Don’t give a puppy for Christmas: Finding the right dog



What is your family’s dog type? A little research, observation of pets your friends or family have, and visits to local animal shelters can pay off with a pet best suited to your needs. ©Thinkstock

Every year thousands of dogs are turned over to animal shelters because they were given as a gift without first consulting the gift recipient, or families discover they brought home a biter, barker, digger or jumper. When pets are given away, the pets, their owners and children all suffer. So before selecting your dog, do your homework. With a little pre-planning, you can find the dog that most closely fits your family’s or recipient’s lifestyle.

Variety of dogs, variety of nuisances

Dogs can create many nuisances some of which are more common in particular breeds. A barking dog helps protect against intruders. But excessive barking can become a problem. Some breeds known for their barking include the Alaskan Malamute, American Water Spaniel, Bassett Hound, Finnish Spitz, Fox and other Terriers, Great Pyrenees and Miniature Schnauzer.

A playful, energetic puppy can make a great playmate for your child. But as your puppy grows, that hyperactivity could become overwhelming. High-strung dogs often jump on people and tear through the house. Certain breeds tend to maintain that high energy level well into their adult size bodies. Such breeds include Airedale Terriers, Boxer, Brittany, Cocker Spaniel, Dalmatian, Golden Retriever, Irish Setter, Jack Russell Terrier, Labrador Retriever, Pointer and Schnauzer.

Dogs dig for many reasons—to bury a bone, to escape from a fenced yard, to keep cool or out of boredom. A torn-up yard can be the last straw for many dog owners. Diggers include Fox Terriers, Norwich Terrier and Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen.

Dogs can be aggressive for a variety of reasons. Poor breeding, physical abuse and even disease can cause aggression in a dog. And certain dominant breeds can tend toward aggressiveness if not handled properly. These dogs should be chosen with caution and the understanding they require strong leadership: Akita, American Pit Bull Terrier, Bulldog, Bullmastiff, Chow Chow, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Schnauzer, Shih Tzu, Siberian Husky and Weimaraner.

No matter how careful you are in selecting your pet, chances are, your puppy will develop a problem or nuisance behavior.

Grooming is another consideration. While it may sound painless, the upkeep of certain breeds can be overwhelming. In addition to keeping claws trimmed and an occasional bath, some dogs require lengthy daily brushing to remove tangles or trapped fur in double coats. High maintenance breeds include the American Eskimo, Cocker Spaniel, Collie, Great Pyrenees, Llaso Apso, Old English Sheepdog, Poodle, Schnauzer and Terriers.

Traits to look for in a family dog

Finding a dog that’ll be easy for your child to handle and assist in training will reduce many unforeseen problems. Easy trainers include American Water Spaniel, Australian Shepherd, Bichon Frise, Cocker Spaniel, Irish Setter, Italian Greyhound, Maltese and Shetland Sheepdog.

Calm, gentle breeds are important for families with small children. Keep in mind that size doesn’t dictate these traits. Gentle breeds you might consider are Bassett Hound, Beagle, Bearded Collie, Chinese Crested, Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland and Mastiff.

Playful and energetic puppies work well for older children who won’t feel threatened by the dog’s full-grown size. These breeds include American Eskimo, Bloodhound, Brittany, Dalmatian, Golden Retriever, Irish Wolfhound, Labrador Retriever, Pointer, Poodle, Saint Bernard and Schnauzer.

There are many other traits to consider in choosing a new dog. Before bringing home your puppy, read a book or articles about the breed that interests you to determine if he or she will fit your family’s lifestyle. For personalized assistance in choosing a breed, go to or one of the many other breed selection sites. You’ll be guided through a series of questions and receive a free personalized list of matches.

Special considerations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 800,000 people, mostly children, are bitten annually severely enough to require medical attention. Infants and small children shouldn’t be left alone with a dog. It may be difficult to picture your lovable Fido as capable of hurting your child. However, even the gentlest dogs have been known to bite.

Little ones sometimes get too close to a dog while he’s eating or chewing a bone or startle a dog while she’s sleeping. Sometimes, small children hang on dogs, pull their tails or threaten a dog’s safety.

In addition, dogs view their family as part of its pack. A properly trained dog should view adults and older children as alpha (top dog). However, a dog isn’t likely to view a small child in this light and may wield his authority when no one’s around.

Apartment living is another consideration. The size dog you choose is important to both your dog’s well being and to maintaining your sanity. High energy and medium to large breeds generally need large areas to romp. Without it, your apartment could become a round-the-clock racetrack. Planning regular walks for these dogs may not be sufficient. You’ll tire long before your dog, and there’ll be occasions when you just won’t be able to accommodate your puppy’s need to exercise.

The costs of pet ownership should also be weighed out. First, there are the obvious costs such as purchasing pet food and annual vaccinations. Other expenses include licensing, monthly heartworm pills, chew toys, damaged belongings, fencing, training, veterinary expense, grooming, kenneling and more.

If your family has members with bad allergies or asthma, check with your doctor before bringing ANY furred, feathered or finned pet into your home.

You may want to consider fostering an adult dog—usually through a rescue organization—to help determine if the dog is a good fit for your family. Puppies are cute, but require much work and patience. Consider giving a mutt a chance to win your heart. They are unique, one-of-a-kind breeds only their owners are lucky enough to enjoy.

Finally, keep in mind that no matter how sincere your child’s intent to care for his new pet, it’s a big responsibility and ultimately, parents take the brunt of the work. The holiday season may not be the best time of year to bring home a new puppy, according to Marta Diffen of the Michigan Humane Society. Families are generally too busy during the holidays to give a new pet the attention it needs. Choose a season when you’ll be able to spend plenty of time with your new dog as she adjusts to her new home.

Most importantly, try to understand and accept your pet’s imperfections and adjust your home accordingly to reduce aggravations. In time, your dog will accept the household routine and become a part of it.

KIMBERLY BLAKER, of Arizona, is an author and freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in more than 200 newspapers, parenting and women’s magazines, and other publications throughout the U.S.


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