How to Choose the Right Dog for Your Family

You’ve made up your mind. You are getting a dog. But what kind?

Well, first you need to think about your lifestyle, and what you want from a dog. Choosing a dog based on looks is always a bad idea. Sure, your Border Collie is adorable, but you’re a couch potato, there will be problems.

I’ll avoid the quiz here, and send you right over here to get that part straightened out.

But what if you don’t like the results? Choosing what kind of dog to get is just as important as making to decision whether or not to get one in the first place. If you are dead set on a dog breed that doesn’t fit your lifestyle, then you need to be ready to change your lifestyle. Don’t fool yourself. If you know you won’t have the time or motivation to take a high energy dog on a couple runs a day or don’t want to leave your lazy dog at home when you go for a walk, then choose a different dog. You will get much much more enjoyment out of a dog that is the perfect match for you.

 

But what about adopting mutts?

Mutts are the very best of dogs. Unless you are wanting a dog for a show dog, there’s no reason why a mixed breed isn’t just as good as her pure-bred friends. Knowing what breeds are mixed into your dog are a huge help. You have your eye on a Border Collie/Rottweiler/St. Bernard mix? Do some research on every single breed to make sure any traits that may come out are going to be a good fit.

 

Now You’ve chosen what breed/breeds, where will the dog come from?

As a rescuer/adopter of many animals, I will always recommend going down to your local shelter and saving a life. There is absolutely no reason not to. Shelters and rescues are overflowing with dogs, many of them pure-bred.

When you arrive at the shelter/rescue, talk to the staff. Tell them what you are looking for in a dog and if they can suggest some. If they don’t have any that fit you at that particular time, leave your info and ask them to call when one comes in. They will be happy to do this and it usually doesn’t take long.

If you are going to be buying from a breeder, for the love of all that is furry, NEVER buy from a pet store. Yes, those sad puppies need homes too, but by buying from them, you are only encouraging a bad breeder to continue breeding. Not to mention, puppy mill puppies often come with many health problems.

Do research on breeders. Find one that you are comfortable with, visit them if possible. They are going to ask you a lot of questions, and you should do the same! Here are some example question to ask the breeder:

  • Do you require that my puppy be spayed or neutered? You want them to say yes and your registration papers should be marked for limited registration. This simply means that the puppy can never be bred and have registered offspring.
  1. What is your worming schedule for your puppies?
  2. Do you vaccinate your puppies, and when do you do it? Also, ask what diseases and viruses they vaccinate for. Handling the vaccinations is very important. Ask where they purchased their vaccines. Your puppy should receive distemper, hepatitis, lept o, Parvo, Corona, influenza, and bordetella vaccinations.
  3. When do you wean your puppies? If a breeder weans too early, look elsewhere. Ask for five or six weeks of age.
  4. Along the same lines of emotional stability and health you want to ask this very important question: When does my puppy get to come home? If a breeder says 6 or 7 weeks, find another breeder. A good age is between 10 to 14 weeks of age.

How to choose the perfect puppy

Now you know where the dog is coming from, have a good idea of what it needs lifestyle-wise, and you are ready to pick one. But which one? There’s really no way to choose the perfect puppy without spending some time with them. If you are rescuing, that means going to the rescue and playing with/walking/getting to know several dogs. If you are buying from a breeder, this means you get to be mauled by puppies when you visit, and can watch them to choose your favorite. I recommend several trips to visit before you lock in on one dog. Especially at a rescue, as dogs can be very out of sorts in all the chaos of a rescue. After several visits, they will start getting to know you and should be on a more normal behavior.

If you are buying from a long distance breeder, this is when choosing the right breeder is of utter importance. It is left to the breeder to pick the perfect puppy for you based on the conversations they have had with you. A good breeder will get to know you and pick out the perfect pup just for you.

Whew! After all that research and planning and visiting and talking and deciding, you finally have a puppy! Not just any puppy though, you’re puppy. The perfect puppy.

 

What to buy before you bring a puppy home

So you’ve read all of the previous lesson and decided you really can get a dog. What do you need to buy for its debut?

It’s your best bet when bringing home a puppy or dog to assume they are not potty trained. Why? In a new environment, everybody is unsure about the rules, and you need to cover all of your bases.

The basics that a pup will need: Water and food bowl Collar (preferably snap release adjustable nylon for a puppy, buckle nylon or leather for adult dog) 4-6 foot nylon or leather leash (NOT retractable) Toys acceptable for their age (puppy specific toys, easier to take the dog with you to the store and have THEM pick their toys) Food acceptable for their age (puppy food) Bedding (lambskin or soft blanket for a crate, or an actual bed from the pet store) Name tag (you can get one at your local pet store, put your phone number on it and the dog’s name, or whatever you like) Treats (for training, soft treats are best) Grooming supplies (toothpaste, a flea comb, nail clippers and brushes that fits your breed’s coat type, puppy shampoo or adult dog shampoo depending on their age) Potty pads (just in case) Enzymatic stain cleaners (the best ones to buy are at the pet store because they eliminate the stain as well as the odor undetectable by humans)

These are the first things you need to purchase when you’re getting a pup.

Bowls: if you’re getting a very young puppy, do not get a deep bowl. Puppies can fall in and drown. Get a shallow dish that can’t be flipped over, or you’ll have water all over the floor. If you’re getting a very tall or large adult dog (mastiffs, great danes, rottweilers, etc), your water and food bowls should be placed in a stand that will raise the height of the bowls. This prevents the dog from choking on its food.

Why don’t I like retractable leashes? It allows your pup to get into a dangerous situation and you have no control over the outcome. A 4-6 foot leash will allow you to train your dog to walk closely to you and allow you greater control of the dog in case something happens.

Taking your puppy to the pet store to pick its own toys is a fun experience for everyone. You can take things off the shelf and squeak them, let the pup smell them, and chase them around the aisle. This way you are not going to waste money on toys that your dog won’t even touch (trust me, I learned that lesson long ago). Just make sure that they are age appropriate toys. If you pick a Kong, make sure it’s the puppy kong, not an adult Kong. The material gives a bit more so it feels really good for the puppy to sink its teeth into it when they are teething. DO NOT pick toys that resemble items in your home like squeaky feet or shoes. Why? When your puppy chomps down on your foot and you go EEEEEK! you’re the newest toy. And you can’t get mad when your puppy goes into your closet and chews up your favorite loafers, either. Not his fault.

If you are planning on crate training your puppy, you need to buy a crate that is appropriate for his size AT THE TIME YOU GET HIM. This does mean as he grows bigger, you’ll have to buy a bigger crate. Why not just buy the largest crate you can find? Because puppies will go potty on one side, and sleep on the other. With a crate just big enough for them to sit, stand, and turn around in, they won’t want to dirty their sleeping quarters and will alert you when it’s time to go potty elsewhere. Within that crate you will need to put something soft like a towel or a blanket or a lambskin (which is my favorite, though they are harder to find nowadays).

Okay, so that’s all for this lesson. In the next lesson, we will be covering the actual act of bringing home your new puppy and how to get the basic eating, pottying, and sleeping habits under control.

See you then!

Here are the great comments when this was a University of Reddit post: kereezy: As for the crate, it’s not a bad idea to buy an appropriately sized wire crate with a partition that can be moved/removed so that the crate grows with the puppy. Throw a blanket over the crate so the pup gets that “den” feeling, and that way you don’t have to buy 20 crates. These wire crates are collapsible too, so they travel well.

In addition to the crate, something you might want to think about is an exercise pen. It’s like having 8 wire baby gates hooked together, that you can make into any shape. If you’re crate training and want your pup to have some extra room to roam around, this might be a good idea for you. :)

Also, if you’re getting a very young pup (one that hasn’t had a full set of puppy vaccinations) you might want to wait on the fun trip to the pet store to pick out a toy- hundreds of other pets have walked there, and you don’t know what your little one might pick up. Parvo is ~80% fatal.

 

Formatted List of Puppy Supplies:

  • Water and food bowl
  • Collar (preferably snap release adjustable nylon for a puppy, buckle nylon or leather for adult dog)
  • 4-6 foot nylon or leather leash (NOT retractable)
  • Toys acceptable for their age (puppy specific toys, easier to take the dog with you to the store and have THEM pick their toys)
  • Food acceptable for their age (puppy food)
  • Bedding (lambskin or soft blanket for a crate, or an actual bed from the pet store)
  • Name tag (you can get one at your local pet store, put your phone number on it and the dog’s name, or whatever you like)
  • Treats (for training, soft treats are best)
  • Potty pads (just in case)
  • Enzymatic stain cleaners (the best ones to buy are at the pet store because they eliminate the stain as well as the odor undetectable by humans)

Puppy Grooming supplies

  • Toothpaste
  • Flea comb
  • Nail clippers
  • Brushes that fits your breed’s coat type
  • Puppy shampoo or adult dog shampoo depending on their age

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