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6 Steps to Choosing the Right Dog

There are many considerations when bringing a new dog into your home.  As a responsible pet owner, you’ll want to consider variables and options before making a final decision: care and training, cost, size, temperament, lifespan and appearance.

Another important choice is the source of your dog.  While that “doggy in the window” at pet shops may be adorable, sadly, chances are he came from a puppy mill, which can include unsanitary breeding conditions and a greater chance that the dog will suffer from chronic health conditions. Luckily, there are many reputable breeders that provide purebred puppies in Northern Virginia and through the country.   Another option is the growing number of animals in rescue shelters, including right here in Prince William, that need a good home.

Puppy with cute eyes

Here are a few things to consider in your decision making process:

  • Care and Training:  Every dog requires a certain amount of care, some a great deal more than others.  Question yourself thoroughly before considering a particular dog.  Do I have the time and patience to walk a dog 4-10 times a day?  Can I afford dog food or veterinarian bills? How attached am I to my white carpet?
  • Cost:  After the initial cost or adoption fees you will need to invest a great deal of money towards your new family member throughout its lifetime.  Everything from food and training, veterinarian cost, accessories, yard maintenance and home repairs should all be considered.  A cost that escapes most home owners is the possible change in your insurance policy.  Some companies require obedience certifications in order to cover a family pet under your home owner’s policy.
  •  Size:  Some dog breeds may reach the size of a small horse and exceed 160 pounds, while others will remain under ten.  Most breeds need plenty of exercise to avoid misbehaving or obesity.   Consider your current living situation: living space, family size, yard and neighborhood.  All are major factors in the type of dog that is ideal for you.
  •  Lifespan:  Some breeds will only live seven years while others have been known to live over 18.  Remember that you are that dog’s caregiver and it will need daily care for its entire life.  A factor to consider when acquiring your dog is how long they will be a part of your family.  The hardest part of being a dog owner is in the last days of your dog’s life. Also note that with rescue animals the actual age may not be known, making it a little more difficult to determine how long you will have with your furry friend.
  • Temperament:  Take into account the negative connotations that come with certain breeds or even the ‘look’ of your dog.  Many people may see a German Shepherd and automatically think the dog will attack them.  This is not necessarily the case with Toy Poodles or a Golden Retriever.  Not every dog acts like Cujo or Lassie. While these things may not concern you, knowing how your pet interacts with others is important.  The ideal situation would be to take your family to the shelter or breeder to interact with your potential family member before bringing them home and make sure their temperament works well with your lifestyle.
  • Appearance:   There are many variations in the appearances of dogs and although a concern, it should be the least important decision when choosing a house pet.  If the appearance of your pet is an important factor, first consider all of the above stated tips that go with that specific breed to ensure that it will be the right fit for your family.

Australian Shepherd playing

 These guidelines can be applied when selecting any type of pet, helping to ensure that you and your new family member enjoy many happy years together.

Christopher Baity is currently K9 Program Manager for the Semper Fi Fund. Teaching Service Members with PTSD and TBI the skill of training service dogs for Veterans. Baity is a former Marine Corps working dog trainer and kennel master with three combat deployments and one civilian deployment. With 13 years of experience he continues to use progressive styles in an ever evolving field. Currently an AKC evaluator, Baity is proficient in animal behavior, obedience and training, and kennel management. Visit his website for more information:www.relaxdogtraining.com or www.facebook.com/RelaxImADogTrainer. He can be reached at [email protected]

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