Beyond the Cute factor
There are few of us who haven't at some point in our lives considered the addition of a canine companion. Dogs are wonderful creatures who can enrich our daily experience in a myriad of ways. Before getting one, however, each and every responsible pet owner must consider whether or not their lifestyle is flexible enough to include an animal. Aspects of dog breed and background should always been compared to one's personal lifestyle, to ensure the best possible compatibility between the human and the dog. Below I've included some very important considerations that every potential dog owner should ask themselves before deciding on a dog.
1, Be clear with yourself about exactly how physically active you are.
Different breeds and ages of dogs have different exercise and activity requirements. A dog that isn't provided with enough exercise will find other ways to expend that energy, and these can often be destructive. What's more, a dog that does not receive enough exercise will almost always exhibit other behavioral problems, such as excessive barking and in severe instances, self-harm. On the other hand, dogs that are exercised too much can experience pain in the form of sore limbs and an upset stomach.
Ask yourself the following question:
On a sunny summer afternoon, would you rather a) go for a walk/run, b) sit on a patio, c) go to the beach, or d) stay at home and relax in the A/C?
No answer to this question is wrong or better than another. Follow your gut instinct. Your answer to this question will probably have some clues as to the age and breed of dog you want. Someone who answered “a)” would do well with a high energy Boxer, English Setter, or Labrador Retriever. Those who feel “b)” is the most accurate would potentially do well with a breed that requires less attention, such as a Havenese or Bulldog. If you answered “c)” alternatively, an American water spaniel might be more your speed, or even an Otterhound. Someone who answered “d)” may want to consider an older dog with less physical needs than an untrained puppy or adolescent.
2. Check in – what is your motivation for getting a dog?
Really ask yourself why you want one. Is it for companionship? Security? Exercise and greater time spent outdoors? Perhaps you are a student away from home? Do you just like dogs? Are you looking to fill some empty space in your life? Depending on what you're looking for, you can really start to narrow down the kind of dog that will be a good fit in your life. American cocker spaniels, for example, are upbeat, fun, happy companion dogs who also need a lot of exercise. Alternatively, a middle-aged basset hound is going to be your best couch potato buddy. And if security is what you're after, consider the Giant Schnauzer, Akita, or the Doberman. Dogs are as unique and full of wants and needs as we are. Great care must be taken in choosing a dog that will be compatible with you and your lifestyle.
3. Take a close look at your lifestyle.
Do you have a work schedule that is consistent or erratic? Dogs thrive on consistency, and a dog that does not know what to expect from its routine is often an unhappy one. Are you home a great deal, or do you like to spend most of your time out of the house? Are the activities you like to do inclusive for a dog, or better suited to a person solo? Do you have children who may cause a reactive or insecure dog some stress, or are you living with roommates who may have allergies or tolerances/requirements? The answers to these questions will help you find a dog that surpasses all of these variables.
Finally, and most importantly, you must ask yourself how capable and willing you are to change your current lifestyle to accommodate the needs of a canine companion for the rest of its life? The exercise, attention, medical, and financial needs of each dog are unique and like any living creature, are ever-changing. Will you be able to change with the needs of your dog?
The consequences of poor compatibility between a dog and his or her owner is a very sad reality for many dogs who end up re-homed, left behind in shelters, and in the very worst cases, abandoned by owners who did not prepare for the commitment their chosen dog required. The choice to own and care for any animal should be taken with great seriousness. You must be prepared physically, emotionally, and even financially for these changes, which can often seem quite sudden. And while most dog-human pairings are forgiving over time, the questions and reflections outlined here must be considered to ensure that the compatibility between you and your dog is an ultimate success.
Camille Salter is the founder of All Dogs Toronto and a certified, knowledge-assessed dog trainer (CPDT-KA). She is the author of two books on dog behavior: Pandemic Puppy, Decoding the Dog Park, and the Big Book of Dog Training.