Which Dog Is Right For You?

* Do you have a busy schedule or long hours? Puppies and young dogs require a lot of time and attention. Puppies can hold their bladders only 4 or 5 hours. Young dogs and even older dogs of active breeds require lots of exercise every day or behavioral problems will arise. A more mature, calmer dog will be a better choice.

* Do you have children under 12 or 14? Getting a dog is like adding another child to your household. And a puppy is even harder. Many families find that with the demands of raising children and driving them to various activities, they don’t have time to housebreak or train a puppy. And soon the little puppy becomes a big dog jumping on children and guests, begging for attention, and even getting into trouble. Obedience training is recommended for every household member, so everyone is practicing the same techniques (consistent practice is the key to training). We strongly recommend families consider a more mature dog whose size and temperament is known. A dog who seems happy, active, likes to be touched, and is not sensitive to handling and noise is typically a good choice for homes with children.

* If you want a puppy, why? No matter how adorable, all puppies grow up, and grow quickly. A cute, sweet little puppy can become a rough and difficult dog if not given consistent, effective obedience training. Being good with children is highly dependent on the breed, temperament and practicing good obedience training. If you have a busy household, a puppy is not the best choice. Puppies require more supervision and training, especially for discouraging common behavior such as jumping, chewing and nipping.

* What size is right for you? If you have children in the home, tiny breeds are a poor choice, since children can accidentally hurt the dog, and many small breeds are naturally wary of children. Choose a dog with whom the children can safely play. And size does not indicate energy level; some small boisterous terriers seem to take up more room and time than a large calm dog. If you live in an apartment or condo, look for a reasonably quiet dog — and practice techniques for avoiding separation anxiety from day one. (A dog with separation anxiety will often howl and bark, as well as destroy things out of fear, when left alone.)

* What about fur? Regardless of size, certain breeds require more grooming. And if you have allergies, think twice about getting a dog. While many believe that a dog who sheds less will be easier on allergies, the allergic reactions are triggered by dander and urine. Many people with allergies do fine with their dogs, but it helps to keep the house vacuumed, keep pets off your bed, use dander neutralizers on the fur, and to wash hands after petting the dog.