In the US there are almost 80 million owned dogs. They reside in approximately 40% of American households. Every year, as the holidays arrive that number increases substantially.
Whether you have a house full of children or are single and living in an apartment there’s a dog out there waiting for you. But before you take the giant step of getting a dog you may want to do some research.
First and foremost decide on what type of dog you want and will it fit into your lifestyle. Do you want a small or big dog, a puppy or older one; a dog that needs a lot of exercise, and is always champing at the bit, or one more laid back? Does the dog need to get along with children, other pets or is strictly for you alone?
To find out what type of dog is for you, check out various websites. The Humane Society, ASPCA, local shelters, AKC. Ask friends and relatives who have dogs what they recommend. Call up a local veterinarian for information.
Believe it or not dogs can be grouped into breeds that can be owned by first timers, such as: Golden and Labrador Retrievers and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are great for new owners. Breeds for experienced owners include: German Shepherds; Jack Russell Terriers, Hounds, Rottweilers. Check the internet for lists of the breeds that will get along in your type of situation.
Where to get a dog? My suggestion is adopt…adopt…adopt. There are many rescue organizations in every city, such as Greyhound Rescue, Bulldog Rescue, etc. Try local animal shelters, humane societies, ASPCAs, etc.
Please do not buy dogs from pet stores. They mostly sell puppy mill dogs. That’s where the breeding dogs (sires and bitches) and puppies are usually mistreated and raised in sub standard conditions. If you decide to buy a pure bred dog, you should go to an American Kennel Club approved breeder specializing in that breed.
Whenever you go out to look at dogs, always tell the facility manager, or owner, what your circumstances are…house with kids, other pets, apartment, first timer, etc. You’ll find that an older dog, as opposed to a puppy, is easier to work with and own.
All and all a dog is a great companion. Be prepared to have the time, finances, temperament and life changing experience that a dog will bring to your home. In exchange you will get unconditional love and a new best friend.
There are many books, videos and articles on preparing, training, health issues and medical requirements you’ll need to know before bringing your dog home. Most libraries and the internet will give you the requirements and suggestions. Almost every community has group obedience training classes. Your local pet professional, library or shelter can direct you. Group classes are great. Not only does your dog get to socialize with other dogs and people, it’s also a bonding experience for both of you.
Besides having a dog for you and your family, you may want to share that dog with distressed members of your community. If your dog is
very well behaved, visiting a hospital or nursing home will do wonders for the patients. The joy that your dog can bring to children in a hospital’s pediatric unit or patients in a nursing home is immeasurable. In one case a geriatric patient, who wouldn’t or couldn’t talk, started singing when she petted the dog.
However, don’t run out to the nearest hospital. First call over and ask for the social services (social workers) department. They’ll have some rules and may suggest a volunteer organization to work with in respect to animal visitations. Don’t forget, when taking your dog out in a car, make sure you have a special canine safety harness that attaches to the seat belt. They’re made for every size dog and fit in all cars and SUVs like the Volvo XC90.
All and all, a dog can lower the blood pressure of those around it and become a favored member of the family.
photo credit: pinterest.com