How to Select the Right Dog
There are many factors to consider when you decide to adopt a dog. Here are a few points to consider before adding a canine companion (particularly a LARGE canine) to your family:
Cost: Before you get sucked in by that adorable puppy breath and wiggly little puppy tail, take a minute to review your budget and make sure you can afford the supplies, training, and medical care a new dog requires. Dogs are expensive and large dogs are more expensive. Costs of caring for a dog average between $1000-3000 per year. A major medical emergency (like if your dog accidentally swallows a bottle of ibuprofen or gets hit by a car) could bump that cost up even more. See a breakdown of some of these Costs of Caring for a Dog.
Age: The ages of the members of your family need to be compatible with the age of the dog you are adopting. Many families with small children think that a very young, 8 week old puppy would be the best match, so the kids and the dog can "grow up together." This is usually not the case. Very young puppies, just like baby humans, require A LOT of attention and supervision. Many families that already have a baby or a toddler find adding a puppy is a little overwhelming with the frequent potty accidents, the round the clock crying, and the destruction of shoes, remote controls and everything its path. Additionally, little puppies need to be taught not to use their sharp little teeth to chew on the children and children need to learn that they can't drop the puppy down the stairs. The safest, easiest choice for families with young children is a puppy at least five months or older, or even better, a calm adult dog with a history of living with children. Large adolescent dogs may not be the best choice for families with young children or elderly family members in the home because they might be too exuberant, and knock over people who are a little unstable on their feet. Every family and every dog is different, but age is an important factor in the decision-making process.
Size: In addition to the cost, size can be an important consideration because many apartments have size restrictions that limit the weight of pets. When you adopt a large breed dog, you are limiting your options if you have to move. They are also less portable if you need to relocate. Finally, because large dogs are strong and outweigh many people (and sometimes their owners) obedience training and good leash manners are imperative! Be prepared to put in a lot of time and training to make you big dog manageable on walks.
Breed: Like size, many apartments, home owners' policies, and even city ordinances do not allow certain breeds of dogs. Check your apartment, insurance policy, and local laws to make sure that the dog you adopt does not violate any of these rules. There are also some breed characteristics that tend to apply (some breeds tend to be more patient/more protective/etc.) While these characteristics are not always typical of every dog, it is important to research the breed of dog you want to adopt, to know what common behavioral and/or medical problems to look for and avoid.
Grooming: You might see a big fluffy dog and think about how much fun it is to cuddle up with that big, adorable teddy bear! Well, it is! But it is not so fun to vacuum everyday, to pick dog hair out of your food and laundry, and to spend hours on end brushing and bathing your new hairy beast. For many of us big fluffy dog lovers, the rewards are well worth the inconvenience, but make sure you are prepared for the reality of all that fur. Shave downs in the summer and the expense of a super high quality vacuum are also added expenses to tabulate.
Energy Level: ENERGY LEVEL is perhaps the most important consideration in selecting a dog. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog. If you adopt a high energy dog and find that you have to work long hours and do not enjoy getting up at 5am for a daily 5 mile run, your apartment may be in a shambles when you return home. Dogs that don't get enough exercise are bored and frustrated. Bored dogs frequently become destructive dogs and big destructive dogs can make BIG messes. If you are a couch potato, don't worry, the right dog is out there for you. But be honest with yourself and with us. Adopting a dog can be good motivation to get into shape, but it is not the time to delude yourself into transforming yourself from couch potato into world class athlete. Even the lowest energy dog can keep up with a moderately athletic person, so air on the side of lazy when it comes to picking a dog. If you really do run 10 miles each day, then we can certainly find you a good running buddy as well.