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Written by Sarah Fulcher, CDT, Cert.CBST

If you are considering adding a dog to your family there are many things to consider. First, are you and your family ready for the responsibility of a dog? What type of dog would realistically be a good fit for your lifestyle? A family who isn’t very active shouldn’t adopt a border collie, for example. Should you get an adult, or a puppy? Adopt from a rescue or shelter, or buy from a breeder?

The first step is to determine if you are ready for a dog. Dogs are a lot of responsibility but the pay off you receive back is huge. A best friend, protector, and unconditional love, in exchange for a full belly and warm place to sleep. Dogs need exercise daily, and romping in the yard for most dogs isn’t going to cut it. While a fenced yard definitely makes owning a dog easier, it is not a substitute for walks and outings away from the yard. A dog who is only exercised within a yard may become frustrated and display behaviour problems. You need to commit to walking, and depending on the energy level of the dog you choose, maybe running on a daily basis.

Dogs, especially puppies, need patience, consistency and positive training to teach them the rules of the human world. They do not come equipped with this knowledge automatically and depend on us to teach them the rules in a fair way. They also need good quality food, and vet care – which can become quite costly in the event of accident or illness. Don’t expect your kids to take full responsibility for the dog either – children and teens lack the ability to take on this level of responsibility. While it is good for the entire family to be involved, parents are going to have to share the burden as well. Dogs (ESPECIALLY puppies) can’t be left alone for long hours in a day, so this is something that needs to be considered. Most can do up to 8 hours in a crate or loose in the house (except puppies) if thoroughly exercised before and after.

So, if you’ve decided you are ready for a dog, the next question is what type of dog should you get? I suggest you be honest with yourself about what you can realistically commit in terms of exercise, grooming, training etc. If you live a busy lifestyle and can only walk around the neighborhood during the week, don’t get a high energy dog like a husky or border collie. It will only drive you both mad! Sit down and make notes about your ideal activity level and personality of your future pooch. Things like grooming requirements, size, shedding, suitability with children and other pets should be considered. This handy quiz can help you through the important questions about owning a dog http://www.selectsmart.com/DOG/

Please consider a rescue dog. There are millions of wonderful dogs and puppies who need homes, that will be needlessly euthanized if they don’t find one. You van find every breed, mix, size, and temperment in a rescue dog, for a low adoption fee. Many rescue dogs are perfectly stable, balanced dogs who will make great companions. If you decide adopting a dog is not right for you, please take the time to find an ethical breeder to purchase a puppy from. The process of finding a breeder will be outlined in a subsequent article.

Check out Part 2 – Puppy or Adult

Sarah Fulcher is an owner of Barks and Recreation Pet Services and a Certified Dog Trainer in Trail, BC.