Take the guesswork out of choosing your next dog

Posted: Friday, June 04, 2004

Doggie Do'sBy Linda Shipman

Many prospective pet owners chose their dogs for sentimental reasons - perhaps an appealing cuteness or a behavior that plucks their heartstrings. While it's great to fall in love, the day-to-day routine of living with an incompatible companion can be wearing. Consider the following before bringing your next dog home.

Living space and dog size

Do you own your own home or rent? Homeowners have more options than apartment, condominium or mobile home dwellers, which have less square footage in their home, less yard space and perhaps rules that prohibit certain breeds or dogs that weigh more than 20 pounds.

Consider the long-term consequences this choice will impose on you, especially if your life circumstances change. In Juneau's tight housing market, you may be hard-pressed to find a new place that allows dogs. That cute, little puppy may grow up to be huge; have a tail that rearranges knee-level knick-knacks in a breath; or expends pent-up energy by dragging you down the road.

Dogs give us their lifetime of unconditional love. To dump them at the shelter simply because it's inconvenient to move with them, you have to look harder for a place to stay, or you can't be bothered to make temporary arrangements during the transition, speaks loudly in respect to your own character.

Puppy or adult

The advantage of a puppy is that you can imprint behaviors that fit your household, without inheriting someone else's values. The downside is puppies need focus and time. They require more frequent feedings, should not be left alone for more than a few hours, and need exposure to different environments, people and dogs. Invest the time early to socialize and train, and reap the dividends of a happy, healthy, well-mannered adult dog.

If you adopt a mature dog, it may need less exercise and be calmer. Most are housebroken, and many come knowing some basic commands.

Temperament

This dog will be your housemate for many years. Are your personalities in sync? Some breeds are aloof; others need a lot of people time to flourish. Do you want an animal that constantly seeks your attention, or one that entertains itself easily? Do you prefer an affectionate dog or one that is standoffish?

Do you have many people visiting your home? Children? Some breeds are very social and do well in these circumstances. Others prefer their families and are guarded with strangers. Do you want a social butterfly or a dog whose work is to protect you from strangers?

In general, there's little difference in temperament between male and female dogs, especially if you have your canine spayed or neutered before hormones kick in. Training can help with male roaming and leg-lifting.

Are all family members gone from the house during the workweek? Puppies need lots of one-on-one time, supervised play and exercise. You may be better off considering an adult from the shelter or a rescue group. You may also want to consider a fairly independent breed. Breeds with strong social interaction needs may exhibit behavior problems if left alone too much.

Exercise

A dog's breed and age will determine the amount of exercise required. Examine your lifestyle and the activity levels of different breeds. If you're a couch potato, consider breeds that require less exercise, such as greyhounds, bulldogs, or some of the toy breeds. If you're an active person, sporting or working breeds might be the ticket.

All dogs need walks, even small ones. Breed research is vital in order to match your activity level with that of your dog.

Grooming

If you're a neatnik, you probably don't want a dog that tromps through mud, swims and rolls in dead fish. Neither would you want one whose long, flowing tresses require a weekly comb out, unless you can tolerate hairballs floating like dandelion puffs around the house.

Many short-coated breeds shed less in comparison to longer-coated breeds, who may look beautiful, but require a lot of work to remain attractive. Check out grooming requirements on short-coated breeds too. Many of them shed more than you would think. For instance, the oily, water-resistant coats of Labrador retrievers can develop a particular odor if not bathed frequently.

Web sites for more information:

•http://www.ckcoj.org/documents/A_dog_in_your_life.pdf

•http://www.soyouwanna.com/site/syws/rightdog/rightdog2.html

•http://www.about-dogs.com/quiz_for_choosing_dog.htm

•http://www.akc.org/life/family/ready_for_dog.cfm

•http://www.akc.org/life/family/find_breed.cfm

Proposed DNR regulations will require dogs to be on leash at Eagle Beach. See http://wwwdev.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/misc/regsdraft.pdf, page 3, Pets (11 AAC 12.130):

Send your comments by the June 11 deadline to Peter J. Panarese, chief field operations, Alaska State Parks, 550 W. Seventh Ave., Suite 1380, Anchorage, AK 99501-3561. E-mail: pete_panarese@dnr.state.ak.us. Fax: (907) 269-8907.



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