Find the one that's just right.
If you’re thinking about a new addition to the family you may first want to consider your lifestyle. Every modern breed was designed with a purpose. If you do a little research and keep that purpose in mind you’re much more likely to find a compatible furry friend.
Live in a high-rise? Enjoy an urban lifestyle? A small breed may be your best bet. Additionally, you may have an easier time finding an apartment or condo with a little fluff ball. Small dogs tend to require less room for exercising and less space in general. Shih Tzu’s and Brussels Griffons make great apartment dogs. Also a good choice if you like having a lap dog. On the down side a lot of small breeds require frequent grooming. If your housing regulations don’t limit your size options you might also consider a larger breed. Great Danes and Greyhounds tend to be surprisingly laid back and low energy. Plus they require less grooming. And I would imagine your average mugger would think twice before approaching someone with a body guard the size of a pony. Feeling like Goldilocks? Consider an English Bulldog or Basset Hound. They both tend to be low energy and enjoy lounging around. Plus, they have short hair which makes them low maintenance. Keep in mind that Bassets, while adorable, tend to be loud and may annoy your neighbors. However, if you want your pooch to accompany you while running or hiking none of these breeds are likely to be a good fit. Small dogs will struggle to match your pace and Bulldogs are prone to breathing difficulty.
If you enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle or you’re looking for a good running buddy consider a dog in the Sporting, Herding, or Working groups. These groups include Labs, Huskies, and Shepherds. Dogs bred to work tend to be high energy and ready to go for hours on end. They’re usually in the medium to large range size wise. German and Australian Shepherds are very different breeds but they are both highly loyal and highly intelligent. Coat length can very from dog to dog but over all they don’t require too much grooming, as long as you are OK with a little shedding. However, they frequently bond with one person and aren’t always the best in social settings. So if you’re prone to parties it might be best to keep looking. If your a social butterfly and you like to run or hike the ultimate in four-legged companions has to be my personal favorite — the husky. Husky is a bit of a generic term used to describe Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, and most anything else expected to pull a sled. These dogs are high energy and tend to love everyone they meet. Plus, they’ve been bred for ages to never stop running. While intelligent, huskies are strong willed so if you’re looking for a dog who obeys your every command, keep looking. And then there’s the hair, hair, and more hair. Owning a husky means coming to terms with the reality that everything you own will always be covered in hair. Twice a year they “blow” their coat, meaning their thick undercoat comes out in wool-like chunks. Looking for a social dog who wont have you vacuuming twice a day, every day? Labs are short on hair and high on energy. They are highly intelligent and eager to please, making them great family dogs. In fact, the Labrador Retriever tops the list as most popular dog in the US! Despite all the bad press Pit Bulls also make great family dogs for a lot of the same reasons. Though they tend to be a little less energetic than labs.
So now that you’ve decided what type of dog you’re looking for where are you going to find it? There are essentially two options: 1) buy from a breeder, or 2) adopt from a rescue or shelter. Getting a dog from a breeder has fallen out of favor but there are still some holdouts and with good reason. When you get a dog from a breeder you will likely know a lot more about their genetic history. AKC registration requires certification that a dog is free of abnormalities like hip-dysplasia. Reputable breeders will know the history of their dogs bloodlines and avoid producing puppies who will suffer genetic health issues. The drawback? Well, cost is one. Buying a pure-bred puppy will cost a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars. And on average the first year of puppy ownership will run around $1000 in vet bills alone between routine vaccines and population control. Your next, and possibly more popular, option is to adopt from a shelter or rescue. On the downside you may not know much about your new pet’s history. But there are a lot of benefits to adopting. Shelter adoption fees are going to be dramatically less than buying from a breeder. Also, your new little friend will likely already have been spayed or neutered and have most or all of their vaccines. So right now you’re thinking—”But I just spent all that time deciding what breed of dog I want.” As it turns out about 25% of shelter pets are purebred. And there are plenty of breed-specific rescue groups to choose from.
Whether you’re buying from a breeder or adopting from a shelter your final consideration is the age of pet you’re looking for. Puppies are great fun! You can start with a blank-slate when it comes to training and watch your little one grow from a tiny ball of fluff into a healthy adult and ultimately grey with age. There is something profound about caring for an animal in each stage of life. And if you have kids they can grow together. However, puppies are a LOT of work. They need to be let out every couple hours and puppy classes can absorb a lot of time. The last two puppies I’ve raised felt like a trial run for a baby. Never sleeping more than an hour or two for the first few weeks. When Shadow was a baby she would howl until I let her snuggle up in bed with me. It was adorable and exhausting. Not to mention to constant training. Puppies are kind of the pet version of “some assembly required.” Adopting a grown dog offers a number of great benefits. They usually come house-trained and all those puppy medical expenses have been covered. Not to mention, hopefully, you’ve moved past the “puppy chews”. Shelters have an abundance of adult dogs needing new homes. If you already have an adult dog, bringing a puppy into the house may provide them with more annoyance than companionship. Grown dogs do come with their own history. They may not have been properly socialized as pups, or sometimes won’t be ok with kids or cats. These are issues that can usually be overcome with time and a little work.
Thinking it all sounds like too much work? Want a little lap warmer without all that pesky walking? Consider adopting a cat. Cats are great companions, sweet and affectionate. And they tend to be a little more independent than dogs. They don’t require walking and unless you get a long haired cat they are self grooming. Plus, cats of all ages are in abundance at shelters.
Wherever you get your new companion he or she will be a life long commitment. Taking time to consider every angle will give you be best shot of finding the perfect addition to your family.