Ask AKC with Lisa Peterson


December 2006

Dear Lisa: My brother wants to give our 70-year-old father, who lives alone, a dog for Christmas. Dad is very active and plays golf several times a week. However, he likes to travel during the winter months to warmer locales. I'm worried about what might happen to the dog when he travels south for several months. Is there a way to work this out? --- Silver Lining Solution

Dear Silver: Studies have shown that people who have pets live longer, happier, more productive lives. However, before you go out and grab the first "bowzer" that comes along, there are a couple of questions your family should consider. First, wait until after the hectic holiday season before finding the perfect pet and next bring your father into the decision making process.


How to Pick a Breed to Fit Your Lifestyle

  1. How active are you? -- Before you decide on what breed of dog, ask yourself what your physical capabilities are. Can you withstand the rigors of twice daily extended walks and playtime or are you more likely to take a leisurely stroll with your dog for short durations.

  2. What are your favorite activities? -- Every dog was bred to do a certain job with humans. If you are the outdoors type, a sporting or herding breed that thrives on outdoor work sounds like a good match. If you are the indoors type, a smaller, smooth-coated breed which enjoys the shelter of your home and constant companionship is the dog for you.

  3. Where do you live? -- Is your home on the farm or in a tiny city apartment? Try to match the breed's needs with your living space. Having a Border Collie that thrives on herding, may not do well in a small city abode when he'd rather be home on the range.

  4. How much do you travel? And if you travel, what happens to the dog when you are away from home? Many times dogs can depend on different humans in different locations and be very happy with the transition.

  5. Are financial resources available? While the purchase price or adoption fee is a one-time expense, yearly maintenance with food, vets bills and toys can add up to several hundred dollars a year. Know that you have the ability to financially care for your pet before you get a dog.


Dear Lisa: My daughter would like to get a dog, but we have a cat. I'm worried about how the cat might react to a new addition to our household. How difficult is it to introduce a new dog to an existing cat? --- Fighting Like Cats and Dogs

Dear Fighting: Relationships between cats and dogs cover the spectrum from best buddies to mortal enemies. Interspecies match-ups can work depending on the personality and age of the animals to be introduced. Ideally, you would want to raise a kitten with a puppy when both are young and open to learning when an early bond between them will last a lifetime. When one of the pair is already established things are a bit more complicated.

Before you decide what kind of dog to get, you should assess your cat. How old is your cat? Is it young and willing to accept new animals or is it very old and set in its ways. How friendly is it? Put together a profile of your cat before deciding on a new dog. Once you have this done, picking a dog will be a whole lot easier for you.


Picking a Breed

Let's say you have a fairly large, older cat that tends to bully and is very territorial, a worse case scenario. I would suggest you look into getting a young puppy. Now while all this new activity will probably not endear the puppy to the cat immediately, it will be best for the puppy as she will grow up with the cat and learn to accept whatever it dishes out. If you try to bring a large, full-grown dog into the house, the cat would feel even more threatened.

If you get the young pup, it will learn to give an ornery cat a wide berth. You may find a few claws stuck in the pup's nose but it will be a lesson she won't soon forget. Most puppies learn to adapt to the "alpha cat" and problems are rare.

Read up on the different breeds to learn about their temperaments and adult size at and make a list of choices. Then call reputable breeders available on the website and talk to them.


Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at and she may select it to be answered here in Ask AKC.

(c) 2006 The American Kennel Club, Inc.