The following bi-weekly column is written and sponsored by Bark & Boarding, which provides a heart-centered and safe environment for your pets. Conveniently located at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads, Bark & Boarding offers doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, walking and training services, plus in-home pet care.
By Rae Patterson, Writer and Animal Enthusiast
Summertime is here, it’s puppy season, and many people are beginning the search for a new dog to join their family. There are so many breeds and it can be overwhelming getting started.
Making a list of desired qualities in a dog is a great first step to finding the right match. This process involves thinking about yourself and your lifestyle, as much as about the potential dog. Here are some fundamental questions to ask about yourself and the dog you are considering.
How much exercise will this dog require, and how much am I able to offer?
What kind of space do you have? If you don’t have a large yard, do you have time to take your dog to the park regularly? Do you have any regular outdoor activities for which your dog could join you?
This is one of the most important factors to think about, because an active breed can misbehave if he doesn’t get the necessary exercise. For example, if a herding dog does not have the space to run, it is likely that dog will chew your furniture out of frustration.
What age dog will be the best fit for me?
It is tempting to go straight for the tumbling, cuddly puppies. But when people say puppies are a lot of work, they aren’t joking. Having a puppy is like having a human baby. They require constant supervision when they are not crated, and they cannot be in a crate all day.
All puppies will chew just about anything they can get their mouths around, since they are teething. To redirect them from chewing your clothes and furniture, you’ll need to provide your puppy with a steady stream of teething chew toys with a variety of textures.
Potty training takes time and cannot truly begin for most puppies until they are about 12 weeks old, because before that age, they do not have enough control of their bowl movements to learn to hold it. That means if you adopt an 8-week-old puppy, you’ll need to stock up on training pads and carpet cleaners and be ready to take your puppy out for a potty break every 1 to 2 hours throughout the day.
That said, if you are prepared and able, raising a puppy is joyful and rewarding. If you already have an adult dog who can be territorial or uncertain about other dogs, a puppy might be the best choice, since adult animals are often more accepting of new babies than of a new adult.
However, if you have a dog advanced in years, you’ll need to tire out your new puppy with lots of playtime, so that the little one doesn’t make your older dog crazy.
Some people want to rescue a senior dog who is in need of a home. This might be a good match for you, if you are often home and not extremely active. Do note that senior dogs will need high levels of glucosamine and chondroitin in their diets and will likely need extra supplements to keep their joints healthy. Older dogs are also likely to need more frequent vet visits, low-fat diets and ramps to get into the car.
How much will this dog eat, and how much am I willing to spend?
A healthy, active Labrador Retriever weighs an average of 67 pounds and will eat around 3.5 cups of quality, high protein food each day. This means a 25-pound bag of quality dog food would last your lab a little under a month.
Feeding your dog a food with lots of fillers will actually require your dog to eat more in order to feel full, and this often leads to obesity. The cost of dog food should not deter you from getting a dog you can afford, but it is important to be prepared for the expense, so your budget doesn’t suffer.
What kind of disposition am I looking for?
Do you need a high-energy, gentle family dog who won’t be stressed out by all your kids? What about your other pets? If you have a dominant dog at home already, talk to your shelters, rescues, or breeders about finding a dog with an easy-going personality. If you have two rabbits, you might not want a dog with a high prey drive, like a Greyhound.
For those who have several specific needs in their dog’s personality, it might be a good idea to try a fostering program where you can bring the dog home for a trial period, or to ask one of the dog’s handlers to meet you and your current dog at a local park.
Regardless of personality, it is always crucial to introduce a new pet to your current pets gradually and with full supervision. If you have a current dog you want to work on socializing before introducing a new pet, Bark & Boarding’s daycare program is a great place to start. We can also give you tips on choosing the right pup.
How much health and coat maintenance does this dog require?
All dogs need their puppy shots and yearly physicals, but certain breeds have common problems for which you may need to be prepared. For example, certain breeds have a tendency to have food allergies.
White dogs need their skin and coat monitored closely because they are prone to sunburn and skin sensitivities. Dachshunds and Corgis benefit from ramps and stairs, since they are prone to back problems. These are things to be aware of as you’re searching.
Dogs’ coats vary greatly as well. Wire-coated dogs like Airedales need regular grooming, so their coats don’t become matted. All dogs with fur shed. But be ready for those Huskies and Corgis. Dogs bred for cold climates have a fluffy undercoat that adds significantly to your brushing and sweeping duties. Make sure you’re willing to do that little extra work for your dream dog before diving in.
Asking yourself these questions will give you a great starting point for your search. Good luck finding the perfect pooch for your home!