Five things to consider before getting a new dog

Now that you’ve decided you want to get a dog, let’s do a little homework on what dog would fit best in your life. We’ll break it down by your lifestyle, a puppy or older dog, size, medical and grooming needs, and finally, cost.

Active vs. laid back

I volunteer at my local animal shelter and am involved in lots of adoptions each year.  Many of the people who come in to see the available dogs are looking for the cutest face. If they have not done any research about breeds, they may adopt a dog that does not fit in their lifestyle.  For example, if you are looking for a dog to jog with, a Greyhound would not be the best choice Greyhounds are short sprinters, not long-distance runners.  A better choice would be a Lab or Boxer, whose energy level lends it to needing lots of exercise.  If you have small children in your household, you should know that small running feet are almost irresistible to herding breeds.  Australian Shepherds or Corgis have been blamed for nipping children, when in fact they are trying to “herd” them.

Puppy vs. adult

It’s really hard to resist wanting a puppy, but puppies are a lot of work.  If you have a very busy lifestyle, you may be better off with a teen or adult dog.  Usually these dogs are already housebroken and through the bulk of the chewing stage. Plus most are fully grown so you already know what size they will be.  Plus in a shelter environment there are many breeds of dogs to choose from.  Using the above example of jogging, you must wait for a puppy to grow up and his bones to mature before he engages in any strenuous exercise. If you lead a homebody lifestyle, consider choosing an older dog.  These dogs just want to hang out with you all day, require very little exercise, and will be so grateful for a comfortable, loving place to live out their senior years.

Size doesn’t always matter

Just because you live in an apartment doesn’t mean that you can’t have a bigger dog (check your apartment rules first).  A lot of bigger dogs – Greyhounds, Great Danes, English Mastiffs are all fine with a couple of smaller walks during the day and a comfy place to rest for the remainder of the day.  Smaller breeds like Jack Russell Terriers need a lot of exercise and may make your apartment seem really small when they are running around trying to find something to do.  If not properly exercised, dogs with a high energy level – like terriers – will find their own outlet for their energy such as chewing or barking.

Medical needs, grooming and allergies

Do some research on particular breeds that you are interested in to see what medical issues may be genetic.  English Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers are all Brachycephalic, meaning they have pushed-in faces.  These breeds may need more frequent vet visits due to breathing problems.  Cocker Spaniels tend to have more ear infection issues, larger breeds tend to have more hip and joint issues.

Despite the non-allergenic claims by the designer dog breeders every dog that has fur has dander.  Admittedly some more than others, but make sure no one in your family is allergic – or is willing to medically address the allergy before you bring the dog home.  Grooming should be another consideration.  Dogs all require varied commitments to grooming.  A poodle, for example, will require more frequent professional grooming than a Lab. A German Shepherd Dog may not require as much professional grooming, but requires a large time commitment for brushing out those lovely locks (and reducing the shedding).


Before you go pick out the dog, check out some local pet supply stores and veterinarians to know what the average monthly cost is to own a dog.  Depending on the dog you get, your food bill could be as much as $100 per month.  Also research the price of county tags, vaccinations, spay or neuter (if not already done) grooming, flea and heart worm preventative, toys, daycare and training. The list goes on.  It’s a big commitment.

Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t trade my dogs for anything. The love and loyalty they give back makes me know I got the better end of the deal. Just go into it with your research completed and your heart wide open.

Terry Meeks is a dog trainer, APDT Member an CGC Evaluator in Pinellas County, Florida.  Find Four on the Floor Dog Training at and on Facebook.

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