Now that you are decided on getting a dog, your next step is to decide on what kind of a dog to get. In this article, I’ll be giving you tips on how to decide on what dog is right for you. Now, you may already have your heart set on a dog of a certain breed, but before you rush into buying a puppy of that breed, examine if what you want in a dog matches up with what care you can actually provide. Remember, we are doing away with impulsiveness as this is not the way a truly responsible dog owner would approach dog ownership. By the end of this article, and with the help of the questionnaires that follow after it, what I’d like you to walk away with is a set of criteria to help you on your hunt for the right dog for you. Here are some dog characteristics that need consideration:
Some like them big and huggable, others like them small and cute. What you must remember about dog sizes is that bigger dogs will require bigger spaces, and smaller dogs obviously less so. If you are an apartment dweller or live in a small home without a yard, you might be wise to go for small to medium sized dogs instead. If you are going to get a big dog while living in a small space make sure you have ready access to wide open spaces and have the time to exercise your dog frequently; or look into medium to large breeds that have low exercise requirements and that don’t mind confined apartment spaces.
Aside from space requirements, consider also what size of dog your budget can sustain. Small dogs are better for a limited budget for providing basic needs such as food and veterinary care. Compared to dogs that are 5kg in weight or less, big dogs around 25kg up will cost at least 3 times more to feed. In addition, medication dosages in the event of injury or disease will also be much more expensive. It’s also safe to assume that big dogs will consume more of your water and electricity as well, especially where cleaning and grooming are concerned.
Also important: think about how you will be transporting him/her, be it from your home to the vet, to the groomer or a daycare; or from your apartment down to the ground floor. Will your dog, at his/her adult weight fit in your car? Can you fit your dog’s crate inside your car? Or do you even have a car to transport your dog? Do you need to carry your dog from one area to another? Are you physically capable of doing so, or will there be someone around to help you do that? These are just some of the questions that you need to consider before deciding on what size of a dog is appropriate for you.
The common mistake that people make, where size is an issue, is that they only see as far as the cute little puppy that they buy. If you are getting a puppy, don’t forget to imagine what life with him or her will be like once he or she is fully grown.
There are people who enjoy long, silky haired or thick coated dogs, while others prefer dogs that require minimal grooming. Since we live in a tropical climate, you want to be careful about getting a heavy coated dog that you can’t keep comfortable. For our climate, short-coated, light- or thin-coated dogs are the best choice. Aspins or Philippine Native Dogs from a shelter have coats that are naturally adapted to our climate and are therefore highly recommended.
I feel I have to include here a special note about the Nordic breed dogs such as the Siberian Husky and the Malamute. I have to confess that I find the ever-increasing popularity of these breeds in our country quite baffling. While I know certain dog owners who do well by their Nordic breed dog, most have no clue how to take good care of them. Many Huskies and Malamutes in the Philippines endure daily stress from having to live in the heat of our environment. Frequently, their stress translates into outbreaks of skin diseases that cause the animal even more discomfort. If you didn’t already know, these dogs are built to survive in below 0 degree temperatures and yet many dog owners expect them to thrive in the warm and sometimes sweltering Philippine climate in the absence of any type of adequate air conditioning. If you are aspiring to care for a double-coated or heavy coated breed of dog make sure you can keep him or her comfortable – and that means providing them with air conditioning, cooling pads or other temperature regulating accessories, and maybe even a pool to dip in. Even though some of these dogs adapt to our warm climate, in general, conditions will still be below optimum for them.
Aside from how light or heavy a dog’s coat is also investigate a breed of dog you are interested in for how heavily they tend to shed. There are heavy and light shedders for both short-haired and long-haired breeds. There are also seasonal shedders and dogs that shed the whole year round. Consider how much shedding you can tolerate cleaning off of your furniture and clothing on a regular basis.
Another thing to consider is the amount of dander produced by a dog. Dander refers to flakes of old skin that a dog sheds, that is potentially allergy-inducing to certain people. Because dander comes from the dog’s skin and not the coat of hair, it is possible that even dogs who shed minimally and dogs that are hairless can produce allergic responses in susceptible people. Therefore, be careful about buying dogs of a breed that is supposedly hypoallergenic. Studies have shown that amounts of allergens produced by so-called hypoallergenic dogs are not significantly less than those produced by dogs of other breeds. The amount of allergens produced varies between individual dogs and not between breeds. Consider fostering a dog from a shelter instead of buying a puppy if you or a family member is prone to allergies. That way you can see whether or not a dog produces any allergic reactions, before committing fully to his/her care – an option you will not have when buying a puppy.
Take a moment to consider how active of a person you are. Do you like going on long walks or jogs? Do you like going out to parks and spending the day outdoors and are you looking for a dog to accompany you on your outdoor activities?
Active dogs will require your time and energy so don’t get a working or performance type dog if you don’t plan to give him an outlet for his physical and mental energy. For instance, it would be a poor choice for you to get a Belgian Malinois, a Husky or even a Labrador if you don’t plan to actively exercise and train him. These are all dogs that need high levels of physical exertion in their life. Even certain small dogs such as the Jack Russell Terrier, the Boston Terrier and the Beagle need a whole lot of exercise. Without this high level of activity to occupy a dog of these and other active breeds, your dog will likely develop obsessive and destructive habits at the cost of your furniture and other belongings around the house. At worst, these highly active dogs may develop aggressive behaviors. Working dogs and performance type dogs also will do better with more experienced owners who know the importance of training and regular exercise for the dog. They will also thrive in homes that can provide large open spaces where the dog can run and explore. At the very least, you should seek the advise of a professional trainer or behavior consultant to help you with an active type dog.
Lap dogs or less active dogs may be best for you if you are more of an indoor kind of person, and who can only devote the bare minimum to walking and training your dog. Dogs like the Shihtzu, Pekingese and Pomeranian are examples of these. Bulldogs and Basset Hounds also require minimal exercise. Bear in mind, however, that even if you get a dog whose exercise requirements are low, daily physical and mental stimulation are still essential for a balanced life whichever kind of dog you are getting.
One of the most important things you want to consider is the behavior and temperament that your dog will potentially have. While behavior and temperament can be affected hugely by early socialization and training, it is good for you to be aware of the behavioral tendencies of any breeds you are looking at. This knowledge will help you select a dog that is best suited for your life situation.
For example, if you have or are planning to have a family and kids in the near future, there are certain breeds that may be better around children and that are more sociable in general. The Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever and the Poodle are some of the breeds that spring to mind as family dogs.
If you already have other pets in the house, you should also research if a breed is suitable to live with and be around other animals. For instance, certain terrier breeds and hounds with very high prey drives might not be the best choice for you if you have other small animals such as cats running around the house. Early socialization towards these animals can counter behavioral tendencies but this should be done very early in the puppy’s life and is best accomplished by an experienced dog owner or overseen by a qualified trainer.
A common mistake is that people buy dogs based on what behaviors they see a certain breed demonstrate on a TV show or in a movie. Be aware that the behaviors that you watch a dog perform on TV are trained behaviors. They are not necessarily reflective of the actual temperament of a dog. Also do not base your choice of dog on one encounter of a dog of a certain breed. Try to meet and interact with as many dogs of the breed that you are interested in so you really get a good feel for them.
If you are a first-time dog owner, it may be best not to acquire a dog of a breed that has a tendency to become behaviorally unstable due to a lack of or improper training. For example, I have met many first-time or inexperienced dog owners who bought a Chow Chow that would later on develop aggressive behaviors due to lack of socialization and training. Chows can be very loyal and sweet companion dogs if raised, socialized and trained properly. However, they also have a tendency for aggression due to their highly independent and strong-willed nature. Unfortunately, many of these owners that have consulted with me regarding their Chows’ aggression had no idea that this is a behavioral tendency inherent to the breed, and they would only later on realize that this breed requires special knowledge and some level of experience.
What you have to remember about behavior and temperament is that there is a certain part of the dog’s genetics that contributes to some tendencies, but there is also a large part that is the product of experiences, training and socialization. To avoid that your dog develops behavior problems of any kind, put yourself at an advantage by researching breed temperaments and behavioral tendencies.
So now that you have gone over this list of dog characteristics, you should be able to determine what you want and what you need in a dog, and what care you can provide, and find a middle ground between these. Remember, if you are looking at certain breeds, do your research well before buying or adopting a puppy of that breed. However, also bear in mind that individuals within a breed may also have different personalities from one another as determined by factors such as their early experiences, and early socialization and training. Being informed about the breed of the dog you are getting will help you decide if it is, in fact, the breed for you, and if you can afford to provide all of the dog’s basic needs.
Here are 2 questionnaires to guide you further in determining what you are looking for, or what you should be looking for in a dog:
This questionnaire should be answered by people who as yet haven’t put any thought into what breed or what kind of dog to get.
This questionnaire is for people who have one or more breeds already in mind.