog from a breeder or from a rescue? Do you want a puppy or an adult dog? Dr. Bisson will have some tips to help you answer those questions in next week's Everything Animals.
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