Q: Now that our kids aren’t toddlers anymore, we’re looking for the perfect family dog. I know we’re supposed to get a mixed breed rescue if we’re being politically correct about it, but we really want a puppy and we want to know what it’ll look like when it’s an adult. Could you recommend a good breed for a young family?
A: It’s hard to go to the shelter and look into all those dogs’ eyes knowing that half of them will be dead in a week. There’s nothing “politically correct” about that. And since most of them are young adults, not only are you getting a “pup,” you know exactly what your adult will look like, too.
But let’s say you’re willing to do the legwork required to find a healthy purebred. In this case, you’ll avoid the pet shops and the internet breeders (most are puppymillers, too) and contact the national breed club for the breed of your choice (check out AKC.org for a listing).
Whatever breed you choose, you owe it to the next 15 years of your life to do it right, even if it means spending double what the others charge. Here are some questions you’ll want to ask yourself:
• Picture yourself: What do you want a dog for? Companionship? Protection?
• What do you see yourself doing with a dog? Running? Going to the dog park with the kids? Going for long, sedate walks? Cuddling in front of the TV?
• Do you travel a lot? Would you take the dog with you?
• Does your living situation require a dog of a certain size? Exclude certain breed types?
• Does anyone in your family have allergies? (Note: All dogs can trigger allergies, even “hypoallergenic” ones.)
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have a great idea of what type of breed you’ll require. In general, type is more important than size or overall appearance. That’s because breed type is highly correlated with behavior. And how an animal behaves is what’ll ultimately determine your compatibility.
Here are some extra pointers:
• Families with children are best suited to active but friendly, less nervous breeds.
• Homes with small children are not ideal for breeds typically trained for protection work.
• Whatever you do, don’t get a bulldog if you want an affordable dog you can take with you everywhere.
One last note: Plan on getting a pet health insurance policy. Purebreds are awesome, but they can be pricey.