Choosing your Dog

Tiny wet noses. Velvety ears. Squishy Buddha bellies. Wiggly little bums. Is there anything better than bringing home a puppy? Probably not. And while adopting or buying a dog is an exciting opportunity to bring a new family member into the mix, there are many elements that should influence that decision. Cost, lifestyle, and family life are just some of the factors that should play a role in aiding you doggie decisions.

First let’s talk about the financial obligations that accompany the furriest member of your family. Below are some ruff estimates of new dog costs (and this is before you factor in the shoes and couch cushions that will need to be replaced).

Dog Cost Chart

Initial Cost: Small Medium Large
Adoption or Purchase $50 to $2500 $50 to $2500 $50 to $2500
Vet Check and Vaccination $50 to $200  $50 to $200  $50 to $200 
Spay or Neuter $100 to $400 $150 to $500 $125 to $500
Crate/ Carrier $35 to $75 $50 to $100 $75 to $125
Bowls $10 to $20     $15 to $25     $15 to $25
Collar and Leash $5 to $30       $10 to $35 $12 to $40
Bed $10 to $50     $15 to $60 $20 to $100

The estimated low range initial cost for a small breed is $260, medium breed is $315, and a large breed is $372 (assuming the dog is in good health with no special needs). Want to implant a microchip in case Fido feels the need to stretch his legs all over the neighborhood? Tack on an additional $25 to $100. This initial cost then needs to be added to the average yearly costs below.

Continuous yearly cost:

Kibble $250 to $500  $350 to$650 $500 to $1000
Treats and Toys $50 to $150   $75 to $200 $100 to $250
Vet Visits $150   $150 $150
Flea and Tick and Heartworm $100 to $150 $125 to $200 $150 to $250
License $8.45 to $51.45 $8.45 to $51.45 $8.45 to $51.45

Did you know that all dogs three months or older must be licensed by January 1 of each year? Violators can be cited a maximum fine of $300 per violation plus court costs. In order to avoid this you can purchase an annual license for $8.45 and a lifetime license for $51.45.

So as of right now we have a low-end estimate of $550 to $900 a year, depending on size, to care for the newest family member. Now take into account additional expenses for health, grooming, day care, and boarding when necessary. Owning a pet is an obligation that needs to be taken seriously; do a preliminary cost breakdown to ensure that it will not become a financial burden.           

Now that you’ve determined that you can afford a dog, it’s time to answer another question: what king of dog will fit my lifestyle? A 500 square foot loft in the middle of a city does not scream hound dog (although it will if you put a hound dog in it – all night long). It’s best to make a decision based on your and the dog’s needs. If you do, the chances of both you and your pup being well adjusted and happy are greatly increased. Ask yourself to answer the following questions honestly and see what type of dog will work best in your current environment.

Size: it does matter.

Do you prefer a teacup Chihuahua, an enormous Mastiff, or something in between?

Do you prefer a dog that is high or low maintenance from a grooming standpoint?

Longer haired dogs tend to require more grooming and cost more than shorter haired dogs.

Shedding? Is your preference a dog that sheds minimally or not at all?

Drooling? Do you like slobbery kisses or would you prefer to keep the face baths to a minimum?

Allergies? All dogs have dander that causes allergies in humans, but there are dogs that can be tolerated by allergy sufferers.

Activity? This is a very important category. Active breeds that do not get their required amount of exercise can become destructive and stressed. Pick your dog based on your level of activity. Are you going to run, bike and swim together? Or are you looking for a cuddle buddy for those long weekend naps?

Hunting or working? Is your choice of dog going to help you enjoy your passion for the wilderness? Make sure you select the correct breed for hunting, retrieving, or hiking.

Life Span? The average lifespan of a dog is twelve years, but this can vary by size and breed. Lifespan should also be taken into account based on your situation. Life can change quickly, and change is not always the best thing for your four-legged family member. It’s an important factor to consider when choosing your breed.

Temperament? Do you have small children in the family? Other pets? Do you frequently have visitors? Would you like a dog that is social or independent? These are all very important questions to consider when bringing a new dog into the family. Certain breeds do better with children than others, some prefer to be only pets while others want to lie in your lap all day. Again your situation – family or single, life of the party or loner – should help you choose the appropriate dog for you.

Now that you have the perfect breed and know you can afford the responsibility, do you have the proper support system set up? Who is going to be available to let the dog out when you are running late from work? What about the last minute weekend trip to Vegas? Make sure that you have a support system of family and friends that can help you with these issues and more. But what if your mom is allergic and your best friend is a cat person?

Chances are there is a local facility that can help care for the dog by providing services such as boarding, day care and grooming; you just need to find it.  Will you need assistance walking your dog? Is there a neighborhood dog walker with the proper training? Do you have a neighbor or family member who can help? These are all important questions to have an answer to before bringing a new dog into the home. Once you have answered this question, revisit the breed of dog you are considering. If you have a lot of different handlers maybe a more social dog makes sense. Again a well-adjusted dog is a happy dog, and that makes for a happy owner. Try to make the best decision for both your needs. A square peg in a round hole does not work well for either party.

Breeders

The Internet and classifieds are filled with advertisements for breeders, so finding someone trustworthy with experience can be tricky. If you’re going the purebred route, it is essential to acquire your dog from a reputable breeder. Dogs bred in the wrong environment can cause significant behavior and health issues that can cost you money and even heartbreak.

The best way to find a breeder is through local dog care professionals. 

If you talk to your local professionals they can help point you in the right direction. Look to veterinarians, kennel clubs, dog trainers, pet care facilities and even at local dog shows for recommendations. Most reputable breeders will have a relationship with these people, or at the very least these people will know enough of a breeder’s reputation to give you an educated opinion.

Always, always, always (we’d say it one more time but that would just be redundant) tour the breeding facility. If a breeder will not let you tour the facility you should leave immediately. Puppies should not be raised in cages isolated from the family. Socialization in puppies begins between 3 and 8 weeks. This is the time for pups to learn important things such as bite inhibition and other social cues from their mother and littermates. If the breeder has them longer than 8 weeks, or if you bring the dog home between 8 and 16 weeks the puppies should be exposed to multiple stimulation, people, other animals, children and even different environments. Bottom line: the puppies should be raised in a home as part of the family, and the environment should always be safe and clean.

Now that you know how to find a breeder, it’s important to understand that many breeds are predisposed to health issues. As always, talk to your local veterinarians and do your own breed research to understand these concerns and possibilities. When talking to the breeder, ask to see health certificates for the parents and grandparents. You can also ask for references from their veterinarian to ensure proper care and genetic testing has been done. Most reputable breeders will make you sign a contract stipulating that you will return the dog to them if any major health issues exist. The breeder should also have an open return policy if you are dissatisfied with the dog for any reason.

Big Mac and fries or filet and a salad: we know what’s healthy for us, but it’s just as important to fuel your pups with healthy food. You can do research at an independent site such as petfoodadvisor.com to figure out which food you prefer. These sites will educate you on foods and what will work best for the dog. Remember: veterinarians are not dog nutritionists; reach out to a nutritionist for any additional questions. This kind of research is important, as you want to make sure that the breeder is feeding the dogs a premium food.

Also, do not let the breeder force you to use any one type of food. Many foods at many different price points can serve the dog well. Ensure you have the freedom to make decisions that will best serve the needs of the dog.

Finally it is time to meet the parents, but don’t worry, it shouldn’t involve pretending to like mom’s cooking or hearing about dad’s extensive firearms collection. It is important to meet as many of the puppy’s relatives as possible to see if any undesirable qualities exist (like possessiveness over toys or food aggression). Bring your children to play if applicable. Adults that are not social or are food aggressive may pass this behavior on to the pups. This is why meeting the mother is a necessity, but you can also ask to interact with the father and any adult siblings that might be on the premises. It’s also a good idea to ask for references on other litters that were sired by the same combination.

If you are one of the many people who want to adopt, the last thing to understand is if your potential adoptee was mistreated by his or her former owner. Dogs that were abused in their previous environment most likely will have some serious behavior issues due to lack of trust. These types of dogs need extra effort and patience in order to regain the dog’s trust. Most abused dogs will display fear and may act overly aggressive to everyday situations. Sudden movements, loud sounds, and even raised voices could startle the dog and cause him to become defensive because of his past. Previously abused dogs also tend to cower in corners and hide under objects in order to find a safe space. There’s also the worry that past violence could trigger outward aggression towards people and other animals. That being said, adopting a dog that was previously abused can be a very rewarding situation, just remember that extra care and time will be required, so take that into consideration when you are choosing.  Of course, not all dogs in shelters were abused. There are many friendly, well-adjusted dogs available just waiting to find their forever families. Our experts believe the best way to find the right shelter dog is to volunteer at local rescues and work with the dogs for many sessions before taking one home with you. Becoming a foster home is another way to help dogs as well as find your match.

Clearly there’s a lot of forethought and information that needs to be considered before bringing home your next fur baby. Trainers always says that no matter what, proper socialization and training will still be the best way to ensure a good relationship between you and your new dog.

Okay, got all of that? To help with your decision, we put together a list of top breeds for different lifestyles. As always finding the best fit for dog and parent is the final goal.

Top 5 Apartment dogs:

Great Dane
Yorkshire terrier
Bull dogs
King Charles
Bichon

Top 5 Active Dogs:

Boxer
Pit Bull
Labs
Golden
Vizsla

Top 5 homebody breeds:

Mastiffs
Newfoundland
St Bernard
Bull Dogs
Grey hounds

Top 5 Kid Friendly:

Bull Dogs
Golden retriever
Labrador
Newfoundland
Vizsla