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Considerations When Choosing a Dog

Considerations When Choosing a Dog

Remember Your Puppy Will Grow Up Someday


Chocolate brown eyes, a warm nose and eager licking are classic images of an adorable puppy. From children to burly men, a puppy can level the playing field fast. There's something soothing about a little puppy who just wants to snuggle in your arms.


What dog owner hasn't thought, "I wish he would stay a puppy forever?" In less than a year, that tiny fur ball could weigh more than your teenage son and eat more than he does, too!


If you bring home your puppy at a very young age, you have the opportunity to train him to function within your environment. You also get to enjoy those hilarious moments when a puppy makes discoveries like chasing his own tail or catching a ball.


These times are so memorable. If you believe the old adage, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," then you definitely want to start with a puppy and raise him the way you want him to mature.


As dogs age, they take on more of the natural characteristics of their breed. Even ferocious guard dogs were once cuddly puppies with looks that could melt hearts. Once grown, that same dog can stare a hole through an intruder instantly be prepared to rip his hearts out to protect his territory (and his owners).


Show dogs may be gentler, but they require intense, repetitive training. If you want the show dog to perform on command, you can't confuse him with occasional babying behaviors. Dogs who have roles to play take those roles seriously.


To keep a sense of the puppy pet for a lifetime, you can choose a small lap dog. Some breeds are content with frequently being held and petted. They have the patience to sit with idle owners for hours in front of the TV.


Actually, they have more patience with inactivity as adult dogs than they have as puppies. The nature of being a puppy is like that of being a toddler - it's a time for exploring, running and making mistakes.


Puppies are so excited about every new thing - whether it's a toy or a butterfly floating in the air - that they quickly forget the command you gave. They wander around, even outside the protective boundaries of your yard.


Life with a puppy can be both wonderful and exhausting.  A puppy desperately wants your love and approval, so you have to correct it without being harsh. You can't compare one puppy to another, even if they are the same breed.


Each puppy has its own personality and abilities, so he'll progress with training at his pace, not the same pace as his siblings or the dog you owned previously. Dogs, like humans, can be charming babies and irritating adults - or just the opposite. So be prepared to love the dog you have for a lifetime.



Choosing Between a Male and Female Dog


Some dog owners claim that males are typically more aggressive and destructive, particularly in small spaces. Female dogs are said to be easier to train and more affectionate.


Depending on the dog breed, these stereotypes may be true or not. Choosing a female dog means either taking the initiative to spay, or deal with the issue of the dog being in heat. Failure to take action for doggie birth control means that you're constantly trying to find homes for cute litters of puppies.


Female dogs don't have menopause, so unlike the human female, dogs can have puppies practically all their lives. You'll spend weeks every year trying to guard your female from males who can catch the scent from blocks away. On the other hand, if you have a pure-bred dog that you want to breed, then having a female dog can become a financial advantage.


Male dogs insist on marking their territory, whether it's around your house or in the yard. They do this by urinating on their "spot" so they can find it again.  You can try to train a dog not to mark his territory, but you're asking him to go against his instincts.


If you have another male dog in the house, expect a battle for who rules the house, particularly if both want to be alpha dogs. Even a smaller male dog will challenge or irritate the larger male - just to prove who was in the house first.


Dogs of opposite genders tend to get along better than dogs of the same gender. While female dogs are not as vicious toward each other as male dogs, some females don't want to share their space with another dog.


Female dogs are generally easier to house train than male dogs, although that can vary by breed and by the skill of the dog trainer. Male dogs are seen as livelier and more active, but certain breeds are "high strung" in both males and females.


Ask the average person shopping for a dog and you'll find many are looking for a female dog. They probably believe the notion that female dogs are less aggressive and easier to train.


However, they forget that female dogs can be highly temperamental. Breeders tend to favor male dogs as an easier pet to manage.  Gender isn't the only predictor (or even a good predictor) of how a dog will behave.


Breeds that are known to be calm and tolerant, tend to be that way whether male or female. Other breeds that are feisty, nippy and difficult to handle are that way for males and females. 


Since there's no scientific evidence that predicts the characteristics of males compare with females, then the decision about dog gender is essentially subjective. Chances are, your memories of a childhood pet or a friend's pet that you wish you had is what's influencing your choice now.


Maybe you recall the gentle female Collie who lovingly cared for litter after litter of puppies as the ideal dog. Or you think about the rough and tumble large male dog that could run hard, play tirelessly and keep up with the most inquisitive children. If that's what leads you to decide whether a male or female is the best dog to have, then go with your feelings. For you, that will be the right choice.


Can You Offer Your Dog an Active Lifestyle?


Dogs are man's best friend, but many of them would like to eat the remote control. That's because they're active by nature, but they live with a TV addicted couch potato. This mismatch can make for a strained relationship - or a really miserable dog.


When bringing a dog into your home, you must consider the activity level that the dog needs to be physically and emotionally healthy. Some lazy adults think that if they only had a dog who needed walking twice daily, then they would get the exercise they've so carefully avoided for so many years.


Lazy people are not likely to change their habits enough to make a good fit between them and active dogs. It's the dog that will suffer as the lazy owner slacks off on walking and the dog fails to get what he needs in regular outdoor time.


The amount of daily activity that a dog needs is not the same as exercise. Every dog needs time each day to walk, run, jump and unwind. That may come with a walk on the leash to the park or around the block.


A dog that lives in a home with a fenced yard can enjoy free running and playing without the constraints of a leash. Older adults who have their own problems with mobility limitations need to choose a dog that requires less daily activity.


People who enjoy spending time outdoors for recreation or to unwind after a day at work are ideal owners for active dogs. Both owner and dog look forward to the end of the day, when they can play chase in the park or go for a run together.


Larger dogs tend to be more physically active. Among those are dogs whose heritage includes being working or hunting dogs. They have an innate desire to be busy and work off energy. Dogs such as Irish Setter, Doberman, Beagle, German Shepherd and Greyhound are built for movement and agility, so they naturally desire daily exercise.


Size can fool you as the extremely large dogs like the St. Bernard and Bull Mastiff, who can easily outweigh their owners, are low activity dogs. Even though you see the St. Bernard in movies rescuing the lost skier, what you miss is the rest of the time when the dog is sleeping in front of the fireplace.


Small dogs like Poodles, Pekinese and Chihuahuas can live in small spaces and forego the daily long walk in the park, but their high-strung temperaments cause them to be high in activity around the house.


Granted, their activity may be running aimlessly around the room, jumping on your guests or bouncing on you, but they do calm down when the energy burst is spent. That's the point where the little dogs crawl back on your lap or on their plush pillow for a well-deserved nap to recharge.


There may seem like so much to know before buying a dog - and there is! By taking time to make a profile of the dog that best fits your living space, personality, and personal activity level, you'll have a better match for a lasting relationship.



Taking a Dog's Grooming Needs into Consideration


Dog grooming is an art that goes from basic pet care to almost spa-like pampering. The essential grooming requirements depend on the dog's breed and its characteristics. The first thing a pet owner deals with is dog hair.


Long hair dogs that shed need more frequent grooming than short hair dogs or those who only shed seasonally. Dogs with curly or frizzy hair need daily care to detangle the hair and remove debris or foliage that gets caught in the coat while the dog is outdoors.


Sending your dog to a groomer each week gets expensive. But if you want the best for your dog, you can even hire mobile dog groomers who have a full grooming station in their vans.


 The groomer parks in your driveway and does the complete grooming onsite. This is a great convenience and avoids the "wet dog" smell lingering in your bathroom. To save money, you can also learn to do many of the basic grooming techniques yourself.


Dog grooming isn't just a luxury - it's a necessity. A dog that doesn't get proper grooming in a timely manner is at risk for illness, gingivitis, parasites and damage to both fur and skin.


Your dog may not be thrilled about getting a bath, but you can't let that stop you. Bathing is a health issue for dogs just as it is for people. You wouldn't stop bathing your toddler just because she screams at bath time, would you?


If you aren't sure about the right techniques for bathing, brushing and detangling your dog's fur, find a good online resource or ask if you can watch the dog groomer work. You may also take a class from a pet store or vet's office to learn the correct procedures - as well as get some expert tips on how to deal with your dog's anxiety or fears during grooming.          


The skin under the dog's fur can be highly sensitive. Avoid aggressive scrubbing while bathing your dog or you can remove too much of the natural oils that protect both skin and hair follicles.


Adding powder or scents that aren't formulated for use with dogs adds the potential for skin irritation or infection. If a product isn't made for dogs or the type of fur on your dog breed, then make it a rule never to use it.


Be patient when grooming. Take time to talk gently to your pet, rub his head or tummy and lend a playful quality to the grooming session. If you're rushed or impatient, then don't even start the grooming. Your dog will pick up on your attitude and be fearful or difficult to manage.


Even if your dog spends most of his time outdoors, you still need to do basic grooming. Without regular bathing, your dog is at the mercy of fleas and parasites that thrive on his lack of cleanliness.


Use the right tools. Don't use your old hairbrush on your dog. Get special brushes and combs that are made for your dog's fur. You don't save money using your castoffs if you damage the dog's skin and create a big vet bill.


You might save some money by bringing the dog to a groomer monthly or alternate weeks, while you handle the bath and simple hair brushing on the other weeks. Dog grooming is an essential part of maintaining your dog's health - as well as his good looks.



The Cost of Becoming a Loving Dog Owner


Dog ownership is like owning a boat - it's a never-ending expense. As soon as you bring the dog home (which can cost anywhere from a $30 pet adoption fee to $3,000 and up for purebred dogs), there are immediate needs to be fulfilled.


First, you have to have the right kind of dog food. Food choices are age-graded so that what you feed a puppy differs from what you give an adult dog. There are even foods for both puppies and older dogs with extra nutrients to match their unique needs.


Of course, you have to get food and water bowls the right size for the dog. Puppy bowls are closer to the floor and sturdy to avoid tipping over. Then you need a place for the dog to sleep. That can range from flannel blankets piled up in a box to a fully decked out doggie bed that costs more than your bed.


An outdoor dog needs a place to sleep that's sheltered from the weather. Simply placing a dog inside a fenced kennel isn't enough. That's little better than prison. An outdoor dog needs a solid doghouse.


You can get a cedar dog house suitable for a small dog for around $200 or for a large dog, expect to pay upwards of $1,000 for a cedar house that handles weathering well. In extreme climates, your dog needs more than un-insulated walls.


You can add an air conditioner or heating unit to the outdoor doghouse for the cost of the unit plus installation. You can also get an indoor doghouse, which gives medium to small dogs a sense of privacy. A charming rattan indoor doghouse is available for under $200 in smaller sizes.


As time goes on, you'll add to the bounty your dog owns - moving from necessities to frivolous items.  Your major on-going expenses will be upkeep with veterinarian shots, food, and grooming. 


Most cities have leash laws that require your dog to be on a leash, under your control when walking in public areas. You need a basic leash that attaches to a dog collar.  Dog collars come with matching leashes in neon colors, fine leather, rhinestones or other simulated jewels (or real depending on your budget).


The fashionable dog wears designer collars and leashes, which can match your designer clothing so you make a coordinated pair. A practical option for collar and leash is the reflective collar. If you take the dog out after dark for walking or running, the reflective collar is a valuable safety option for both of you.


The dog toy section is only slightly smaller than what you find in department stores for toddlers. Dog toys range from inexpensive chew items and bones to toy frogs, squirrels or cats that give your dog the sense of mastery over another species.


In cold and wet climates, doggie sweaters or raincoats are practical items. Small dogs really need the extra warmth of the sweater. The trend to dress up dogs in everything from swimsuits to party dresses to Halloween costumes to haute couture quickly runs up the tab for a new wardrobe that you love, but don't expect every dog to like the idea.


You'll also find an endless supply of dog training books and videos, dog grooming courses, personal training for dogs and dog exercises. Remember to save some money. You'll need it for the annual photos of your dog sitting on Santa's lap!



Bad Dogs Are a Reflection of Their Owners


How often do you hear an owner shout, "Bad dog" when what really needs to be said is "Bad handler?"  It's irritating to be walking down the sidewalk in your own neighborhood only to have a dog jump up on your clean clothes.


Or your new neighbor has a huge dog that likes to leave piles of "calling cards" in your front yard. Are these bad dogs? These dogs are not anymore bad than the neighbor's out of control kids. Why blame the dog (or the kids) when the adult who's supposed to be in charge isn't acting responsible?


Dogs need to be given limits for behavior inside the home, outside the home and while walking in public places. Inexperienced dog owners would be smart to find a dog trainer who can teach them how to properly handle the dog without breaking its spirit.


You could ask at the vet's office or local pet stores for names of dog trainers who hold private or group sessions with the dog and owner, or you could instantly access an online course and nip dog behavioral problem in the bud right away.


Part of this training is to teach the owner how to handle the dog. At times, dog trainers will admit it's easier to train the dog than the owner!  Dogs that must be leash trained for walking in public or at the park need practice, which begins around the yard or in a smaller location.


Barking is a behavior that distresses owners and neighbors. Shouting or punishing the dog for engaging in normal dog communication (barking) is counterproductive - as well as confusing to the dog.


Often, dogs bark because they lack attention or need food and water.   A barking dog can also be a strong deterrent to burglars, so completely suppressing the dog's bark might not be in your best interest.  Be careful not to laugh and playfully encourage a puppy to bark and then get angry at him months later when he barks louder as an adult dog. 


Dog trainers can also teach you how to reinforce the behaviors that you want with both praise and treats. You need to know how to reward the dog so that he gets the correct message and repeats the desired behavior or ceases the less desirable behavior.


Most importantly, don't expect a dog to learn a behavior that's contradictory to his breed. If you want a certain behavior, then get a dog that can give you want you expect. Good dogs are developed by patience, persistence and kindness.

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