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CHOOSING THE RIGHT DOG FOR YOUR FAMILY

  • Wednesday, January 27 2016 @ 10:17 am UTC
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HOW DO YOU DECIDE ON THE RIGHT FAMILY DOG
BY Erik Hoffer

It is amazing that now after 8+ years of running my rescue I have adopted out 761 German Shepherds to 761 families, and although a few have been returned, my track record is good in placing the right dog in the right home. IT’S NOT LUCK, BUT IT IS AT TIMES DESTINY. Many of my friends and rescue partners ask me repeatedly who fits what dog? How do I choose which dogs to show to which families? And of course the main question is not for me to answer but for the potential adopter to address, that is, which is the right dog for my family, notwithstanding breed and gender? How should you decide on getting a dog in the first place?

There is a considerable amount of criteria to consider, most of which you should already know. Things like:

1. Do you have the time for the dog?

2. Do you have the right place for the dog?

3. Can you afford a pet?

4. Does everyone in your family want the same thing?

5. What’s your tolerance for hair everywhere?

6. Are there people in your immediate and extended family that are possibly allergic?

7. Are your kids asking for a dog but in your heart you know they will not participate in its care, training or maintenance?

8. Do you like training an animal or do you want one mostly trained?

9. Are you alpha enough to have a particular breed of dog?

10. Can you commit the next 15 years to the dog?



Many of these questions are made to order family discussion topics. If you can’t get participation and acceptance from all members of the family, best to reconsider. If everyone in the household is on board then it is time to move to the decision on gender and moreover breed.



To select a breed many people rely on the dog they had as a child or the dog their best friend had who they loved for many years. No dog can ever be replicated by another. Remember each dog is an individual and it is through his personality, temperament, training, love and environment will he or she mature into his own being. You will probably determine what the dog will be even if he is an older rescue. Temperament and personality are pretty much fixed but how they perceive their home life dictates what the future holds for the animal. If you are engaged, he will be engaged; if you ignore him he will retreat into himself and adapt but be miserable for the remainder of his life. If he is a family member he will thrive and make you far happier than you have ever been, but treat him like furniture or as expendable and he will be sad and alone in your home.



No one wants to see a dog, rescue or a puppy, go to a place where he will not be loved and cherished as a family member. You need to have the time and band width to care for him beyond the first few days, months or years. Having a dog is a forever commitment and those who have has their dogs throughout the animal’s life know that there is nothing like a loyal loving pet to make any home a better place.



Once you have passed the critical point of commitment then you should explore breeds. Just because you had a particular breed in the past is no reason to get that same breed of dogs again. Choosing a breed must be made by your feeling toward an animals taking into account current conditions such as space, your physical ability, training time, kids ages, costs of maintaining the dog, size, neighborhood rules, insurance costs, hair clean-up and feeding and medical costs, and of course what’s in your mind’s eye and heart to help determine which breed suits you at this time in your life.



I have given older dogs to older people. I do not consider age a barrier to GSD ownership even though these dogs are quite a bit stronger and more energetic than most of us. I have a great female to a woman who was 82. She loved that dog and the dog loved her. She was diagnosed with cancer and retuned the dog to me but she said that she has the best year ever with the dog and thanked me. I have given a dog to a 65 year old man who has a 100 year old mother living with him. I asked her to come visit me for their interview and after meeting her I gave him the dog. She was spry, engaged and had a tremendous capacity for love for the dog. They are all still together. Age isn’t a determining factor but the ability to train and maintain the dog sure is.

Breeds vary from small to large and regardless of the breed or gender all dogs both pure breeds and mixes make great companions. My Bud for instance was a Husky-Shep-and everything else mix who I took from a NJ shelter at 12 weeks. He passed at 14.5 years. I love him completely. He was magnificent in every way. I have 7 dogs now including 1 Golden and 6 rescue GSD’s and I can say I love all of them as much as I loved Bud and the 10 others I have had in the past. I also love my 4 cats and all of their predecessors. If you can love an animal you will love your pet, regardless of most any factor. If you commit to a dog and invite him into your home and heart every and any pet will work for you. So why choose a particular breed?



If you get a book on dog breeds you will see these glorified descriptions on each breed. They summarily exclude mixes but do include the nuvo-breeds that have become popular. Like I said any dog will work. Golden’s are super sweet, super loyal etc., Jack Russel’s are energetic and need constant attention; GSD’s are extremely smart, loyal and protective….. and so it goes. The person writing about each breed obvious loved that breed and wrote all the great things he could about it. What they leave out is that you have the same propensity to get bitten by a bad Golden as by a bad GSD. You are more likely to find untrained smaller dogs and more highly trained larger dogs in the real world. You cannot ever make a decision on a breed from a description, but rather from hands on research. Speak to that breed’s owners, call a trainer and ask for advice, go to the local shelter and ask them for their take on breed choices or call some recognized breeders. Back yard breeders are typically jerks so calling a person who what’s to sell you a dog is unproductive and a waste of your time.



If you get a puppy make sure you meet the parents. If you can’t run like hell. If you go to a shelter make a decision with your head not your heart. If you go to a breed specific rescue or anywhere you may find a pet, make sure you know all there is to know and spend an hour or so with the dog with your entire family, exclude no one and spend a full hour so you can see some of his traits or issues first hand. If the rescue will not accept the return of the dog if things don’t work out, then run away. If the dog has medical problems find out in advance what the cures or remedies are so that you can decide of the condition is permanent or temporary, difficult or easily to live with and how the animal deals with is condition.



Don’t discount a dog for medical reasons unless you total understand the problems. For example, loose poop is easy to remedy, skin allergies is 99% food oriented, heart worm is curable, 3 legs, no problem, if he gets around well and if he is just a bit old and creaky, understand that you are going to be old and creaky (if you are not already) and see if you can grow old together. Don’t formulate prejudices based on hearsay or old wife’s tales as these are usually bull shit. Look at the animal as a unique individual and make decisions based on him with facts and advice from experts and not solely from empirical data.



Once you have picked out a breed, go meet lots of them. Speak to owners on Facebook or other social media so you have a clear picture of issues from real owners. Rely on your gut to tell you which breed to choose but make sure about your decision before you take a pet home. Pick out a training group, get the tools you need and choose a food based on advice from the dog’s source. Select a vet and ask them for advice once you have chosen a breed. Take the dog to the vet immediately so that you can verify any conditions that may not be apparent to you or the rescue or breeder. Don’t be shy to speak up. As questions now before the commitment is made. Don’t let emotions enter into a breed decision until you have an opportunity to meet that specific animal, because as stated all dogs are great family additions.