A lot of folks call us after they’ve chosen a new companion for their family, wondering what the heck they are going to do with the flying ball of fur that is currently bouncing off their walls and making them crazy! Well, we get a lot of business from folks who have dogs with ceaseless energy, puppies that won’t calm down or be easily trained, but many folks would be better served to take a good, honest look at their home, their family, and their lifestyle before deciding what kind of pet to adopt.
Hopefully you and your pup will be together for a long time, so here are a few of the main concerns you should consider before making the leap. If this seems like a lot of information to take in, and you would like a professional consultation, please contact us at Sarah’s Pet Services to schedule a meeting. We will be very happy to help you find the perfect pup for your pack!
Shelter or Breeder?
The first place to start is to consider whether you would like to try to find a dog from a shelter or rescue organization or find a purebred puppy raised by a breeder. Stay away from mall pet shops and “puppy mills”! Not only are you contributing to a commercial system that often puts the needs of the animals last, but you can never be sure about the health and proper socialization from these less reputable sources.
If you aren’t as picky about the specific breed or looks of your pet, a rescue service or shelter is a wonderful and economical place to get a new pet. Plus you get the joy of helping to turn a downtrodden hounds life around. Most shelters will also spay and neuter your pet, so that is one less thing to worry about. The downside to adopting a dog is that you may not get to choose the exact pet you have in your mind, but if you are willing to let go of your preconceptions, you can make a lifelong friend. We here at Sarah’s Pet Services have always had a soft spot for mixed breed dogs, who tend to have more “well-rounded” personalities!
Getting a dog from a breeder is great if you know exactly the kind of dog you want, and don’t mind paying extra for it. A good breeder is a mindful practitioner of many skills, and should be discerning about who they take as customers. They want to ensure their dogs find the best homes and will act accordingly. If a breeder doesn’t seem particularly picky, move on to someone who will make you jump through a few hoops. Check out their facility. Is it clean, are the dogs happy and healthy? These are all indications of how well adjusted your puppy will be.
Temperament and Testing?
No matter which route you choose to get your dog, make sure the dog’s personality and energy level match your desires and the limitations of your home. If you have the time to take your dog out for a daily run, by all means get a high energy pup. If you just want a friend to sit and snuggle after you get home from work, maybe find a pet who isn’t so rambunctious.
How well does the puppy pay attention? Will he be easy or difficult to train? Is he motivated by food? Praise? If the breed is highly intelligent, they will get bored easily and may turn to destructive behaviors. Will you be able to provide the physical, intellectual, and social stimulation to keep your new dog satisfied and fulfilled? We are always here to help, but the bulk of the time you will be responsible for your dog’s happiness. Make sure you don’t pick a dog who will make you feel overrun, exhausted, grumpy, or guilty.
Some breeds, like ever-lovin’ Labs, have a very high energy level as youngsters, but mellow out as they mature. Other breeds will not want to stop running until they are gray in the muzzle. Herding or work dogs will also have a huge amount of gas to burn, and may think you or other dogs are a flock to be barked at and gathered. Hunting hounds, like Beagles or Pointers, may get so into chasing birds or rabbits that they ignore all calls. Sometimes these dogs cannot be let off leash without fear of them disappearing. Learn the personality traits of the breed you are interested in, and make sure it fits with your lifestyle.
High Energy Breeds That Require an Extra Lot of Exercise and Attention or You Will Go Crazy When They Are Bouncing Off the Walls:
Australian Cattle Dog
German Shorthair Pointer
Jack Russell Terrier
Other Pets and Kids?
Do you have a busy household with many other pets and children? Then make sure you get an easy going and friendly dog who is not shy or fearful. Are you expecting a new addition to your family? Pick a chill dog who will be able to adapt to a baby. Do you have cats, bunnies, or chickens (we do…)? Make sure your dog will not chase them endlessly around your house in an explosion of fur and feathers. Do you have a grumpy old dog who won’t take kindly to an energetic pup in her face? Think about waiting or getting an adult dog or a more subdued breed to throw in the mix.
The bottom line is that dogs (as well as the rest of us) don’t necessarily get along with everyone. Do your best to properly take measure of your household, so you can pick a new member who will fit in.
Puppy, Adult, or Senior?
A puppy is a joy to behold (and to be held), but they require a lot of time and attention. You are responsible for setting up the habits and patterns that this dog will carry with her for life.
A puppy may not be able to go more than a few hours without a bathroom break or feeding. Will you be available for this extra effort? Again, we are always happy to help, but the real time and training always has to come from the owners.
One of the benefits of getting a dog from a shelter is that they may have older dogs to choose from. In addition to being a truly kind act to make sure that an older dog finds a good home, it can be a benefit to anybody who wants a “seasoned” dog who may have lower energy levels and more mellow needs. But be careful, older dogs can also have health problems and pre-existing behavior issues.
Little Guy or Big Dog?
Do you want a snuggly little friend to sit in your lap while you binge watch Breaking Bad? Do you like a big dog who will run and chase with you in the woods? There are all sizes of dogs out there, so be sure to think about what you want from your companion. Remember puppies grow, so try to make sure you aren’t getting a small pup now who may turn into a humongous hound tomorrow!
Little dogs can be protective of their owners (all that darn lap time) and “yappy”. They might not be as excited by vigorous exercise or cold weather. Big dogs need to be more carefully trained so they have good manners with people and children. If a Chihuahua jumps up in greeting it’s cute, but a Great Dane… not so much. Large breeds can have shorter lifespans and more health considerations, so keep all of that in mind.
Grooming and Allergies?
Are you or any members of your household allergic to dogs? There are certain breeds of dog that have hypoallergenic coats. Often these will not be found as rescues, but must be bought from a reputable breeder. Many of the “designer” lab mixes (Labradoodle, Goldendoodle, Cockapoo, etc.) are popular for this very reason.
Are you a neat freak who will not be pleased by tumbling tumbleweeds of dog hair rolling through your living room? Other dogs have shorter coats, and their fur won’t gather on your floors and carpets in wild tangles.
Be aware that here in New England, dogs with short coats may not be well suited for the frigid grip of winter, so they may enjoy a warm jacket in the cold season (though in my experience, people seem to care about the cold a heck of a lot more than dogs!). In the summertime, dogs with thick coats may enjoy a trendy haircut to look cool and stay cool.
We want you and your animal companions to have a long and happy life together. By thinking about these issues and choosing carefully, hopefully you can avoid many problems before they happen. And remember, with a little attention and work (and a few weekly visits from Sarah’s Pet Services), we can help you make your good dog GREAT!
Here are some great resources if you would like to adopt a rescue dog here in Western Massachusetts:
Dakin Humane Society
171 Union St.
163 Montague Rd.
Thomas J. O’Connor Animal Control & Adoption Center
627 Cottage Street
Springfield, MA 01104
Last Hope K9 Rescue
Last Hope K9 Rescue
71 Commercial Street, #184
Boston, MA 02109
Big Fluffy Dog Rescue
Nashville, TN 37206