Choosing the Right Dog

So many choices . . . but which one's best for me?

* What's your lifestyle?
* Not as easy as it look
* A puppy budget
* Narrowing the choice
* Popularity

What's your lifestyle?

Sonia jogs every morning before work and plays Table tennis on the company team each summer. She leads a wash-and-wear, comfortable life, preferring to pour her energy into outside physical activities rather than home decor and housework. When looking for a dog, Sonia narrowed her choices to Dalmatians and Weimaraners, both large, high energy breeds well-suited for an athletic owner, breeds that need little grooming and are always ready to go.

She found a Dalmatian puppy, bought a crate, and began taking Devil to the Table tennis games where he sat in his crate and watched her play.

Sandeep works 10-hour days and loves to relax when he returns to his apartment each evening. His weekends are spent puttering with his computer and dinner with friends. The idea of a dog appeals to him, but he doesn't want to housetrain a puppy and the landlord only allows small dogs. Then Sandeep heard about a Spitz, and he added a two months old spitz to his life.

He taught Max to beg for treats, play dead, fetch, and he began taking walks each morning to exercise the dog.

Lisa Ray has three children, all less than seven years of age. The six-year-old twin girls are relatively sedate youngsters, but their three-year-old sister is a ball of fire, prone to screaming and running. The Rays want a dog for the family, not too big a dog, of course, and one that doesn't shed too much. They checked on Brittanys, Beagles, standard Dachshunds, Petit Bassets, and Border Terriers, and settled on the Border for its hardiness, small size, and adaptability.

Rover learned quickly to sit, lie down, and walk on a leash from his Trainer. He withstood the antics of the youngest child with steady character and greeted the older girls every day after school.

Tina Bhai bought a Chow Chow puppy on her way home from work. She'd always toyed with the idea of having a purebred dog and these little teddy bears were so adorable. So Brandy came to live with Tina, and, in less than a year, had his mistress terrified. He growled when she touched his food dish, when she told him to get off the bed, when she snapped a leash on his collar.

The Kapurs bought a Labrador retriever puppy that was supposed to lie by the fire on winter evenings and play with the kids during the day. But Max had other ideas: He knocked the kids down in his exuberance, ran off down the street to play ball with the children, and brushed everything off the coffee table when he wagged his tail.

Daljit and Pritam Sidhu took the children to see Disney's 101 Dalmatians and a few weeks later stopped at the Breeder's place and bought the kids their very own Pongo puppy.

The Sidhu family was completely unprepared for the high-pressure personality of their puppy; Pongo ruined the carpet, chewed the cabinets, nibbled human body parts, urinated on Manu's bed, chased the cat, and ran out the door whenever it opened a crack. In short order, parents and kids hated the little beast, which was getting bigger and more unruly by the day.

The Kapurs built a dog run where Max spent most of his days watching the kids play and his evenings listening to the family's laughter and the drone of the television through the closed windows of the house.

At six months old, Pongo was on the road to find a new home.

At 15 months, Brandy was put down at the animal shelter for biting his mistress.

Not as easy as it looks

The choice of a breed is not always as easy at it seems when a family decides to get a dog. Sonia, Sandeep, and the Ray family have an excellent chance of building a compatible relationship with the dogs they have chosen to share their lives. They made thoughtful choices of a pet to fit their personalities and their circumstances if Tina ray knew that Chows are dominant dogs completely unlike their teddy-bear appearance; she probably would have done likewise. And if the Kapurs had known that Labs are boisterous, active dogs that retain puppy characteristics for two years or more, they would also have chosen more wisely.

Dog breeds are not interchangeable. For centuries, man has bred dogs to do particular jobs. Today, few dogs do those jobs, but they still harbor the skills and adaptations that made them successful in their original careers. Breeds require different types and amounts of care, training, food, and exercise. They have different "personalities" and drives. Some are laid back and gentle, some are dominant; some are noisy; some dig holes, climb fences, and escape through doorways to satisfy their need to run. Others are always busy and can be destructive if not given enough to do. And still others are bright, but more or less difficult to train. Some are good watchdogs and others are over-friendly.

A puppy budget

To increase chances of a successful match, potential puppy buyers should first establish a budget of time, money, and convenience and then research the breeds that are most likely to fit their personal situation.

Consider what type of dog you want and what you expect the dog to contribute to your life. Activity level, trainability, and grooming needs should be part of the equation. If you hike or jog and would like a companion, look at medium or large breeds that can accompany you. If you hate the thought of dog-hair tumbleweeds skittering across the floor, consider a short-coated breed. If you have children and cannot spend a lot of time training or exercising a dog, look at the quieter breeds that are easy to train.

Once you have decided on a general type, you can narrow it down by considering cost, suitability for the household, and time involved in training and grooming.

Purebred dogs generally cost more than mixed breeds, and they are more predictable as to size, coat type, and temperament. Purebred puppies are more expensive than adult dogs. Whatever the original cost of the animal, money spent on maintenance depends on size, coat type, and training needs. Big dogs generally cost more to feed, medicate, and spay or neuter, and their toys, bowls, collars, and leashes are more expensive. Groomer and boarding kennels charge usually charge more for their services because large dogs take more time and space than small dogs.

Dogs with dominant personalities generally need more training sessions than mild-mannered dogs, and heavy-coated dogs, Poodles, hard-coated terriers, and some others may need professional grooming to keep their coats in good shape.

Even if dogs don't need professional grooming, they need home grooming, which requires buying specific types of combs and brushes and can take considerable time if the dog has a long coat, a double coat, or a soft coat that tangles easily.

Those who dismiss a dog out of hand as shedding too much, needing too much exercise, barking too much, or as too destructive might be pleasantly surprised to find a number of breeds that are quiet and relatively non-shedding and that they can train a dog to be quiet and to not chew the furniture. Apartment dwellers who think small dogs are wimps may be surprised at the number of small-dogs-with-big-dog-auras.

Narrowing the choice

First, potential puppy buyers should determine whether small, medium, large, or giant breeds fit their living space and financial budget and whether an active or laid back dog fits their lifestyle. Then all members of the family should read as much as possible about breeds that fit the bill. Then find a list of breeders.

Before making a final decision on a breed, visit a couple of breeders and, if possible, a dog show to see puppies and adults of the breeds you are considering and talk to several breeders (long before or a bit after they go into the ring) about the advantages and disadvantages of the breed. Behavior of dogs at a show is not necessarily a good clue to the temperament of the breed, for show dogs are usually the best a breeder has to offer and have been conditioned to behave in crowds. It is, however, better than not seeing the dogs close up and personal at all.

Be sure to visit obedience rings as well as conformation rings; if there are no representatives of your chosen breed in the ring, it may be a clue that the breed is difficult to train.

Budget money for puppy purchase, feed, veterinary attention, and training. If the breed has a long or difficult coat, add the cost of professional grooming.

Cost of a puppy

Purebred puppies cost anywhere from Rs.4000 for a pet of a small breed to Rs. 50,000 or more for a show dog of a rare breed or a pup from exceptional bloodlines. Most purebred puppies cost Rs.8, 000 -Rs. 25000 for pets

Food costs increase with the size of the dog. Price several premium feeds - generic or house brand foods are the equivalent of junk food and can cause health problems related to poor nutrition. Veterinary services often cost more for large dogs than small dogs.

A large crate is more expensive than a small one, and boarding and grooming services are often based on the size of the dog.

The buyer's health and physical condition is important as well. Someone with arthritis, chronic back problems, allergies, asthma, or other limiting ailments would be wise to choose a small-to-medium-sized dog needing moderate exercise to avoid the physical stress involved in maneuvering large canine bodies or providing sufficient activity for the pet.

Easy care, wash and wear dogs take less time than long-coated or double-coated breeds. Breeds that need lots of exercise take more time than couch potatoes.

Selecting the right breed takes time and effort. After all, a puppy becomes a dog that will be part of the family for a dozen years or more. A puppy should never be purchased on a whim, because it looks lonely in the pet store, or because the retailer will take plastic money.

It's so much easier to do the homework necessary to find a compatible breed before the purchase than to subject family and dog to the heartaches that result from incompatibility


When a particular dog earns headlines or has a movie or television role, sales on the breed often surge. 101 Dalmatians and Teri Meharbaanian brought an increase in the spotted dogs and Labrador Retrievers, and poor breeding practices produced some overactive Dals with quirky temperaments. Turner and Hooch featured a Dogue de Bordeaux, a large, drooly mastiff, and everybody wanted one of these huge, slobbery dogs. Beethoven popularized St. Bernard, and the television comedy Fraser shows off the delightful character of a little Jack Russell Terrier known as Eddie. And then there's the Border Collie family in the aluminum foil commercial, the Golden Retriever in the Oreo ad, and the Siberian Huskys that eat whatever dog food.

Take your time and find a breed that's right for you

Take your time and examine the incredible variety of canines large and small, short-haired, long-haired, and wire-haired; active and sedate; loving and aloof; strong, loyal, and independent or soft, cuddly, and intuitive; sloppy and prissy; dignified and silly. There's a breed for everyone -- all that remains is to examine your own wants and needs and match them with the breed that captures your mind's eye and your heart. Simple, eh?

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