Selecting a Dog

Selecting a Dog

There are a lot of things to consider long before you begin the process of selecting a dog for your family. The most important considerations being, is a dog the right pet for your family and is your family even ready for a pet. This section contains many valuable points to consider. Take the time to think about these things carefully and honestly before jumping into pet ownership.

Should you get a dog?

Pets are a permanent addition to the home. When you decide to bring a pet into your life, you want to maximize the probability of it staying in your life. If you bring a pet into your life too soon, you might regret it. Consider which kind of pet is more suited to your lifestyle.

Dog or cat?

  • Puppies require more constant attention than kittens. If a husband works full time and a wife works part time and they have a child in daycare, they are harried already. They should seriously consider a cat rather than a dog.
  • If you don't have more than a couple hours a day to give to a pet, then a dog is not right for you.


Dog or children?

  • Most people have pets first, then children. However, this is not always an ideal situation. If you are pregnant or planning to conceive, it might be advisable to put your desire for a pet on the back burner. Your life is about to go through it's biggest transition ever, and it is easy for your new pet to get less than its fair share of attention. Wait until you can give your new pet the optimum time and attention it deserves.
  • Infants require 24/7 care. To bring a puppy into your home during this time can be overwhelming and something is going to suffer. If you have children first, let them get out of diapers so you can have more time. Plus, it's easier to teach a toddler or small child the guidelines for how to treat an animal.


Owners who had good intentions give up their dogs to shelters everyday. Remember that owning a dog is a lifelong commitment with a variety of responsibilities. If you can't meet those responsibilities, neither you nor your dog will be happy. Honestly evaluate your lifestyle, your home and your pocketbook before you bring a dog into your life.

Realistically consider the following:

  • Ask yourself why you want a pet and if you have the time (for house-training, obedience training, exercise and companionship) and the money (for the initial purchase plus checkups, vaccinations, routine and emergency care, spaying/neutering, grooming, training classes, food, kennel, leashes, toys, brushes, etc.) for a pet.
  • Before you bring a dog home, picture this: veterinarian bills; housetraining and accidents that happen before training is complete; losing your best shoes to chewing and your best rosebush to digging; barking when you're trying to sleep and begging when you're trying to eat. If you aren't prepared for all the things dogs do, you aren't ready for a dog.
  • Depending on the size and temperament of the dog you get, you need to have proper indoor and outdoor facilities. If your outdoor facilities (like fences and runs) are not adequate, what would the legal and insurance implications be?


Okay, so you're still set on getting a dog. That's great. With dog ownership comes countless benefits, including companionship, devotion, unconditional love, as well as improved owner health (in the form of lower blood pressure). Now there are even more questions to ask yourself, like:

Will this dog be kept mostly inside or outside?

  • Is my yard large enough for a larger dog to get exercise?
  • Is my yard fenced, in case I choose to keep my dog outside?
  • Will my neighbors be compatible with this dog? Will my fence keep my dog out of their yard?


And when you have children in the house, there are more things to consider, like:

  • For the easiest transition, you should wait until your child is at least 7 or 8 years old before getting a dog.
  • Be prepared to include and involve your child in researching and selecting a dog.
  • Give the child limited responsibilities for care of the dog.
  • Select a breed that gets along well with children.


Most importantly, never get a dog "just for the kids" because it never works out that way.

Are you getting a dog for the right reasons?

If you are considering getting a pet to teach your children responsibility, you should reconsider your motivation. More often than not, pet care falls on the shoulders of the parents. Teaching a lesson isn't the only wrong reason for getting a dog. Other reasons people get (and eventually, give up) a dog include:

  • For the children
  • To give as a gift
  • To raise puppies and make money
  • Just for protection
  • Because you feel sorry for it
  • On impulse


When you bring a pet into your life, you want to maximize the probability of it staying in your life. Make sure you are getting a dog for the right reasons.

The responsibilities of pet ownership

At the very minimum, dogs require food and water. But no family pet deserves to live with the bare minimum. A good, loving home provides their dog with:

  • Food, including meals, treats, and sometimes special diets.
  • A crate or other confined area indoors, including a mat or bed. A fenced yard or kennel run outdoors, including a sheltered spot.
  • Fresh water.
  • Exercise, including a minimum of two walks or romps in the yard daily. Don't forget to bring a leash and pooper-scooper.
  • Training. House-training, as well as good manners and obedience training.
  • Health care, including regular checkups, vaccinations and dental care. And also emergency care due to illness or injury.
  • Grooming, at home or professional.
  • Play and toys that he can play with by himself.
  • Companionship, including lots of attention when you're home and a secure place to stay when you're out. A good boarding kennel is needed for extended periods of travel.
  • Forgiveness for housetraining accidents, for digging and barking and chewing or for just being a dog.


If you aim to be a responsible pet owner and teach your children the same, here's why you need to provide your dog with the characteristics of a good home:

  • Obedience training not only makes your dog a more enjoyable companion, but may one day save his life.
  • Regular grooming not only helps your dog look his best, it can affect how he feels. A well-groomed dog feels better.
  • Let a pet be a pet. If your dog isn't being bred, have it spayed or neutered by six months of age.
  • Dogs that are allowed to bark incessantly disturb the neighborhood and often prevent people from investigating a disturbance in the event that something goes wrong.
  • Cleaning up after your pet is your responsibility. Be prepared for accidents in public places by carrying plastic bags or a pooper scooper to clean up and dispose of your pet's waste.
  • Make sure your dog always wears a collar and ID tag with your telephone number. Your veterinarian can even implant microchip identification under your dog's skin.
  • Make safe arrangements for the care of your pet while you are absent from home. Dogs deserve a safe, enjoyable holiday as much as you do.
  • Always supervise interaction between your child and your pet until your child is at least 12 years of age.


A side note on spaying and neutering: some adults consider it educational for their child to watch pets mate, become pregnant and deliver a litter. Parents who want to teach a child to be responsible should have pets neutered before sexual maturity. Your child can learn about reproduction from other appropriate sources.

What to do when you're ready to choose a dog

Before bringing your new pet home, there are some things you can do to make the transition a lot easier for both the dog and your family.

  • Go ahead and select a veterinarian if you do not already have one. Your new dog"puppy or adult"will require health care, and your veterinarian will be your best friend in case of a health emergency. Ask your neighbors and friends for recommendations. Click here to begin your search.
  • Have all the supplies you will need on hand. When bringing your new dog home, you won't want to make several stops along the way for necessary items. Here's what you should have at home waiting for your new dog:
    • Food. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation on which brand to select and in order to make sure the food is appropriate to your new dog's age and dietary needs.
    • Dishes. It's important to have a separate dish for food and water. Make sure they won't tip and are not chewable.
    • Crate. Your new dog needs a place of his own for rest and quiet time. Crates also assist in house-training and allow you to rest well at night knowing your dog is safe. Dogs are den animals by nature, and they adapt very quickly to their new “den.”
    • Safe Toys. Hard rubber, rawhide or nylabones are the best bet for puppy toys. Never knot up a sock for your puppy to chew. He will not be able to distinguish between his play sock and your good socks.
    • Accessories. Your new dog will need a soft leather or nylon collar and leash, identification tag, rabies tag and grooming accessories like dog shampoo and a brush or comb.
  • Select a name for your new dog. Don't confuse him. Select a simple name and stick with it. It'll help him learn more quickly.

    You'll also want to pet-proof your house before bringing your new dog home. Remember, puppies are just like babies. They put everything in their mouths. You should pet-proof your home the same way you would child-proof your home to avoid accidents.

  • Make sure to put away all household chemicals, such as cleansers, insecticide, antifreeze and others. Dogs are especially attracted to antifreeze. Be sure to clean up spills immediately and keep the rest out of reach. Even a small amount can be fatal.

  • Plastic bags and aluminum cans can be extremely hazardous to puppies if swallowed.

  • Unplug or cover all electrical cords. A puppy can be electrocuted or severely burned if they chew on a cord that is plugged into an outlet. Larger dogs can also catch on cords while walking or running around, causing lamps, TVs, radios, etc. to fall.

  • Place houseplants out of reach. Many houseplants are poisonous.

  • Have separate areas for your new pet and any existing pets. Pets need to be introduced to one another slowly. Be sure you have an extra room or a kennel so that your pets can be separated until they have grown accustomed to each other.

  • Keep doors closed, including the doors to your washer and dryer, your closets, the cupboards, etc. Inquisitive animals can sneak in just about anywhere.

  • Keep household odds and ends out of your pet's reach. Things like garbage, medicine, pins, elastics, thread, needles, and so on should be placed out of the way.

When you go to make the final selection of your new dog, bring your child with you to pick out the pet. Observe the child and pet to see if they get along. And before taking a pet home—from anywhere—get some answers. Ask what parasite program the pet is currently on. Check the pet's coat to make sure it is free of fleas and debris.

For more information on flea and parasite prevention, visit

Once you arrive home with your new dog, establish a routine right away. His food and water dishes, and his crate and toys should always be kept in the same place. Start house-training immediately. If your new dog is a puppy, only let him do the same things that you will allow a full grown dog to do. Puppies learn very quickly and bad habits are hard to break.

Let your dog explore his new surroundings—the yard, the house and his new belongings—under constant supervision. Don't hold him or overwhelm him with petting. He needs to feel a sense of independence as he discovers his new territory.

Establish rules for your family regarding your new pet. Decide who's responsible for what: grooming, feeding, exercising, cleaning, play-time, and so on. Also establish whether or not there will be areas that are off-limits for your new pet, like sleeping on the children's beds. Make sure everyone agrees to enforce these rules consistently. Training your new dog to understand what's expected of him will be more difficult if family members are not consistent and in agreement on what's allowed.

Most of all, love and enjoy your new dog.

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