So you've decided you're ready to get a dog. You've thought through all the changes and adjustments you need to make when bringing a pet into your life, and find that you are emotionally and financially able to care for a dog.
But what kind of dog should you choose?
Not all dogs are created equal. This is an important thing to keep in mind when choosing what kind of canine to bring into your family. Although all dogs deserve to be loved and find good homes, you can help make sure your pet will be happy in its new environment by considering some very important factors.
Your living situation and access to the outdoors:
The size of your home and how often you are willing and able to get your dog the exercise he needs is a very important thing to consider when choosing your new pet. Although there are people who live in tiny apartments who can care for their Bull Mastiffs and Golden Retrievers just fine, these are the same people who need to make sure they have access to parks and wide outdoor spaces so their dogs can get exercise. Dogs need exercise and the opportunity to be outdoors just like people, both for their health and their sanity. Some people wonder why their dogs are anxious all the time and chew through furniture, and the most of the time the answer may be as simple as the dog is not getting enough exercise.
If you live in a big city and are unable to, or don't have time to, get to wide open spaces often, you might want to rethink getting a high-energy dog that needs a regular work out.
This doesn't mean small dogs don't need exercise, or that running around the house is enough for them. It irks me to think some people keep their small dogs cradled under their arm every time they step out the front door together. Although sometimes that is necessary, do get a leash if you have a small dog and let it roam around on its own once in awhile. They like to explore and stretch their legs too.
All dogs need to be groomed, even if they have short hair. Even people with short hairdos keep their hair brushed and combed, if not for style then at least for comfort. Consistent grooming is good for a dog's coat and improves their blood circulation. So don't skip doing this even if you end up with a short-haired dog.
Perhaps you are more interested in getting a dog with long hair. If you are not confident in caring for its coat yourself, make sure you can afford to send your pooch to a licensed groomer, because keeping long-haired dogs' fur in check can cost a substantial amount of money. It is important too, because tangled and matted fur can be very uncomfortable, even painful, for Shih Tzus, Poodles and similar dogs. Just imagine having knots in your hair that you can never brush out and they keep getting caught in things.
Then there are dogs who have relatively short hair, but will still require professionals to handle their coats. This is because some dogs, such as Border Collies, are unable to shed and must undergo a process called "stripping" to pull the dead fur out of their coats. If done improperly, this can be very painful for the dog (imagine getting your hair yanked out by the handful), so make sure you know what kind of care your dog's fur needs.
Many breeds of dogs are commonly known to have predispositions to various diseases, injuries or health issues. Brushing up on your knowledge of what kinds of health problems your dog may run into will help you be prepared if that unfortunate day ever comes. The Internet is rife with information from animal associations, pet owners and forums about what conditions some breeds are genetically predisposed to.
If you plan on caring for a mutt or mixed breed dog, its potential health problems will be more difficult to determine. However, do your best to find out your dog's history and lineage, you definitely won't regret knowing where your dog came from.
Some dogs were bred to hunt, some for herding, others to fight and some just to sit around and look pretty. Then there are dogs who are mixes of the aforementioned canines and may exhibit many of these qualities or a completely different set of them. It's helpful to know what your dog was originally "designed" for; you'll be less surprised when your Basset Hound starts howling for—what you think is—no reason.
These are some of the more major things that are important to think about when choosing a dog. I hope this list was helpful to you in your search for the right dog to bring home. Good luck!