As a family, you may have decided the house could use a new addition, and that it will come in the form of a dog. Sounds simple, right? You may find yourself wondering for selecting the right dog for your family. It’s not that easy if you are going to do it the right way. One of the biggest mistakes people make is selecting a dog based on the “cute factor.” That’s like choosing a mate based on looks alone; you wouldn’t do that because personality matters every bit as much. So when selecting your new dog, don’t just go by how cute the dog is, but do further research to learn about the breed’s characteristics, with the help of head trainer Ryan Matthews.
It is absolutely vital that you choose a dog that fits your lifestyle. If you live in New York City in a 700 square foot apartment, it would not be wise to get a hyper lab. As dog owners, we are not being fair to dogs when we cannot provide them the quality of life they deserve. This goes for lazy dogs as well; if you are an active person and would enjoy running with your dog, don’t get a Saint Bernard as a running mate. I have seen many elderly people with dominant breed dogs like German Shepherds and Boxers. It’s not that they shouldn’t get these breeds, but these types of dogs usually have high prey instincts (such as chasing squirrels that move quickly) and if not trained properly, they can easily pull someone down when on a walk, resulting in injury.
To start, you should have your entire family or household sit down and discuss what type of dog each person wants, allowing everyone to have input. This ensures that the search is intentional and results in the right dog instead of coming home with the first cute puppy to jump in your child’s lap. The discussion should include everyone sharing their expectations or hope for the pet; for example, one person may want a running partner where another wants a dog to sit on their lap while they watch television.
After you identify the characteristics you want in a dog, such as an exercise partner, you should do research into the breed of dog you could run with. I have a breed selection questionnaire on my website www.WorldOfDogTraining.com to help you select the right type of dog. This allows you to consider what could happen if the person who wants to run with the dog isn’t home or is unable. If you pick out a hyper breed, which is good for running, you need to know that you are committing to a 15 year obligation to continue that exercise. This is why everyone needs to be on the same page before a dog is brought home. There needs to be consistency as well; for example, all members of the household need to decide to use the same commands, such as “down” when the dog jumps up when another person might say “no.” “Down” could mean lay down, and “no” is to stop jumping. Whatever you decide the commands mean, they need to be consistent and there should be a discussion about it.
Another thing you need to discuss is who is going to be responsible for feeding the dog. It doesn’t have to be the same person day in and day out, but I recommend that it be one person for an entire week and then have another family member take over for a week. The reason is that it prevents miscommunication. If one person feeds the dog and leaves, and then another person comes along and feeds it, assuming that no one fed the dog, clearly there would be an issue. A week isn’t an excessive time period to commit to feed the dog, but it’s a long enough commitment for it to become routine. In the course of this discussion you may find that the person who wants the dog the most is too busy and the other family members aren’t willing to help out as much as they should. If the entire family cannot commit to giving a dog what it requires, you may find getting a pet isn’t the best idea for you family at the current moment.
If after careful discussion, your family determines they are ready for the responsibility of bringing a new canine family member into your home, the next decision is where to find your new dog. You may also be wondering if you should get a puppy or a rescue dog. The answer is; it depends. Puppies are cute and it’s rewarding to watch them grow; however, it’s not so fun to let them out to go potty every 30 minutes in the winter time. So, if you are able and willing to put forth the effort of having a puppy, and everyone in the household is on board, then a puppy may be a nice option. Another important consideration when thinking of a puppy is to factor in the cost; vet bills are much higher due to vaccinations, wellness checks, and if you are going to spay or neuter. A positive reason to choose a puppy is that you are starting with a clean slate and it can be trained to be as good as you want it to be without previous training or incorrect training to contend with.
You can get a puppy from a breeder or some rescues have puppies available for adoption. Be cautious to never get a dog that has been taken from their mother earlier than eight weeks. Dogs that have been separated from the mother too early have proven to be aggressive.
With a puppy, you have to be more consistent than with an older dog. If you would like a dog that is already mature and potty trained, a good option to consider is a rescue dog. Most major cities have a Humane Society or no-kill shelter. I would recommend looking into no-kill shelters (rescues) as the Humane Society does euthanize dogs and you may choose to not support that. On the flip side, going to such a shelter could save a dog’s life.
I do not want to discourage you from shelters; however, many of these dogs do come with existing behavioral issues that can range from fearfulness to potty challenges. It’s important to find out why the dog is at the shelter and take her on a walk. If your family wants a dog to play with, then bring dog toys and engage the dog in play at the shelter. I would caution you not to be turned off by a dog that jumps up as this behavior can easily be changed.