What is the Best Dog for My Family: 4 vital questions
It's so exciting getting a dog but you might be asking "What is the best dog for my family?", or "which dog breed will suit my lifestyle?". A little research now can make sure you choose the perfect dog for your family and in this article I discuss the 4 key questions you need to answer to get the best dog for you.
Big or small dog?
Let's get straight into question number 1. "What size dog is best for my family?" You might think the most obvious reason for asking this question is the fact that big dogs need big houses and gardens but this is not always true. In fact the amount of room your dog will need is much more related to energy levels which I'll discuss later. Dog size instead is important for several other reasons:
- The bigger the dog the stronger they will be - will you be able to manage a large dog on a lead if it decides it wants to run across the road to chase a cat
- How much weight can you lift? If your pet is unwell and needs carrying to the car, or if they develop arthritis and need help up the stairs will you be able to help them or do you have support nearby which would be able to step in?
- Bigger dogs cost more. From food costs to accessories to medication. The larger the dog the more they will cost
- Are you renting and if so will your landlord allow you to have a large dog? Or will it impact your housing options in the future? Some landlords would be happy with a small dog but refuse to accept a giant breed dog on their property.
Energetic or quiet?
My second question in finding the best dog for your family is "what breed has the best energy level to suit my lifestyle?" This is a huge consideration and will have a massive impact on the mental and physical health of your dog.
A high energy dog breed might be the right choice for you if:
- You want them to be your running companion 5 nights a week
- You will be able (and willing) to walk them for several miles 2 or 3 times a day
- You want a playful dog who will grow with your family, children or other pets who enjoy being active and outside
- You want to try dog agility, disc sports, fly-ball or similar activities
A low energy dog might be a better choice for your lifestyle though if you:
- need to be out of the house for long periods most days, leaving your dog behind
- you aren't able to exercise them either regularly or for very long
- you want a quiet companion to keep you company
Don't underestimate the need to match your dogs energy levels to your lifestyle.
If you under-exercise an energetic, lively dog then they may develop significant behavioral problems. These include constant barking and destructive behavior. While puppy socialization also plays a huge role in preventing other behavioral problems (read all about puppy socialization here), it is actually behavioral issues that are the biggest cause of dogs under 3 years old being re-homed or euthanized.
Choosing the wrong breed of dog could in effect be a fatal decision.
At the other end of the spectrum, an under-exercised dog may be more likely to become overweight or obese. Conversely, choosing a dog that never wants to come running or doesn't play in the garden may mean that you don't ever have a close relationship with your dog if this is what you want them to do. This can again compromise their quality of life.
Question number 4 in choosing the best dog for your family is "what care are they likely to need now and in the future?" If you have your heart set on a specific breed do you know what health issues that breed is prone to?
Labradors and German Shepherds get arthritis, Westies get allergic skin disease, short-nosed brachycephalic breeds get breathing and skin problems, Daschunds get slipped discs....most breeds have certain conditions that they are more prone to getting to a greater or lesser degree. You need to be prepared that your dog might suffer from whatever condition they are more prone to getting and have the resources to treat them appropriately. Especially if these problems are very common
Don't like the sound of this? Well, mixed breeds are less likely to suffer from these genetic conditions and are overall felt to be healthier. Of course an individual pure-bred dog may never suffer from any significant disease and a mixed breed may be unhealthy. But on average a mixed breed is less likely to need treatment for genetic conditions.
If you have your heart set on a certain breed then there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of future problems. If hip or elbow dysplasia is a risk, have both parents been hip and elbow scored? If you want a short nosed breed then choose from a litter whose parents have longer noses than average. Want a dog breed prone to allergies? If the parents look like their skin is red, if they have brown saliva staining on their feet or their coat feels a bit greasy then they are more likely to pass this on to their puppies.
If you know someone who has a dog from a specific breeder and they have a genetic condition, again this may mean the chance of any pup you get from them suffers the same.
related post: how to buy a healthy puppy
Young or old?
Age is my final question to consider when choosing the best dog for your family. "What is the best age of dog to bring into my family?" Do you have the time and patience to put into socializing and training a young puppy. Socialization is not optional and is essential for the development of a happy, well rounded adult dog. Toilet training can take some dogs a bit of time to learn. If you're going to be angry when they have an accident a puppy is not for you.
If you want a dog who is already house trained or who known some basic commands already then getting an adult dog may be the better choice. While all dogs require a significant time invested into them, puppies require more time again so if this will be hard an older dog may be a great fit.
All puppies are boisterous, playful and at times can be a real handful. Some dogs only really grow up in their senior year! If you are looking for a quiet dog to keep you company then a senior may be just the ticket.
You can get dogs of all ages and types from shelters and rescue centres so have a serious thought about what age of dog will be best for your situation.
Answering these 4 questions will help you find the best breed of dog for your family.
If you are set on a puppy then make sure you check out all about how and where to buy a healthy puppy, if you should consider getting a pet store puppy as well as the best way to get them properly socialized.
Let my know below what breed of dog you are thinking about and why, I'd love to hear from you! Also be sure to subscribe to my newsletter to be the first to know about my upcoming articles every month.
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