How to Pick the Perfect Dog For Your Family

Who can resist that squishy pug face? Or those stubby little doxie legs? How about those piercing blue Huskie eyes?

When choosing a dog for your family, there is so much more to consider than looks. Choosing your dog based solely on looks could be disastrous—if you choose a dog ill-suited for your lifestyle, he may end up in a shelter and your family heartbroken. So before you impulsively pick your new furry family member, make sure you take into account these four major issues.

1. Breed Characteristics

While not set in stone, breed characteristics are a guideline for what behavior you can expect from your new pup. You want to make sure your family can meet the dog’s exercise and attention needs.

“You should understand the key characteristics of the breed, but you should also make sure the dog’s energy level matches yours,” California dog trainer and founder of The Pooch Coach, Beverly Ulbrich, says.

2. Added Expenses From Breed Stereotypes 

Although you might be looking for a protective dog, keep in mind your homeowners’ insurance could go up based on the breed you choose. Breeds that are considered aggressive by some could cause a spike in your rates.  These breeds typically include:

  • Pit Bulls
  • Bull Terriers
  • Rottweilers
  • Siberian Huskies
  • German Shepherds

Some landlords may outright ban certain breeds or charge an additional deposit. If you can demonstrate your dog is well-trained—with AKC Good Canine Certification, for example—you might be able to convince the insurance company or a landlord with liability concerns that your dog is safe.

3. Likelihood of Genetic Disorders 

Some breeds are prone to medical issues that might require lengthy and expensive medical care later in life.

“The defining characteristics of many breeds are the result of a genetic mutation,” Dr. Brandy Vickers says. “No breed is 100 percent problem-free but a mixed breed or mutt is less likely to have problems than a pure breed.”

pug face
The cute squishy pug face could lead to breathing problems later in life. It’s important to know what medical issues a breed may develop.

Common breed-related problems include:

  • Breathing problems in bulldogs and pugs
  • Skin folds in Shar-Peis caused by a connective tissue defect can lead to eye, ear and skin problems
  • Short dachshund legs are the result of a defect in long-bone formation.

Medical issues could be mitigated by signing your dog up for insurance as early as possible, so the issues aren’t considered pre-existing.

“I think accident and illness insurance is a good idea,” Dr. Vickers says. “But insurance companies are not all created equal.”

Make sure you familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of insurance and some statistics  to pick the right insurance for your dog. Ask if breed-related problems will be covered before signing up.

“Some companies will consider breed-related problems to be pre-existing conditions and will not offer coverage for treating them,” Dr. Vickers says.

Of course, the vast majority of pet parents will love their furry friend no matter what, but sadly some people do dump their dogs when they get sick. Picking a breed less prone to genetic disorders can keep this from happening altogether.

4. Age is Proportionate to Work

The age of the dog you adopt can also become an issue. Remember, puppies require a lot of attention—usually they cannot control their bladders longer than a couple hours and they need training, so you will need to invest more time with younger dogs or dogs who have not been housebroken. If you aren’t familiar with training a puppy, or don’t have enough free time to devote to your pup, this might not be the right fit.

“If you aren’t an experienced dog person, then you might want to consider an older dog or one who seems easy to train and handle, so you don’t get in over your head,” Ulbrich says. “Of course, enrolling in training can get you up to speed quickly.”

The Bottom Line

Although some breeds are cute as all get-out, they might not be the right fit for your family. Pick a dog that fits your lifestyle so you don’t end up returning him to the shelter out of frustration—which happens more often than you think!

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