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  • Stacey Bell

Considering a New Dog?

I tend to be an over-thinker with a lot of things; no matter how insignificant the decision seems to be. This trait can be irritating or prevent (or at least delay) me from getting things accomplished, but in the case of getting a new furry companion it is totally warranted.


Let's take a look at why it is important to be intentional when selecting your new family member and some of the things to consider.


I am not trying to rain on your parade, really!

Thinking through the decision up front can avoid a life together that is full of struggles. After all, a good fit is critical and your canine companion could end up being a 10-15+ year commitment!


Many behavioral struggles are a result of a mismatch between the dog and their people or are quite predictable based on the breed, age, or energy level of the dog.


There are a lot of important differences between dogs (even within the same breed). These differences will affect how happy you are together. Let's dive in!





ENERGY LEVEL

The energy level of your dog will affect their exercise requirements. Seems obvious, but this is a big problem area for many families.


If you are a couch potato or a weekend warrior, getting a working breed or otherwise active dog is not ideal for you. Being active is intrinsic to who they are and as a responsible pet parent, you must provide a constructive outlet for that energy.


On the flip side of things, if you intend to compete in dog sports or dream of a hiking/running partner then a dog who prefers to nap their days away is not a good fit.


Let's get real though. Most people over-estimate how active they are. Look at last week... and the week before that. How active are you really? How would a dog fit into your lifestyle?



SIZE

Size may or may not be a big factor for you, but it does contribute to the cost of owning a dog. Everything- medication, grooming, boarding, food- is more expensive for larger dogs.


In addition, size may be something to consider if you have physical limitations that would make it difficult to handle a large dog. Certain housing arrangements may also have weight limits.


Finally, size can be a factor with young children or existing pets.



TEMPERAMENT

While this is a less obvious factor, many temperament (personality) traits are a part of who the dog is so even with training they may be difficult to compensate for or overcome if they are not suitable for your life together.


Consider...

  • Shy (stranger...um, I'd rather not) vs. Outgoing (stranger, what stranger?)

  • Sensitive (not ideal for a chaotic household) vs. Easy-Going (nothing phases this guy)

  • Tolerance for kids or other pets


It is worth mentioning that behavioral challenges like aggression, anxiety, and compulsive behaviors have a strong genetic component. While training (and sometimes medication) will help, be honest with yourself about the time and commitment this will involve.





AGE

Puppy or adult... which is right for you? Each has benefits so let's explore the pros and cons!


Puppies are so darn cute and fun AND they tend to bond instantly as they are at an age where they are primed to do so. In addition, you can raise and train the puppy yourself.


On the other hand, puppies are so much work.


Most people who have had a puppy get 'puppy amnesia' before they get their second one.

I forget where I heard the term, but I love it because it perfectly captures how quickly we forget that helping a pup through all the basic behaviors we take for granted (like house training, chewing, biting/mouthing, being alone) takes so much time and effort.


Other considerations with puppies are:

  • If you work outside the home, you will need to make arrangements for your puppy as they learn to be alone for longer durations and as they gain the physical ability to hold their bladder.

  • If you have young children, it may not be a great time to get a puppy. I know the dream of them growing up together is strong, but they both have a high need for time and attention. Most families tend to get stretched thin and feel frustrated.


Adult dogs tend to come already housetrained, chew on appropriate items, and have some basic skills. They are also a known quantity. Not only are their physical attributes established, but their personality/temperament is stable by then.


It is worth noting here that some behavioral struggles (aggression, reactivity, and anxieties among the most common) can become apparent as the dog hits sexual (6-9 months) or social maturity (18-36 months).



PUREBRED vs RESCUE

If you all know me, you know that I am a big fan of rescuing animals. I am a total sucker for rescuing the dogs who are struggling, so I totally get that sentiment of wanting to save them. I just want to urge you to consider the reality of the investments of time, energy, and money that go into helping a dog with behavioral struggles. It can be life changing.


Not all rescues have behavioral issues- many are well adjusted.

However, if the dog your are considering for adoption does, please speak to a qualified, positive trainer before you commit to adopting. This will give you a better idea of what the behavioral modification plan would entail and the alterations you would need to make to your life to help set the dog up for success.


Considering getting your dog from a breeder instead?


There are some really great breeders out there as well as irresponsible ones- the same goes with rescues.

When considering puppies, purebred puppies only have an advantage if you get them from a reputable breeder. Since many behavior problems can have a genetic component and things like pre-, peri-, and postnatal environments are a strong factor in developing puppies, picking a solid breeder is a must.


The biggest thing here is to do your research. Ask questions- a lot of them. Be prepared to wait for the puppy of your dreams. Be thoughtful in explaining what you are looking for in your companion to the breeder so they can better match you.




YOU HAVE NEEDS TOO...

I cannot stress how important it is to really think about what you want in a dog. A good match is key! Here are some questions to get you started :)


Why do you want a dog?

Are there physical characteristics you are attracted to?

What do you see yourselves doing together?

Do you have children or other pets to consider?

How much time do you want to spend on training?

Are you up for taking your dog to the groomer’s regularly?

Are you active?

Do you work long hours?

Do you have training goals?

Do you want to participate in dog sports?


Reflecting on such questions will help you determine what type of dog will be a good fit for your lifestyle and goals. Be honest with yourself.


Don't make an impulsive decision and hope that it will all work out!

Be intentional. Kim Brophey’s book Meet Your Dog is an excellent resource; I highly recommend reading it before you pick your new companion. Kim also has a really interesting TED talk.


You've got this!


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