I often see the results of people acquiring a dog based on emotion instead of reason. Why is it that we sometimes spend weeks researching appliances or cars to find the best fit but often pick a dog (that may spend 14 years with us) spontaneously? Remember the box of puppies outside the supermarket? Deciding what dog to bring into the family should require prudent consideration. Research and education are important ingredients to ensure successful integration. Consult a vet or reputable dog trainer, peruse various dog books. If you have kids that are old enough to communicate ideas, have a family meeting (or 3) to discuss what kind of responsibilities are involved (feeding, training, walking, poop patrol, etc.). If your kids are toddlers, consider your time constraints and how much attention you’ll be able to give the dog. If you’re thinking about getting a puppy, think about this: taking care of another toddler 24/7, with needle sharp teeth to boot! The energy and attention requirements are immense!
Families with young children should be aware that many breeds, or mixes, are “prewired” for certain activities. For example: Border Collies and Heelers are herding dogs. This behavior often manifests when your kids are out in the yard running around. The dog attempts to nip at the feet and legs of the “herd”, your kids. Their shrieking and squealing may initiate an instinctual reaction from the dog: nipping, biting or jumping on the small people. The kid’s reaction to this, unfortunately, is usually more shrieking and squealing, resulting in a terrified child and an isolated dog.
If one is an apartment dweller it seems logical to have a small dog, but there are some larger dogs that are couch potatoes and a long daily walk or two will satisfy their activity requirements. Conversely, there are small dogs, some Terriers, that are like energizer bunnies! These dogs thrive in large yards, where they can chase balls and dig for gophers all day long.
If one has limited movement or serious health issues, selecting a dog that already has some training is a wise choice. I’ve seen the regrettable consequences that result when people are not physically able to handle their dog, small or large. For example: the frail cancer survivor whose adorable Boston terrier puppy ripped her thin skin to shreds and walked all over her – literally and figuratively. She (and I) tried for several exhausting months to make it work. Sadly, she ended up replacing him.
Adult children sometimes decide, with the best intentions, to get their lonely parent(s) a dog for company. An excellent idea! But be conscious of any physical limitations the parents may have. For instance, if the parent has trouble bending over or down, a small dog may not be a good match.
Canine companionship can be an extraordinarily fulfilling relationship when one makes prudent, sensible choices. Please, avoid “surprising” someone with a puppy or adult dog, especially if you have no way of knowing how prepared the recipient might be. If you are considering getting a companion for your family, your parents or your kids, do some research. Investigate which dog will match the lifestyle and activity level of the household. In doing so, your odds of ensuring happy, healthy, respectful relationships increase immeasurably.