How much space do you have available?
If you live on an acreage, just about any dog breed will do. Large dogs love the extra “elbow room”, and smaller dogs are more than willing to explore every nook and cranny of a large yard. However, if you live in a smaller house or apartment, you’ll want to steer clear of the larger dog breeds. Instead, stick with the dogs in the medium to small categories like the Yorkshire Terrier, Toy Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, or Lhasa Apso.
Do you have children?
Some dog breeds, like the Labrador Retriever, are pretty much childproof. Other more smallish dogs, like Chihuahuas and Maltese, are pretty frail and can be – however inadvertently – easily injured by overzealous small children. On the other hand, some of the large playful dog breeds, like the St. Bernard and Boxer, can be quite rambunctious during puppyhood, and can turn even the most resilient toddlers into human bowling pins. The easiest way to avoid difficulties like this is to stick with some of the average size dog breeds like the Fox Terrier, and Lhasa Apso. In the end, it’s best to consider the children first.
How able and/or willing are you to exercise your dog?
An acreage or large fenced yard is ideal as the dog will provide him/herself with some exercise just by running about and exploring. If you don’t have a large yard, or live in an apartment, plan on taking your dog on frequent walks – preferably down to the park for a little frisbee or “fetch” time. Dogs in the Hunting, Hound and Herding groups are generally very high energy and may require multiple play or exercise sessions each day. Remember, dog breeds that were bred for work, like the Border Collie, need to have a “job” to do or some other way to burn off excess energy.
How much time do you have for grooming?
Some dog breeds need an hour of grooming each day, some can get by with a half hour each week, some need (almost) no grooming at all. If you are super busy, you probably want to stay away from Poodles, the Maltese, or any other long-haired dog breed. Instead, choose a breed like the Boston Terrier, Whippet, or another short-haired dog breed. Short hair doesn’t guarantee a shed-free environment – it just frees up valuable time for you to spend having fun with your dog (remember the exercise question?).
Now for the biggie – puppy or older dog?
Puppies need a lot of work that many people are unwilling, or unable, to undertake. For instance, a new puppy has to be housebroken and taught a minimum of obedience skills. This takes time (depending on the dog breed, of course). If you don’t have the time – don’t get a puppy. There is nothing worse than a dog who has been “branded” as untrainable because he/she was not given the proper training time as a pup. Opt for an older dog instead (and you may spare a life that way).
There you go. A simple list of questions to ask yourself before you take the plunge into dog ownership. Of course, the list is really just a start. The next step is to “fine-tune” your decision by researching individual dog breeds. Your journey has literally – just begun.
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