So, you’ve finally made the decision to get a dog. Good for you! You are in for many years of fun, companionship, love and devotion. However, as a new dog owner, there are some things you need to prepare for, such as training, finding an excellent vet, and, if applicable, getting your new family member used to your old family members, furry or otherwise. I’ll cover all of these topics in future blog posts, but today I want to focus on finding the best dog for you, a new dog owner!
There are literally hundreds of breeds of dogs out there, and various other factors to consider when you are looking for the right kind for you. I’m not going to write another repetitive list of the “best” breeds for new dog owners. Instead, I’m going to give you some basic factors to consider to help you reach the right choice for you.
This is not an exhaustive list of factors to consider. If you have children, or other pets, certain breeds or mixes may not be ideal, for example. These are matters I will touch on in future blog posts. These are just a few universal points to consider.
1. Do you want a large or small dog?
This may be one of the most important questions to ask yourself as a new dog owner. The answers should be based on things like environment and lifestyle. While medium and even some larger (but lower energy) dogs may be suited to apartment life, many apartments that allow pets have a weight or size limit on what type of dog you may have. Also, the very largest breeds are simply unlikely to fit in well in a small living space.
For elderly people or children, smaller dogs may be easier to handle. They are lightweight if they need to be picked up and carried, or even to wrangle them into their harness or on their leash. However, small dogs are also more likely to be high-strung, vocal and possibly aggressive for an owner who is not well-versed in how to train them.
Larger dogs tend to be calmer (once fully mature), but their care may be a bit more physical as far as grooming and exercise are concerned. They may also be territorial and protective, which can result in louder barking and unpredictable behavior around strangers. For this reason, it is very important to socialize any dog, regardless of size, to a variety of settings and people.
Many mixed-breed dogs are unpredictable as to their final size upon reaching adulthood. If the breed makeup is known for certain (it usually isn’t), you can be fairly confident that a dog whose parents were both in the same size class will likely be similar. However, if thereare many breeds or size classes in the dog’s bloodline, their final size may not be known til they are one or even two years old.
2. Do you want a male or female dog?
Some people don’t have a strong preference in this area; those who do generally have their reasons. Some people gravitate to male dogs, believing females can have excess attitude or independence. Others prefer females, citing males’ leg-lifting and humping behaviors. For the most part, these trends have as much to do with breed makeup and individual personality as they do gender. You should seek out an easygoing, trainable dog for your first dog, first and foremost.
3. What sort of energy level should your dog have?
Do you live in an urban apartment? On a large farm? Do you spend your weekends hiking, or sitting in front of the television? Are you home a lot or will your dog need to be content to have plenty of free time and not wreck your home out of boredom and anxiety? All of these lifestyle and environmental factors should be part of the decision when you are considering your first dog. Be educated on which breeds and mixes are likely to be high-energy and need a lot of physical and mental stimulation, or which are likely to be low-key and content with their own company for stretches of time.
Lastly, I’ll say this: oftentimes, it is wise for a first dog to be an adult. A dog who is already mature and trained, and hopefully altered. Starting out with a puppy may sound fun, but often they require an experienced hand to get the basics down. Of course, a puppy can make a wonderful first dog, but be sure you know what you are getting into. Make sure you know of a reputable and humane trainer in case you need some help. A good vet or animal shelter employee can probably point you in the right direction.
If you have any questions or comments about getting your first dog, feel free to comment on this blog post as well and I will do my best to answer any questions you have. All the best with this wonderful new journey you’re embarking on!