Choosing The Right Dog
The big day is approaching! After listening to your kids beg for a puppy for years, you're finally ready to give in and buy a dog. Before you take this big step, stop to consider a few factors that should influence your choice of dog. After all, you are about to enter into a 10-15 year commitment, and you want to make sure you're prepared!
First, reconsider your impulse to begin with a puppy. Puppies are undeniably adorable and appealing, but they require lots of exercise, training, and supervision. Depending on your work schedule and the ages of your children, do you really have time to handle a rambunctious pup? Puppies demand your constant attention for most of their waking hours! Many dogs given up to animal shelters are under one year old, surrendered by people who underestimated the energy of their puppy and the time required to help him grow up right.
Many people mistakenly assume they can mold a puppy to be exactly what they're looking for in a dog. This doesn't hold true for dogs any more than it does for kids! Pups are born with innate personalities which manifest themselves as the dog grows up. By starting with an older dog, you will have some idea in advance of your dog's personality and preferences. If your main concern is to have a family dog that will be safe with your children, for example, you can search for a dog whose personality already shows those traits. Most animal shelters and rescue groups evaluate their dogs for key temperament issues and can readily assist you in finding a dog that will suit your lifestyle.
Another factor to consider in choosing a dog is breed, or lack thereof. Dog breeds are well defined and easily recognized, and indeed many people associate the work "dog" with a smart Golden Retriever or German Shepherd. In doing so, you miss out on a world of lovable animals who would be glad to devote themselves to your family! Mixed-breed dogs can be every bit as loyal, loving, and playful as pedigrees, with one distinct advantage over their purebred cousins: they tend to live longer, healthier lives. Many breeds have been so closely bred to produce champion bloodlines that certain health and temperament problems are becoming more and more common. For example, the incidence of hip dysplasia in Goldens and Shepherds is above 75%! Health problems associated with genetic inbreeding are practically unheard of in mixed breed dogs. Generally, by choosing a mixed breed, you will avoid most hereditary health problems and gain a hardy, robust companion.
If your family has nevertheless decided on a purebred puppy, the last factor to consider is where to buy your dog. The only safe place to acquire a purebred puppy is from a breeder, where you can visit and meet the parents (canine and human) of your new pup. Mother dogs pass many of their personality traits on to their puppies, so meeting and liking the mother helps ensure you'll get a puppy you can live with. Seeing firsthand the environment your pup grew up in will also help you avoid the inbreeding and ill health associated with dogs from breeding farms, or "puppy mills". If the puppies and their living space aren't clean and sanitary, find another breeder!
By all means, before you go out and spend hundreds of dollars on a purebred puppy, stop by your local animal shelter to see the dogs available for adoption. In addition to a devoted, lifelong family friend, by choosing a puppy - or, better yet, an adolescent or adult dog - from a shelter, you get an even greater reward. You save a life!
by Shelley Wester
making the world a better place