10 Steps To Picking The Right Dog For Your Family

So you’ve made the (wise) decision to add a furry member to your family. Before you go and fall in love with the first puppy you lay eyes on, make sure you consider which type of dog will make the best pet for the entire family. Get everyone’s input to see what everyone’s expectations are, and then talk as a family about why some breeds might be a better choice than others. Come to a decision that makes everyone happy and consider the following:

1. Consider where you live.

Your living situation might significantly narrow your dog search when you take into account how much space you have, if you have a yard, and if you live in an apartment or rented space that has pet restrictions or fees. Will your dog have room to play, or will you constantly be tripping over each other as you move around your space? Do you have places around your house that you can designate to water/food bowls, a doggie bed, and potential kennel/enclosed area for when you are out of the house? Also, what type of climate do you live in? Some dogs are better suited for colder or warmer climates than others.

2. Consider your lifestyle.

Many dogs require more attention and activity than others. If you and your family spend a lot of the day away at work/school/etc, or don’t have enough time to take your dog out for the exercise they need, a smaller, house-friendly dog might be a better choice for you. If you’re an outdoorsy family with a spacious yard, and you enjoy hiking and camping, consider a dog that will enjoy the great outdoors with you. If you don’t have time to exercise your dog, avoid breeds like the Labradoodle, the Weimaraner, the Dalmatian, and these.

3. Allergies.

Consider getting your family allergy tested before bringing in a new family member. Many people don’t realize they have dander allergies until they’re confronted with them 24/7. Also consider the wider social circle: do you have a group of friends you regularly invite to the house? Do you have extended family that will not be able to visit for the holidays if you get a longhaired dog? There are many breeds who are allergy-friendly that may be perfect for whichever situation. The best dogs for families with allergies? Look into the Schnauzer, the Poodle, or the Labradoodle! For additional breed suggestions, click here.

4. Establish who will be taking care of it.

Having a dog can teach children responsibility, but make sure this responsibility is established and well understood before you bring your new member of the family home. Not only will failed puppy responsibilities cause family tension, but it is also unhealthy for the dog if their walks and playtime must be cut short because Mom and Dad have to pick up the slack on an already busy schedule. Consider a lower maintenance dog to ease responsibilities.

5. Consider saving a life.

There are many excellent opportunities to adopt a dog from a pound or from the humane society. According to their numbers, 6 to 8 million dogs (and cats) enter shelters each year.  These dogs may need a little extra adjustment time and training, but if you have the time to give it to them, they make some of the most loving pets. For more information on shelters, click here.

6. Talk to the Seller.

Try to gain as much information as you can about your dog before you commit to them. Ask about their parents’ temperament and health history (as with humans, many problems are genetic). Also ask them about any habits or personality traits they have noticed the dog exhibits. Much of a dog’s behavior can be guessed by the dog’s breed and age, but finding out as much as you can before you commit can help you be more prepared. The dog may be excited and friendly when you meet him, but you might not immediately see that he is extremely aggressive toward other dogs or gets unusually restless at night.

7. Does a dog fit in your budget?

Having a dog comes with more expenses than just the initial adoption fee, toys, and food. The type of dog you get can determine how high your veterinarian bills get and how much training they will need. Below are a few typical costs associated with dog ownership:

  • Initial purchase costs can typically vary anywhere between $50-$1,500+, depending on a number of factors such as size, breed, and where you buy your dog. Adopting from a shelter or rescue can cost as little as $50-200. Buying a purebred dog from a breeder tends to be more expensive. To find information on the average cost of puppies by breed, click here.
  • Other initial costs (such as spaying or neutering, registering, vaccines, etc,) also vary by breed. For example, according to pawsandlearn.org, spaying or neutering can cost around $250-400 for small dogs, $350-500 for medium-sized dogs, and $350-500 for large dogs.
  • Ongoing costs like food, renewed licenses, vet check-ups, toys, and grooming also vary depending on the puppy you choose. For more information on average costs by dog size, click here.

According to pawsandlearn.org, a family who buys a small breed dog can spend around $1000-$3500 in the first year of ownership, while a family who buys a large breed dog can spend between $1400-$3900 in their first year of ownership.

8. Do you have small children?

Small children and small dogs (or puppies) are usually not advised to be in the same household. Small dogs cannot withstand the “tough love” children often give and these dogs are often quick to scratch or bite back. Small children also love to put everything in their mouths including dog toys, dog bones, dog food, and even (gulp) dog poop. There are certainly benefits to raising children with pets, but it may narrow down your choices to larger, gentler breeds. Looking for a few specific breed recommendations? Collies, Vizslas, and Labrador Retriever are all good choices, according to SheKnows.com.

9. Look ahead.

Right now might seem like a great time to get a dog, but keep in mind that, depending on how old the dog is when you get him, you might be with this dog for the next 10-18 years. Do you plan on moving within that time? Do you have an extended vacation you’ve been dreaming to take? Do you see huge stress or distraction in your future that might inhibit your ability to take care of a dog? It may be difficult to see that far in the future right now, but keep the mindset that this will be a long-term relationship.

10. Prepare your place and get excited.

You’ve made the decision, and you’re ready to take your new family member home. Pick out toys, a doggie bed, and food as a family. Get everyone excited to set up a puppy-friendly environment at home, and make sure everyone knows the rules (when to feed the dog, remembering to close the door to certain rooms, leave the toilet seat down, etc). Then, when it’s time to take your new dog home, make sure it’s a low-key day at the house so the dog isn’t overwhelmed and can explore its new environment

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