Homepage Pet Basics Choice of Right Pet Involves More Than Just "Animal Instincts"

July 13, 2021

Young boy plays with a puppy in a pet shop while parents and shop keeper look on.

Choice of Right Pet Involves More Than Just “Animal Instincts”

Young boy plays with a puppy in a pet shop while parents and shop keeper look on.
Choosing your new pet involves more than which pet is the cutest.

A friend recently called to ask me about purchasing a dog as a companion for her recently widowed mother. This opened up a whole discussion on pet selection, which I’d like to share.

Research shows that pets, whether fish in an aquarium, a cat, or a dog, significantly reduce the average blood pressure of their owners. Also, people who have pets live an average of four years longer than people without them. (Using this logic, if I’m overweight by 10 percent which statistically, decreases my life by six years, can I offset my death by having 1½ pets?)

The first consideration about buying a cat or dog is to make sure you are ready to make this lifelong commitment. This should not be an impulse purchase. For today’s column, we’ll discuss dogs.

The average large-breed dog lives 10 years, and the average small-breed dog lives 15 or more. Owning a pet requires time and energy for their daily maintenance.

Your pet’s needs do not stop when you are tired or preoccupied, when you leave on vacation, or when the weather is bad.

Be sure to consider how your dog will get exercise; if you don’t have a fenced-in yard, are you physically capable of at least providing two 20-minute walks per day?

Next, let’s address some specific considerations for selecting a breed of dog. First, most people have definite opinions about what they like and don’t like about the physical appearance of different breeds, but there is much more to consider than looks.

Other considerations include:

Size. Do you live in an apartment with a size restriction? Or a 10-acre ranch? Are there very small children or older teenagers in the family?

Temperament. Are you looking for a guard dog? A pet for children? Or a lap dog for your elderly grandmother? All breeds have general characteristics of temperament, which are influenced by what jobs they were bred for. Their activity levels will correlate to this also.

Gender. Most males tend to be larger than females and might be more active in general. Males tend to be more aggressive toward other males, and aggressive behavior may be more easily provoked.

Activity Level. Again, very breed-specific. Will two walks per day be enough?

Coat/Grooming Needs. How much loose hair on your floor can you tolerate? Do you prefer short-coated versus long-coated? Can you afford professional grooming fees?

Puppy vs. Adult. Getting a puppy means providing lots of house training and attention; an adult dog is calmer and probably house-trained but may come with other hidden behavioral problems.

Health. Every breed has its own congenitally abnormalities. For example, King Charles Cavalier Spaniels often develop cardiac disease, which requires lifelong expensive medications and annual cardiac ultrasounds. This also decreases their life expectancies.

The bottom line when choosing a dog is this: Do your homework first so you can make an informed decision and, therefore, a better match for you and your family.

Next time, we’ll give more on finding specific breed information and how to select that specific dog see.

This copyrighted article first appeared in the Residences section of The Palm Beach Post.

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