How to choose a puppy that's right for your family

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Professional dog trainer Kathy Santo discusses some important factors to consider once you've decided you are ready for a puppy. Think about your lifestyle, your dog's ideal mature size, and how much time you have to groom, train and exercise your puppy in order to ensure you and your puppy are the perfect match.

How to choose a puppy that's right for your family Bringing a new dog into your home is a big responsibility. Once you’ve determined that you and your family are able and ready, it's time  to determine what type of puppy, and eventually dog, is right for you. Consider the following factors:
  • Size—Large dogs need space to move around and tend to be more expensive. They also have large wagging tails that are clumsy and pose a threat to your belongings and small children. Smaller dogs tend to be more delicate and vulnerable. Being stepped on or mishandled can cause serious injury. Little dogs are also more sensitive to colder temperatures, so be ready to keep them warm; but they're generally less expensive to maintain.
  • Cleaning commitment— Long-coated and double-coated dogs shed, shed, and shed some more, leaving tufts of hair to float about the house and land everywhere. How much time and money are you willing to spend on brushing or grooming?
  • Trainability— If you lack time and patience to deal with a dog that's difficult to train, then an older dog from a rescue may fit your bill, as well as a pup of a breed that is traditionally easier to train. Have a trainer help you identify which pups are most likely to train easily.
  • Noise— Some dogs bark a lot. And the amount can vary by breed. Research which breeds tend to bark less if noise is a priority.
  • Breed and temperament— Generalizations about certain breeds' temperaments can be described, but there's room within each description for individuality. Research online but also consult a trainer or bring one with you to help you pick out the puppy that's best for you.
Transcript Hi. I'm Kathy Santo for Iams with Howdini. Are you thinking of getting a dog? Bringing a new dog into your home is a big responsibility. You'll need to take the time to train and socialize your dog, as well as be prepared for the financial commitment that goes with pet ownership. Your dog will need food, supplies, veterinary care, and more. Remember, he'll depend on you for his health and well-being. So be sure you're ready for a dog before you start the process.
 
No surprise puppies. Make sure everyone in your household is on board with getting a puppy. Too often, puppies are given up, but the family isn't ready for the commitment that puppies require. Once you've got through the commitments and responsibilities associated with dog ownership, the next step is to figure out what type of dog is right for you and your family.
 
Today we're going to discuss a variety of things you should think about before choosing your dog. What type of family do you have? Do you have kids or other pets? What size of dog works best for your family? Do you know how much cleaning and grooming time you can commit to? How much time do you have for training your new pup? What energy level is a good fit for your home? Is barking something to consider? What kind of temperament is right for your family?
 
We all know how cute puppies and dogs are, and it can be hard to resist when you go to pick them out. Remember, they'll have an easier transition into your home if you think about the best type of dog for you. Consider the following aspects to help you choose the best dog for you and your family.
 
Large dogs. Generally they aren't suitable for apartment dwellers. They need a bit more space to move around, mostly for their long tails that need wagging space. They tend to be more expensive-- more dog food supplies and medical treatment.
 
Small dogs. They are more delicate and vulnerable. Being stepped on or mishandled can cause serious injury. Also, little dogs can be more sensitive to colder temperatures, so be ready to keep them warm. They're generally less expensive to maintain.
 
How much cleaning up can you commit to? Long-coated and double-coated dogs shed, shed, and shed some more, leaving tufts of hair to float about the house and land everywhere. How much time are you willing to spend brushing or grooming? Make sure to consider the cost. A monthly grooming service can really add up over the years.
 
If you lack time and patience to deal with a dog that's difficult to train, than an older dog from a rescue may fit your bill, as well as a pup of a breed that is traditionally easier to train. Intelligence is not necessarily an indicator of trainability. Smart dogs often have their own agenda and require consistency on the part of their owners. Dogs with a willingness to work and a desire to please you often turn out to be the best companions.
 
I recommend hiring a dog trainer to perform a few tests to help determine if the dog is a good fit for you. As a rule, terriers, hounds, and Northern dogs are tough to train because of their intelligence and independent natures, while sporting and herding dogs are easier to train.
 
The sharpest working obedience breeds are Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Border Collies, German Shepherds, and Shetland Sheepdogs-- breeds that develop closely with humans. Some dogs enjoy lounging at your feet to sleep the day away, while others are very energetic and ready to run a marathon right alongside you.
 
Cute as they are, Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, and Corgis are not jogging companions. And Airedales, German Shepherds, and Border Collies are not typical couch potatoes. All dogs need some exercise to stay healthy. Most adult dogs will not exercise themselves, so time for walks and other activities is important.
 
Some dogs bark a lot. And the amount can vary by breed. Terriers and scent hounds use their voices to broadcast their progress in chasing prey. Shelties and Collies bark to tell the sheep to get back to the barn. Canaan dogs bark to alert their families of potential intruders. Many dogs will bark if they're bored, so owners should also be sure to assess their own time and ability for training, walking, and play time, and should properly confine the dog when they can't otherwise keep it from disturbing the neighbors.
 
There are some special collars available to deter a barking dog, and training methods that can help in some cases. But if potential owners take the noise factor into consideration, problems are more likely to be minimized.
 
Breed and temperament can be described, but there's room within that description for individuality. For example, Akitas are declared to be tough, loyal, aloof, dominant, aggressive to other animals, and often challenging. However, many Akitas are sweet and cuddly, love small critters, will climb in laps if allowed, and are anything but aloof and dominant. Terriers are scrappy, yappy, tough and independent, but Airedale Terriers bond very closely to their humans and are somewhat protective. Hounds follow their eyes or noses and are often oblivious to human presence. Dachshunds bond closely with their families, and Greyhounds and Whippets are sweet, gentle pets.
 
Because temperament isn't always easy to judge when meeting a new dog, I strongly recommend hiring or asking a professional dog trainer to come with you to evaluate temperament. They'll be able to assess a dog's personality, compare it with your wish list, and determine what dog is the best fit for you. If you can't arrange this, ask the people who have interacted with the dog the most about his temperament.
 
Once you've thought about the commitment and have a good idea of what type of dog is the best fit for your family's lifestyle, check out your local animal shelter or animal rescue to see if a new addition is waiting there for you.
 
I'm Kathy Santo for Iams with Howdini. I hope you found this helpful as you welcome your new addition into your family. For more information on puppy care and training, visit iams.com/puppy.
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  • Kathy Santo

    Kathy Santo Professional Dog Trainer Kathy Santo is a columnist for the American Kennel Club’s Family Dog Magazine, and House Beautiful. Good Housekeeping has launched her as their online “Pet Expert” and in 2005 her dog training book, Kathy Santo’s Dog Sense was internationally released. more about this expert »

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