Getting a Family Dog – What to Consider

Sheltie Dog

Your family has decided that they want to get a dog. This is a very exciting time but it is important to consider several things before you proceed.  Dogs are an additional member of your family and need to be included in your life. If your lifestyle is busy and you do not have the time to devote to a dog, then it is important to realise this and discuss this fact with your family members.  Here are some other things that you should consider:

Choose the Right Breed for Your Lifestyle

If you are not very active you should not choose a dog that needs a massive amount of exercise.  Herding dogs such as Border Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs and Kelpies are highly intelligent and need a lot of play and exercise. Since they are herding dogs, if they are not exercised enough they will easily get bored and may even try to herd your children around your house! Equally, owning a sighthound breed such as a greyhound or whippet may not be the best choice for families with children who may be inclined to leave the door open – sighthounds are notorious for running after small animals when they get them in their sights. This is not ideal if you live next to busy roads. 

So, your “lifestyle” encompasses where you live, how often you are willing to exercise the dog, how often you are willing to groom your dog, how much you want to spend on dog food and more. These are all factors to consider before you get your new dog.

Select a Dog that is the Right Size for Your Home

If you live in a small apartment, a large breed dog (Saint Bernard, Great Dane, Mastiff) may not be right for you. There are plenty of smaller and medium-sized dogs that are suitable for smaller spaces and are extremely family-friendly. Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers,  Terriers, Poodles, German Shepherds, Spaniels and Collies all make an ideal family pet.  It just depends on which type of dog you prefer. Take note though that some of these breeds (namely the Shepherds and Collies) require decent-sized backyards and lots of exercise. 

Will Your Family Commit to Caring for Your new Dog?

Dogs require a lot of attention and care. Puppies are like babies in that they will cry all night long because they have been separated from the only home they have known since birth. Prepare for plenty of sleepless nights until the puppy adjusts to their new home with you and your family.

Puppies also need lots of play time and chew toys because they are teething. The last thing you want it to have a puppy destroy all of your expensive shoes because it needs to chew on something.

Does Anyone in Your Home Have a Dog Allergy?

It’s best to find out now if someone in your home has an allergy to dogs. There are certain types of dogs that are less likely to cause a problem with allergies and they are known as hypoallergenic dogs. These breeds include Schnauzers, Bichon Frises, Poodles and Labradoodles (or any ‘doodle’ for that matter).

Consider Adopting a Mutt

Mixed breeds are less likely to succumb to a genetic disease as a purebred dog – this is simply because a crossbreed’s genetic makeup is a mixture of at least two different breeds. A common issue with purebred dogs is that through over-breeding and some inbreeding they have become genetically inferior and can be prone to cancer, skin diseases and other problems. 

Fun Fact: Did you know a dog that is a mix of three breeds is called a ‘Mongrel’?

Choose a Dog with a Mild Temperament

If you are choosing a purebred dog, a mild mannered breed is a great choice. Boxers, Bulldogs, Spaniels, Wheaten Terriers, Pugs and Bichon Frises are all dogs that tend to be mellow and have a nice temperament. Don’t get me wrong, all dogs have lovely personalities and this generalisation is not true for all individuals of a particular breed – trust me, I’ve got a Border Collie who is more quiet and mellow than both my Shih Tzu and my Jack Russell Terrier. But this can be very important when you have small children around. Big breeds like Labrador Retrievers can get excited and easily knock over small children. Very small breed dogs however can be very delicate and are not always the best choice either. If you need to have a smaller dog, terriers such as the Smooth Fox terrier, Norwich Terrier, and West Highland White Terrier are all great choices. Terriers tend to be quite happy but they can be prone to barking which may be something to consider depending on where you live. 

I think my ultimate breed for small children is definitely the Bichon Frise. The Bichon has a curly coat meaning they don’t shed and are more hypoallergenic than other breeds. They are a small, hardy dog who have an amazing yet calm and quiet temperament. There is only one downside to this incredible breed and that is they require regular grooming. A quick google search of this breed will display pictures of little dogs with fancy haircuts – these dogs are show dogs so don’t let this put you off – simply keep your Bichon’s woolly coat trimmed short (that way you don’t have to brush them either!)

See the below images as examples.

 Bichon Frise Haircut

Consider a Dog that “Failed”

Sometimes dogs that are meant to become a guide dog and they are adopted out after their training program. This is because they are considered not to be suitable as a guide dog for some reason and this can be a bonus for your family. You can contact a local guide dog school in your area to find out how you can apply to adopt this type of dog. Although there may be a lengthy application and waiting list, these dogs will be fully trained and can save you a lot of aggravation and time.

Where to Find Your New Dog

  • Local animal shelter – Most people want to adopt a puppy, but there are also many dogs available at your local animal shelter that need a loving home. Don’t automatically assume that a shelter dog has been abused and is unpredictable. Dogs go to shelters for many reasons including owners divorcing, an owner dying or a family moving to a place that doesn’t allow pets. Shelters have a substantial amount of questions for potential owners and this is because they want to ensure that your family is matched with a dog that is best suited for your home and situation.
  • Breed-Rescue Group – If you have your heart set on a certain breed but cannot afford to purchase one, consider contacting a breed-rescue group. These groups collect dogs which have been abandoned by their owners from local shelters, kennels and vets. You can also contact these groups if you have breed specific questions as they are a great resource if you are going to get a dog from a breeder.
  • Breed Specific Breeder – if a purebred puppy is what you are after, look for a local breeder that specializes in the breed of dog you are after. Make contact with the breeder and arrange a visit where you can meet the breeder, see the puppies and view the parents of the puppies. In some cases there may not be puppies but a litter could be expected soon. You may need to be on a waiting list (if the breeder approves of you). You may also have to sign an agreement where you will have the dog spayed or neutered so that you do not breed it with other dogs.

Please be aware that not all individuals of a specific breed display all of their breed’s characteristics. Take my Border Collie for instance, he doesn’t shed very much at all, doesn’t have a high drive and is the lowest energy Border Collie I’ve ever seen. In fact, he’s even a bit of a couch potato! My suggestion is that if you want to know a dog’s temperament as an adult then you should consider rescuing an adult dog  – then’ll you know exactly what they are like.

Be a good dog parent by giving them the time and love they deserve. Owning a dog is a serious commitment that you should take very seriously because a dog is a member of your family and will be with you for many years into the future.

Happy parenting!

I have been training dogs and studying their behaviour for over 10 years. I have a Certificate in Dog Psychology, Behaviour & Training. I have a particular passion for helping other dog owners. You can follow my talented Border Collie Frankie on Instagram (@BorderCollieFrankie) and on Facebook (@TheK9Superstars)

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