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I've been known as a "cat person" for years, but recently my family decided the time was right to add another species to our household: A dog. We ended up getting a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier puppy, and we couldn't love him more.
He's a ball of energy, he'll be a medium-to-large size (about 18kg to 30kg), he's super friendly (he gives everyone "the Wheaten Greetin'"), and great with kids. He doesn't shed. He might not be the perfect dog for everyone (the high energy, the grooming), but he's just the right dog for us.
With a little research and due diligence, you can find your perfect canine companion too.
You'll have your dog for many years, so make sure to take your time and select the right dog for your family. With so many types of dogs available, consider the following when picking out a dog.
Where to Get Your Dog
First things first: Never buy a dog from a pet store. They are notorious for getting dogs from "puppy mills" where conditions can be deplorable, and the dogs can be seriously unhealthy.
Ask your dog-owning neighbours and people in your community about where they got their dog. Offer to walk the dog or dog-sit, or go on a walk with you friend and his or her dog. Visit your local shelters and talk with them about your wants and needs in a pet.
If you're looking for a specific breed, The RSPCA is a good resource for finding shelters or rescue groups that might have the breed you're looking for. If you want a purebred dog and can't find a shelter or rescue group that meets your needs, make sure the breeder you choose is reputable.
Purebred vs. Mixed Breed
Purebreds can offer consistency in physical and behavioural traits, but some are predisposed to health problems. They can be more expensive than mutts. Mutts can be less prone to breed-specific health issues, but some (although not all) shelter dogs can have potential behavioural issues. If you get a mixed-breed puppy, you might not know how large the dog will be when fully grown.
No matter what you decide, research potential breeds so you'll have an idea what to expect. Bow Wow Insurance has a list of the most popular breeds, with detailed information on the typical characteristics of each breed.
Which Breed is Right for Your Family?
If you live in an apartment, condo, or co-op, you may have restrictions on the size/weight of your dog (and if you live in a tiny apartment, you probably don't want a Great Dane or a Bernese Mountain Dog). If you have an active family, a larger dog might be a good fit.
Size isn't always an indication of temperament - while there are aggressive large dogs and gentle small dogs, some large breeds have a reputation as "gentle giants" while some small dogs can be quite aggressive.
Puppy Vs. Adult
When you get a puppy, you're getting an adorable ball of energy - one that will require lots of walks, house training, and obedience training. Rugs, floors, and furniture will get peed on, pooped on, and nibbled. You will also have to take some time off work for the first week or so to mind it 24/7.
If you get an adult dog, you might have a calmer dog. However, you could also get an adult dog who's fearful or aggressive due to previous experiences; if so, you'll need to be willing to commit to serious training.
Do you want a dog who's full of energy, that you can go on jogs and hikes and outdoor adventures with? Or maybe you want a lap dog who will be content to snuggle with you? What about the kids in the family? Make sure you get a dog that will work with your family - don't try to change your family's lifestyle to fit with the dog.
Some people might prefer dogs with shorter coats that might shed but don't require professional grooming. Others prefer dogs who shed very little, but they might require trips to the groomer. Do you want a dog who's soft and fluffy - or a dog with a coat that can withstand lots of romps in the outdoors?
Cost and Lifestyle
Dogs are an additional expense in your family's budget, no matter what. You should be prepared to spend time and money on walking, training, and veterinary care - plus food, toys, bedding, and grooming supplies.
Are you a family where both parents work long hours? You'll want to research the cost of daily dog walkers in your area. Do you travel a lot? Will you need to bring your dog with you or board your dog while you're away? Consider veterinary and grooming expenses.
Will you be getting pet insurance for your dog? Be prepared to spay or neuter your dog.
A kid might promise to walk and feed the dog, but the adults in the family will the ones with the primary responsibilities of dog ownership - including walking, exercising, grooming, purchasing food and supplies, and visits to the veterinarian.