Choosing your Dog

here are several choices to be made in adopting a dog.

Why a Puppy?

If a small bundle of joy is what you want, then a puppy is the best. There are some details that need to be addressed in puppies. They are a full time commitment. You become the puppy’s parent and need to now teach it everything. The puppy has to get vaccinations to keep it from getting very sick around other dogs. They need to be house trained and will chew on anything in sight. If you have a large amount of free time and wish to know every detail of your dogs life then get a puppy. If you go to work all day long and have little free time don’t get a puppy. If the time isn’t devoted at the beginning then a puppy often turns into a destructive or uncontrollable adult. These are often the dogs that destroy the house while you work. These are also the dogs that some people turn into shelters as unmanageable. They are salvageable, but that too requires effort, and some people aren’t willing to try.

If you still want a puppy here are some tips. Don’t let them do anything as puppies that you do not want the adult dog to do. If you don’t want muddy furniture from your adult Labrador, don’t let the puppy on the couch. House training is a must or you will spent the rest of the dog’s life picking up mistakes. There will be numerous mistakes until the puppy learns exactly what you are trying to teach it. Dogs are considered puppies until they are one year old. They need to eat a special puppy formula food until then. Some larger breeds may need an altogether different diet to avoid later growth problems. When in doubt about anything consult a veterinarian.

Why an Older Dog?

Most animals in a shelter are older animals. Often their owners were moving and the dog couldn’t come with them. Some were pets of the elderly and they died leaving the dogs to the shelter. Unlike puppies older dogs are usually already housebroken. The shelter can often give information on why the dog was brought in, or under what circumstances it was found. Older dogs are often better than puppies in that they already know something. They normally don’t need to be completely trained. Many have had some basic training.

Another advantage to an older animal is they already know the basic drill. Normally they can be left home alone until the kids come home from school or you come home from work. They are normally past the teething chewing stage and have slightly less energy than a puppy. Some already know how to deal with cats or other dogs and pets. They also know you saved them or need them. Unlike puppies they know a little about life and know that you can take them away from this place.

Older dogs are fully capable of bonding to a new family. There is nothing preventing them from being as loyal to a new family as they were to their last one. Some may need retraining, but that is not normally difficult. A large percentage of dogs do not live their entire lives in one family. Often a family gives up on them between six months and two years of age. These dogs are just growing up and are often taken in faster than the six year old who’s elderly owner passed away. All good dogs deserve a chance.

Male or Female?

This totally depends on your wish. Their are advantages to either sex and both can be handfuls. I am just going to write some basic characteristics for either side. One thing is that if the dog is spayed/neutered many undesirable behaviors can be avoided or held back. Male dogs are often prone to roaming and fighting, at least more than females are. Both these characteristics can be lessened by neutering. They are slightly less protective of their owners than females and want to mark their territory. If they are not neutered and catch the scent of an unspayed female they will do anything to be there rather than with you. Females will also roam when in heat for no reason other than to find a mate.

As a group females are often more protective and less likely to roam. They fight less because their hierarchy is established by age rather than strength. The older one is normally deferred to. In purebreds females are often smaller than males and normally more expensive. This is the reason there are more male dogs in shelters than females, they were cheaper to begin with. One drawback in unspayed females is heat. It occurs twice a year and makes it almost impossible to take the dog outside without meeting males. Also the females themselves try to get out if males can not get in.

This information is general. It does not mean all males will fight and roam, or that all females will be protective. There are exceptions to any rule and these are just basic guidelines.

Spaying and Neutering Facts
Spayed and neutered pets are better, more affectionate companions.
Spayed and neutered pets live longer, healthier lives.
Spaying eliminates the possibility of uterine or ovarian cancer.
Spaying before the first heat cycle greatly reduces the chance of breast cancer.
Neutering reduces the incidence of prostate cancer and disorders.
Did you know that there are over 70,000 puppies and kittens born in the US every single day? That’s 7 times the number of human babies born a day.
A single unspayed female dog, coupled with an UN-neutered male, and their offspring, and their offspring’s offspring can result in the birth of 67,000 puppies in just 6 years.
One last fact, most dogs documented as bitters are un neutered male dogs. They are normally more territorial and likely to bite, children are the most common victims.

Purebred or Mixed Breed?

Purebreds are dogs with known parents. They are in a set category and their behavior can often be predicted. Many were bred for a certain purpose or job. Some are hunting dogs and others herding dogs. As a breed some are good with children and others are dogs which bond best to a single person. Such as Labrador Retrievers are currently the most popular breed in this country. They are a good family pet an like bringing things you throw back to you. They are a normally within a certain weight an and height when they are full grown. With a purebred dog they are most likely to act within a certain set parameter of behavior. The above link is to what I believe in a rather complete breed listing along with several ways of categorization, including dogs that are good with children, or make good jogging companions.

There are also many problems with purebreds. Now when a breed becomes popular, often due to a movie, uncaring breeders often try to make as many of them as possible. This leads to health and genetic problems. It also leads to overpopulation when the trend ends. Labrador Retrievers are now being over bred. They end up with problems like hip dysplasia and bad behavior. They no longer fit the breed standard and can act erratically. As a breed the lab has suffered because of over breeding and high demand. The next popular breed will probably face the same fate. This is not to say getting a purebred dog is bad or hurtful. It is meant as a warning. If you get a purebred be sure before you sign on the dotted line.

Another sign of over breeding can be seen in rottweillers Many people bought these beautiful intelligent dogs to guard their homes. The dogs ended up tied in backyards and misunderstood. Now people are afraid of Rottweillers because of those same owners. They never trained or socialized their 150 pound dogs. People have been attacked by Rottweillers because of poor training. Rottweillers make wonderful family dogs, but because of over breeding and poor care the animals have been ruined for a long time. Health problems like those of the Labrador persist.

If you do have your heart set on a purebred make sure you know about the breed. Books and breeders can help, as can shelter or rescue volunteers. They most often meet the problems with over breeding and poor training. If the breeder you pick isn’t upfront about their breed’s problems that may not be the best place to get your dog.

Mixed breeds are definitely more interesting. They are often a mix of at least two known breeds of dogs. Known mixes are often called crosses while anything beyond two is called a mutt. Mutts are America’s most popular pet. They will always outweigh purebreds in popularity. Crosses are often somewhat predictable. They normally take traits from both of their parent breeds and mix them up.

What Size?

This is one of the very valid questions. What size do you want the dog to be? Do you want a little animal that you can forever carry around, or do you want a dog that with a bark can deter intruders? Will the dog live outside or inside? Do you want a dog that can’t jump your invisible dog fence, or one that can leap into your car? This is a very serious consideration in choosing a dog.

Large breeds are prone to joint problems and specific medical problems, as are smaller breeds to their own problems. Large breeds are also prone to bloat, but patellar luxation is most often seen in small dogs. Larger dogs are often not allowed in apartments or rentals out of the belief that they are more destructive. A terrier is more likely to take apart your couch than a greyhound is, but the terrier is allowed in an apartment and a greyhound might not be.

Here are some practical facts:
Smaller dogs often live longer than larger breeds. Some large breeds only live to eight years, while some small breeds can hit eighteen.
Smaller dogs mean smaller excrement. They eat less and require less exercise on average.
Large dogs are normally able to deter burglars just by their presence, while smaller dogs can only warn you.
Small dogs warnings are also often enough.
Any size dog is still a dog.
Some larger breeds, Saluki or Wolfhound among others are able to leap a six foot fence, making fencing more difficult.

Form vs. Function?

Function is also a large thing to consider in getting a dog. Do you want a lap dog or a guard dog? Should it be smart enough to do chores or watch the children? Dogs can do all these jobs. This is where a purebred is sometimes better. Expectations can be high and most purebreds were created to do those specific jobs. Consulting the breed listing in Purebred vs. mixed above will help on how to chose a dog for a certain purposes.

There are several jobs dogs excel at. Collies herd sheep, german shepherds guard, and newfoundlands like water. Dogs are often grouped by their functions, not temperament. Temperament should be a deciding factor. Some people want a dog that could be a jogging partner, while others want one that is content with a walk around the block. Some dogs have higher energy requirements and others are more sedate in the house than outside.

A dog should be chosen so that it fits your lifestyle. If you are an avid outdoors person, then you will probably want a dog that can go with you. Almost any dog might fit, but choosing a purebred might be a good bet. If you just want a companion almost any dog will do, it just depends on what type of companionship.

Will it get along with my other pets?

Dogs all have different personalities. Some people test their dogs on how good they are with other pets or other dogs. If a dog is raised around cats it is normally fine with other cats. Strange cats, other than family pack mates are often treated the same as squirrels, just a game. If a new dog is introduced into your family make sure to watch it closely with other pets for a while before you leave them alone together. Also watch a new dog carefully with any children. Dogs normally get along with other dogs rather well. Once the ranks are established they are often fine with it. Here are some extra words of warning though:
Male dogs will often fight each other for leadership. Sometimes it is best to not have two male dogs at the same time.
Two female dogs can get along better, depending on breed. The older one is almost always the highest ranking.
Having a male and female dog works the best in a relationship. The dogs always get along.
New puppies should always be watched with an older dog. Sometimes the older dog doesn’t know how to deal with the younger one.
Some breeds of dogs can only get along with a new dog if it is introduced as a puppy. These are normally the very pack oriented breeds. Only young animals can be added to their pack.
Some dogs for whatever reason never get along with other animals or other dogs. Often theses animals were badly socialized as puppies and don’t know how to react.

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