Choosing a dog is a big decision, one that is likely to require a 10- to 15-year commitment. In order for you and your pet to have the best possible life together, you should consider such factors as your lifestyle and personality, the dog's needs and personality, and the question of mixed breeds versus purebreds.
Do you live in a large house with a backyard, or a small, fourth-floor apartment? Do you live in a city, small town or a rural setting? Will the animal be left alone a lot? Do you enjoy outdoor activities and would you take the animal with you? Do you have children? For example, a golden retriever is not the best choice for a single person living in a small, fourth-floor apartment and who works full time outside of the home, but this breed would be a good choice for a family living in a house with a backyard.
You need to make sure your personality matches well with the dog's. Do you like quiet and reserved pooches, or active, bouncing breeds? Do you want your dog to be outgoing or shy, ready to take on any outdoor challenge or a homebody, cuddly or aloof? Do you have the time and patience to train a puppy, or would you be better with an adult dog? You need to make sure you're willing and excited about living with and caring for this animal for the rest of its life. A Jack Russell terrier, for instance, is a small dog with boundless energy, while a Basset Hound is more laid back.
Dogs come with needs. Are you able to afford veterinary care, food, any needed medical attention, flea and tick treatments, spaying or neutering? There are many costs to consider, and the Pet Education website has a helpful table in determining general expenses. Also consider the age of your dog. If you are adopting a puppy, consider costs of training, toys, pet care when you are away and vaccinations. If you are adopting an older dog, consider what that dog may need; will it soon need old-age care, or is the animal in the prime of its life?
Purebred or Mixed Breed
There are advantages to both mixed and purebred dogs. Purebred dogs are predictable in terms of growth, development and general personality characteristics. Mixed breeds are also fairly predictable, especially if you can identify the dominant breed genetics, but there is always an element of mystery. While general personality can be determined (such as if the dog is good with children), other unexpected issues may crop up--like growing a little bigger than expected. Mixed breeds, however, tend to be free of the genetic disorders purebreds are known to have. Purebred boxers, for instance, are notorious for being prone to a variety of eye, ear, intestinal and heart problems, while a mixed-breed boxer may have none of these issues.
Visit With Your Dog Candidate First
The Humane Society of the United States recommends getting a shelter dog. Between four and six million dogs and cats are euthanized every year due to lack of space and resources, but many of these animals would have made great pets. Shelters often offer mixed and purebred dogs, and give individuals (and families) opportunities to visit with the animals before deciding to take them home. Shelters will usually have histories of their animals as well: why they are in the shelter (strays vs. abandoned pets), possible behavioural issues and whether or not they are compatible with children. If you choose to adopt from a dog breeder, still make arrangements to spend time with your potential pet first.
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