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Finding a Dog to Fit Your Family's Lifestyle

Plan Ahead to Reap the Rewards of a Loving Family Pet

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.  So before selecting your dog, do your homework.

Variety of dogs, variety of nuisances

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. 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.  The following breeds tend to be diggers: 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. Certain dominant breeds can also tend toward aggressiveness if not handled by a firm and skilled handler. Choose these dogs 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.

Grooming is another consideration.  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, Lhasa Apso, Old English Sheepdog, Poodle, Schnauzer, and Terriers.

Traits to look for in a family dog

Many unforeseen problems are avoidable by finding a dog that'll be easy for your child to handle so your child can assist in training. Easy trainers include American Water Spaniel, Australian Shepherd, Bichon Frise, Cocker Spaniel, Irish Setter, Italian Greyhound, Maltese, and Shetland Sheepdog.

Calm, gentle breeds are essential for families with small children. Keep in mind size alone 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. Consider an American Eskimo, Bloodhound, Brittany, Dalmatian, Golden Retriever, Irish Wolfhound, Labrador Retriever, Pointer, Poodle, Saint Bernard, or Schnauzer.

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.

Little kids sometimes get too close to a dog while it’s eating or chewing a bone or startle a dog while it’s sleeping. Sometimes, small children hang on dogs, pull their tails, or threaten a dog’s safety. This can lead to injury to either the dog or your child.

Apartment living is another consideration. 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.

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

Finally, keep in mind no matter how sincere your child's intent to care for his new pet, it's a big responsibility. Ultimately, parents take the brunt of the work. Also, the holiday season may not be the best time of year to bring home a new dog. 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 it adjusts to its new home.

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