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Choosing Your New Pet: Dog

Select your new dog with your lifestyle and living situation in mind. In
addition to your new family member's personality, consider its temperament,
size, and coat as well. Some breeds have traits that may be objectionable in
certain circumstances, such as hyper excitability or a tendency to bark. Your
veterinarian is a valuable resource and should be consulted before you
acquire a pet of any kind.

Breed Selection

There are two types of dogs--purebred and mixed breed. The 124
recognized breeds are grouped into seven categories: hound, working,
terrier, toy, sporting, non-sporting, and herding. There are thousands of
mixed-breed combinations. Each purebred or mixed-breed dog has a
unique personality. Dogs originally bred for a specific purpose tend to retain
these characteristics. These dogs may require additional training and
patience. Selecting a specific breed does not guarantee a particular
behavior, but choosing offspring from animals with desirable temperaments
does increase one's chances of getting the best pet. Mixed breeds can be
as beautiful, intelligent, loving, and companionable as purebreds.

Veterinarians, breed-specific books (usually available at libraries
and pet stores), and dog shows are excellent sources of information about
individual breed characteristics and needs.

Selecting A Puppy

A new puppy can be a terrific addition to a family, but with the fun comes
responsibility for its care and well-being. Consider and prepare for your
puppy's needs before you adopt! Pick a puppy that is active, friendly, and
inquisitive. Avoid the one that appears to be afraid of everything or snarls at
people. If you select a timid puppy because you feel sorry for it, be aware
that such puppies may be fearful throughout their life. Fearful dogs
sometimes become aggressive and bite. Balance is the key, so look for a
well-rounded animal. The temperament of a puppy's relatives may be an
indication of its future behavior. If you are getting a puppy from a breeder,
ask to see the dog's parents. Request the names of owners of related dogs.
Contact these owners for information about their dogs' behavior and health
patterns. A dog's training is an important factor in determining future
behavior. Healthy puppies learn quickly. Frequent contact with people early
in the puppy's life enhances its adjustment to the human family. Six to 10
weeks is considered an ideal age to acquaint a puppy with its new home.
Do not engage in rough games with your new puppy; this may encourage
aggression. If you decide on a puppy be prepared for several months of
housebreaking and initial medical expenses.

Selecting An Older Dog

You don't have to get a puppy to train it the way you like. You can teach an
old dog new tricks. For some families, the best choice is an older
housebroken dog whose temperament, size, coat care, and behavior are
established. When adopting or buying an adult dog, inquire about its
background. Ask shelter personnel or the breeder what they have observed
about its personality. Some animals are given to shelters because of
behavioral problems. Many good dogs, however, are abandoned simply
because their owners can no longer care for them or no longer want them.
Sometimes, breeders will place an older dog in a home when its show or
breeding days are over. Many people when moving give dogs away. These
animals often make excellent companions. Providing a homeless animal
with love and security can win you a loyal companion.

Friend or Protector?

Most dogs, even tiny ones, bark when strangers approach their home or
yard. This bark is usually enough to deter intruders. A pet should not be
trained as an attack dog. Attack-trained dogs require special handling and
knowledge to prevent accidental injury to people, including members of
your own family.

Select your new dog with your lifestyle and living situation in mind. Balance is
the key, so look for a well-rounded dog that is active, friendly, and
inquisitive.

Veterinary Topics