Choosing the right breed to fit your family’s lifestyle
After hearing “Please can we get a dog?” from your children for the one-thousandth time, perhaps you are considering adding a canine to the family portrait. There are many suitable options for families of all ages and activity levels. Some important first steps include going to a dog show to talk to breeders and consulting dog-owning friends and neighbors to get a clear picture of what the commitment requires. Below are key questions that need to be considered when choosing your family dog.
How old are your children?
When considering a suitable breed for your family, don’t assume a smaller breed will be less work. Every breed requires its own manner of care, has a unique temperament, and its own exercise needs. And, regardless of breed, all dogs are fragile and no child should be left unsupervised with a dog of any age.
Which family member will serve as the main caretaker?
Even if you’re getting the dog for the kids, as the adult you are ultimately responsible for any pets you choose to bring into your house. If the kids fail to feed or walk the dog, it’s you who will wind up with the extra chores! It’s also important to consider the preferences and needs of all family members in your decision. Is your wife afraid of or allergic to dogs?
How active is your family and how much daily exercise are you willing and able to give your dog?
Can your family provide twice-daily extended walks and playtime or are you more likely to let your dog out in the backyard for exercise and bathroom breaks?
What are your family’s favorite activities?
If your family is the outdoorsy type, a Sporting or Herding breed such as a Labrador Retriever or a Border Collie that thrives on outdoor work may be a good match. For indoor types, a smaller, smooth-coated breed like a Boston Terrier or a Pug that enjoys the shelter of your home and constant companionship might be best.
Where does your family live?
Is your home on the farm or in a smaller city apartment? Try to match the breed’s needs with your living space.
How much does your family travel?
If you leave the dog at home, you will need to make arrangements for her care. You should have a well-established routine including an alternate “owner” for her when you are away.
Does your family have the financial resources to care for the dog?
While the purchase price is a one-time expense, there are a number of annual expenses such as food, vets bills and toys, which can add up to several hundred dollars. If the dog has an unexpected illness or injury, vet bills can run in the thousands of dollars.
Should my family get a puppy or an adult?
This question should be examined carefully. If you want a young puppy, consider that you are committing to a ten year (or longer) relationship. Puppies also require significant training. One option is to adopt a purebred rescue dog, which allows you the predictability of a particular breed, but means you don’t have to spend time and energy raising and training a puppy.
Where will I obtain my dog?
Once you’ve made your decision on a breed, go to AKC Marketplace to find responsible breeders who produce healthy, happy puppies.
Owning a dog can be a great way to bring your family together, get exercise and become involved in activities that are enriching for both dog and owner.
Here are 10 things you and your family can do with your companion:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435
Our Animal Poison Control Center experts have put together a handy list of the top toxic people foods to avoid feeding your pet. As always, if you suspect your pet has eaten any of the following foods, please note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.
Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. Under no circumstances should your pet be given any alcohol. If you suspect that your pet has ingested alcohol, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately.
Avocado is primarily a problem for birds, rabbits, donkeys, horses, and ruminants including sheep and goats. The biggest concern is for cardiovascular damage and death in birds and rabbits. Horses, donkeys and ruminants frequently get swollen, edematous head and neck.
Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine
These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee, and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.
The stems, leaves, peels, fruit and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid, essential oils that can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression if ingested in significant amounts. Small doses, such as eating the fruit, are not likely to present problems beyond minor stomach upset.
Coconut and Coconut Oil
When ingested in small amounts, coconut and coconut-based products are not likely to cause serious harm to your pet. The flesh and milk of fresh coconuts do contain oils that may cause stomach upset, loose stools or diarrhea. Because of this, we encourage you to use caution when offering your pets these foods. Coconut water is high in potassium and should not be given to your pet.
Grapes and Raisins
Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. Until more information is known about the toxic substance, it is best to avoid feeding grapes and raisins to dogs.
Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 24 to 48 hours.
Milk and Dairy
Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other dairy-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.
Nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts, contain high amounts of oils and fats. The fats can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and potentially pancreatitis in pets.
Onions, Garlic, Chives
These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage and anemia. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed.
Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones
Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets and humans. Raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.
Salt and Salty Snack Foods
Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. As such, we encourage you to avoid feeding salt-heavy snacks like potato chips, pretzels, and salted popcorn to your pets.
Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.
Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach to bloat, and potentially twist, becoming a life threatening emergency. The yeast produce ethanol as a by-product and a dog ingesting raw bread dough can become drunk (See alcohol).