Choosing a Dog for Your Family

Contributed by Angie Lewis, Alaska Animal Advocates President

Making the decision to add a dog to your family should be done with a great deal of thought and planning.  Everyone ought to agree upon this new addition and see her as part of the family and be willing to provide the care and training required.  Before you take this step, ask yourself some questions:

•    Do you have enough time to devote to a dog?
•    Do you have the ability to provide enough exercise for a dog?
•    Can you afford the costs involved in caring for a dog (food, veterinary care, daycare, training, etc.)?
•    Will you be able to prioritize your dog above your belongings, particularly for a puppy?

After you have decided that your family is ready for a dog, decide if you prefer a puppy or an adult.  Keep in mind that puppies need almost constant attention in order to be housetrained and learn good manners.  In order to have an emotionally stable puppy, she must be socialized, to be around adults, children, other animals, and different settings.  Think about the size your puppy will be when she grows up and how active she will become.  An older dog may suit a sedentary family more appropriately than a wild puppy. 

As the president of Alaska Animal Advocates, I always advise people to adopt a dog from Animal Control or a rescue group, rather than to purchase one from a pet store or backyard breeder.  An added benefit from adopting from these places is the knowledge that you have saved a life.  Puppies coming from puppy mills or backyard breeders often come from environments that are less than wholesome and they are typically not vaccinated, spayed or neutered, or microchipped.  These people are in the puppy business purely for money and don’t care about the health or well-being of the dogs.  

If you decide to get a purebred dog, do your homework to make sure that the breed you choose has the appropriate temperament and characteristics that will fit well with your lifestyle and family make-up.  Remember, that you can find many purebred dogs at Animal Control or rescue groups.  A mixed breed is usually a more adaptable dog for a variety of lifestyles and these dogs often have less health issues.

If you feel that you and your family are ready to make a lifetime commitment to a dog, do your homework, ask lots of questions, and access training and professionals as needed.  You will never have a better companion and your life will be so much richer as a result.