Before you get a Dog

09 Mar 2008 | by | Posted in: Wag Wiki

We’ve all heard it, maybe from a friend or co-worker, “Do you know of anyone that wants a dog”? Before you get a dog, there are several things you need to think about to get the right dog for you. 

Your lifestyle

Are you an active, outdoors type, a couch potato or something in between?  Dogs have been bred over the centuries to do different jobs.  Even though few of today’s dogs are called on to use these talents, the selected instincts are still there and will influence the behavior of any dog you choose.  Mixed breeds are mixtures of something and may exhibit an unusual group of characteristics depending on the breeds involved and what any dog gets from its ancestors.

You need to do research into the uses and personalities of each breed you are considering or of the breeds that make up a mixed breed dog.  There is a great deal of information on-line from breed clubs.  You can always interview breeders.  A responsible breeder will be glad to tell you the pros and cons of their breed since they want to see their dogs in happy "forever" homes.

Just because you fall in love with a cute puppy, remember that in about six to eight months you will have an almost full grown dog.  Your adorable few pounds of puppy can become 80 pounds of pure power over night.

Your living space

Do you have the right space and facilities for the dog you are considering?  All dogs need exercise.  Different breeds have different requirements.  A five pound Chihuahua may need to be quite busy, but with a little effort on  your part, the five pound dog can get quite worn out in a small apartment and needs only a few short trips pit for a "potty break" during the day.

Your free time

As a rule of thumb, the larger the dog, the more exercise it needs.  You never want to count on just putting your dog out without a secure, fenced yard.  It is a complex world out there and whatever can go wrong probably will if you just turn your dog loose to run, plus, most communities have strict laws prohibiting loose dogs.  

Do you work all day?  Do you have a lot of social engagements?  If your life is too full of important activities perhaps fish would make better pets.  Dogs are social by nature and don’t do well left alone for long, extended periods of time.  Once your dog has grown up, it can handle the 8 to 5 work day as long as  you have time to share when you come home.  There are also "doggy daycare" and in-home pet sitting services available to take up the slack time.  If you want to have a good, happy dog, you need time.                                                                                                                                          

Your expectations

If you are getting a dog for your children, be aware that in about 90% of the cases, you will do all the jobs involved with having a dog.  Children will promise, but they really have no idea of the day in day out responsibilities.  Encourage them to take responsibility and be involved, but be ready to do it all.  Never get a dog planning to get rid of it if "the kids don’t take care of it".  That is cruel to the dog and will not teach your children anything about responsibility.  

Are you expecting that your new dog will just automatically fit in to its new family?  Think again.  A puppy is like a little child.  Puppy’s mother has taught it a lot, but these are dog behaviors, not human behaviors.  It is your job to kindly, but firmly teach your dog what is acceptable and what isn’t.  This should start as soon as you bring puppy or your adopted older dog home.  When you think of all the things you will need to teach, think of all of the things you would need to teach a one year old baby; language, potty training, manners, acceptable play, to mention a few.  Your puppy will learn what it needs to learn in much shorter time than a child with consistent training, but it needs to be taught.

If you adopt a more mature dog, in all probability, it will need to learn things, too.  This dog will bring its own baggage which may or may not be helpful.  In most cases, the mature dog will learn faster than the puppy, but may have several things to unlearn.

Either a puppy or a mature dog will benefit from attending obedience classes with you.  This helps form a bond between you and your dog and helps your dog see you as the leader.

Your personality

A final thing to consider is your personality.  Some breeds of dogs do best with a firm, no nonsense approach and some are fine with a softer, more lenient person.  The size of the dog doesn’t determine what approach is best, the breed does.  Dogs known as protective breeds will usually do better with a person who can be a benign dictator, fair but firm.  The "softer" breeds will usually be fine with a softer person.

If you are a somewhat fearful person who is looking for a dog help you feel safe, don’t get one of the breeds known for protection or stubbornness.  This type of dog will have a hard time respecting you and considering you worthy of the leadership role you must play.  This means you won’t have the kind of protection you want.  Most dogs can sense a threat to their person.  Even the softest dog has been known to rise to the occasion and display great heroics. 

No matter what your personality or what breed of dog you choose, you must be able to be consistent in how you train your dog.

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