Your local shelter is often a good place to start looking. You can find both purebreds and mixed breeds. The shelter personnel will be able to tell you about each dog’s personality, activity level, eating habits and exercise needs.
While it is true that some dogs are in the shelter because of behavior problems, many were abandoned when owners no longer wanted them or could no longer care for them. Puppies are cute but can be a handful to train. An older, already trained dog might be the answer, if you don’t want to put up with potty training, teething and chewed up possessions.
Whether you buy a dog from a reputable breeder or decide to give a shelter animal a second chance at a loving home, look for a dog that is active and friendly. Avoid animals that are extremely shy or overly aggressive, unless you are expert at overcoming these problems.
Discuss your expectations for a dog with everyone in the immediate family. Consider:
- How much room you have. Big dogs and/or active dogs need lots of space and exercise.
- What activities you enjoy. If you want a companion for hunting, camping, and hiking, you don’t want to bring home a couch potato. On the other hand if you have a more sedentary life-style, an older dog may be a good choice.
- Your residence. If you live in an apartment, make sure that you are allowed to have a dog first, before bringing one home.
- Your financial situation. Dogs can be expensive. Some need a special diet; they all need to see a vet on a regular basis and sometimes in an emergency. Some dogs require expensive grooming, boarding, or training. And don’t forget about licensing, obedience training, toys and accessories.
Once you and the rest of the family have agreed on a dog, make an appointment with your vet ASAP to have him checked out. Unless it is something that is easily remedied, if the vet determines that the dog is unhealthy, return it right away, before you and the children get too attached.
Preparing for Your New Family Member
Decide on a place for him to exercise, eat and sleep. Go shopping for a collar and a leash, ID tag and some toys. Pet-proof your home by making sure all cleaning solutions, plants, electrical cords and breakable objects are out of reach. Any opening windows should have screens.
Once he is home, obey leash laws, keep up with necessary vaccinations, pick up after him, don’t let him bark incessantly and remember that he depends on you to keep him happy, healthy, safe, and loved for the rest of his life.