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How Do I Pick the Right Dog Out?

In my career as a dog trainer/consultant one of the most difficult decisions, I have found, that people have to make is deciding on what breed of dog is best suited for their household. The factors that come into play for this decision are infinite, and the home environment determines these factors. The home environment determines the personality of the dog that will fit into that environment. In other words, one would not suggest a Doberman with a high activity level to be placed in a home where the individuals will have no time to properly exercise that breed.

Before I start to give more information on this subject, there is something that needs to be said. If you are thinking of bringing a puppy into a household, evaluated the four points below before you make that decision.

1. A puppy must be fed at least six to eight times per day (a puppy will eat the same amount as a full grown dog but since their stomachs are much smaller they must be fed more times per day).

2. A puppy should never be left more than four hours per day. Since they are on a housebreaking schedule, they must be walked religiously before and after each feeding, and in between feedings. If a dog is not housebroken properly can they develop "dirty dog syndrome". Dirty dog syndrome is just another name for dirty toiletry habits: not caring whether they go to the bathroom in your house or outside. If a dog has developed true "dirty dog syndrome" it can never be corrected. Besides for the fact that they can develop this syndrome, dogs are usually very fastidious and when a dog has to be near where he/she has gone to the bathroom, it is emotionally damaging for the dog

3. The most formative weeks in a puppy's life is from seven to twelve weeks. This period is where the most imprinting takes hold. Imprinting is the map (mental outlook) that your dog will have for the rest of his/her life. Mistakes made in this period last for life and can be very rarely, if ever, fixed.

4. My suggestion is if you cannot meet the basic criteria discussed above, do not get a puppy. Wait until your lifestyle changes whereby you can properly take care of the animal.


As stated above the environmental factors of the household determine what breeds of dogs should be investigated. Factors to be considered are:

1. Are there children in the house?
2. What are the ages of the children?
3. Is it an extended family (where more than the nuclear family resides in the house)?
4. If it is an extended family, what are the ages of the relatives and do they suffer any disabilities or impairments?
5. Within the nuclear family, does any one suffer from any disabilities or impairments?
6. What are the working hours of the adults in the household?
7. Are the children that are living in the household (or extended family) capable of taking direction and caring for the animal when the working members of the family are not available?
8. What size house or apartment do you have?
9. What size yard will be available to the dog?
10. If you do not have a yard for housebreaking, do you have another area available to you?
11. If indoors, where do you plan on putting his wire training crate?
12. Are all housebreaking, feeding, exercise periods accounted for, and who will be responsible for them?
13. Is there anyone in the household who has allergies?
14. Is there anyone in the house who will be responsible enough or have the time to take the dog out for proper exercise?
15. Is there anyone in the house who has the inclination, maturity, or interest to obedience train the dog?
16. Besides for being a house pet, are there any future plans for the dog (i.e. protection work, Schutzhund, etc.)?
17. Do you have enough money to take care of the dog's medical needs (vaccination shots, if the dog gets hurt, etc.)?
18. Do you have enough money to take care of the dog's everyday needs (food, toys, equipment, vitamins, etc.)?
19. What size dog is the best for your household?
20. Is a dog with a long or short coat best for your household?
21. If you get a dog with a long coat, do you have the money to get him professionally groomed, or the time to do it yourself?
22. What is the basic temperament of the adults living in the household (are they easygoing or constantly nervous, agitated, yelling, etc.)?
23. Is the dog going to live outdoors or indoors?


These are just a couple of the factors that should be taken into consideration. Lastly, what breed do you prefer and does it fit into the lifestyle you have. I found an easy way how to get to the head of all these questions. What I usually do for my clients is I give them paperwork that has about 45 points on them. I distribute it to everyone in the household to fill out. After the paperwork is filled out I come back to their home and we compare all the answers that have been written down. These answers are then categorized in similar and dissimilar information. I then derive all the pluses from the answers and then resolve all the negatives. Once a profile has been attained, the search goes on for the perfect dog for that household. I usually consult a dog book that has approximately 140 breeds in it and we narrow it down so we can find the perfect breed characteristics for that particular family. Most of the time, there can be anywhere from five to ten choices of different dogs.

The above points and indicators may seem like a tremendous amount of work but what I have experienced is that when people do not take an objective and realistic account of the dog they want there usually is trouble. That trouble shows itself in the dog being abused because the people's lifestyles and the dog's needs conflict. They don't know how to deal with the dog's temperament and frustration leads to abuse. Or, when the situation becomes to uncontrollable for the people, they either uproot the dog and give him to someone else, or the dog is destroyed. Weigh your questions and answers carefully, be honest, and then provide the animal you pick with as much love, tenderness and comfort you can provide.

Written by Neal Seaman

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