After hearing Please can we get a dog?" from your children for the one-thousandth time, you may be considering adding a canine to the family portrait. There are many suitable options for families of all ages and activity levels. Some important first steps include finding out the best breed for you and your family and getting a clear picture of what the commitment requires. Below are key questions that need to be considered when choosing your family dog:
How old are your children? When considering a suitable breed for your family, don't assume a smaller breed will be less work. Every breed requires its own manner of care, has a unique temperament and exercise needs. And, regardless of breed, all puppies are fragile and no child should be left unsupervised with a dog of any age.
Which family member will serve as the main caretaker? Even if you're getting the dog for the kids, as the adult you are ultimately responsible for any pets you choose to bring into your house. Sure, the kids promised they'd feed and walk the dog, but If they forget, it's you who will wind up with the extra chores. It's also important to consider the preferences and needs of all family members in your decision. Is your wife afraid of or allergic to dogs?
How active is your family and how much daily exercise are you willing and able to give your dog? Can your family provide twice-daily extended walks and playtime or are you more likely to let your dog out in the backyard for exercise and bathroom breaks? Let the amount of time you can spend to exercise dictate the type of dog you get.
What are your family's favorite activities? If your family is the outdoors type, a sporting or herding breed such as a Labrador Retriever or a Border Collie that thrives on outdoor work may be a good match. For indoor types, a smaller, smooth-coated breed like a Boston Terrier or a Pug that enjoys the shelter of your home and constant companionship might be best.
Where does your family live? Is your home on the farm or in a smaller city apartment? Try to match the breed's needs with your living space. (Note: Small breeds don't always do better in small spaces and some large dogs are completely happy in apartments—do your research to find out which breed is best for your space.)
Does your family have the financial resources to care for the dog? While the purchase price is a one-time expense, there are a number of annual expenses such as food, vets bills and toys, which can add up to several hundred dollars. If the dog has an unexpected illness or injury, vet bills can run in the thousands of dollars.
Should my family get a puppy or an adult? This question should be examined carefully. If you want a young puppy, consider that you are committing to a ten year (or longer) relationship. Puppies also require significant training. One option is to adopt a purebred rescue dog, which allows you the predictability of a particular breed, but means you don't have to spend time and energy raising and training a puppy.
Where will I obtain my dog? Once you've made your decision on a breed, make sure your find a responsible breeder who will provide you with a healthy, well-bred puppy. If you go to a animal shelter, make sure you ask the right pre-adoption questions to make sure that dog is the best fit for your family.
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