Cheat Sheet

Dogs All-In-One For Dummies

Choosing a dog breed may be the most important decision you make in your dog-adoption career. For example, couch potatoes shouldn’t adopt high-energy breeds such as the Siberian Husky. Shelters and pet-adoption services are fantastic, but if you just have to have that particular pure breed, approach potential breeders armed with the right questions. Finally, owning a dog is a serious, time-consuming activity — you’re well advised to stay current with up-to-date resources.

Choosing a Dog Breed to Match Your Temperament and Lifestyle

Ask the shelter or rescue group (or breeders) for help in determining the breed or mix of the animal you’re thinking about adopting, and be honest about your own lifestyle.

Each dog has a unique personality which may or may not be typical for the breed, so spend time playing with and observing your prospective pup — and with both parents (the dam and sire) if possible — before making any decisions:

  • Sporting breeds: Retrievers, Pointers, and Spaniels are high energy and need plenty of activity, but they’re generally easier than many other breeds to train.

  • Large working breeds: Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, and Boxers tend to be territorial and protective. They need to be thoroughly socialized to keep them from becoming aggressive.

  • Terriers: Jack Russell Terriers, Fox Terriers, Westies, and Schnauzers are high energy and bark a lot. They like to dig and jump, and can rarely be deterred from chasing small furry animals.

  • Hounds: Beagles, Dachshunds, and Greyhounds follow scents or moving targets without regard to you, traffic, or anything else. They are independent and can be difficult to train.

  • Northern breeds: Siberian Huskies and Malamutes are extremely high energy, independent, and notoriously difficult to train. They are great at sports like sled pulling but can become destructive without enough mental and physical challenge.

  • Toy breeds: Chihuahuas, Shih Tzu, and Maltese tend to bark a lot and can be prone to shyness (as a protective mechanism caused by their diminutive size) or aggression when they’re unsocialized or overly protected.

  • Herding breeds: Border Collies, Shelties, and Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent and trainable. They need a challenging job and plenty of exercise, or they can become destructive. Some herding breeds tend to nip at heels to keep children, other pets, or anyone else in the herd.

Evaluating Dog Breeders: Questions You Should Ask

If you go the breeder route, don’t stop with just “How much?” Money should not be the most important consideration when choosing a dog. Health and the breeder’s support and ethics should be high priorities. Ask the following questions of any breeder you’re considering working with — the answers you get should make you feel confident, and if any leaves you scratching your head, consider another breeder:

  • How long have you been involved with the breed?

  • Why do you love this breed?

  • Why do you breed dogs?

  • How often do you breed? When do you expect your next litter?

  • May I see the dam (mom) and photos of the sire (dad) and other relatives?

  • May I see where you raise the pups?

  • What is the lifespan and what health issues occur in this breed? Have you produced any of these? If so, how many? (A low percentage is good. Any breeder of more than two litters is bound to have had some problems.)

  • Are the parents certified to be healthy? (Ask to see certifications.)

  • Do you belong to any clubs? (Clubs often have codes of ethics.)

  • May I see the pedigree? (Look for titles within the first two generations— a sign of soundness and dedication.)

  • Do you pick the puppy or do I? (Breeders will want to match personalities.)

  • What is the medical history of the pups? (Usually the pups will have had one or two inoculations, a fecal examination, and possible deworming.)

  • What does the health guarantee cover? (Ask to see the contract.)

Furthering Your Doggie Knowledge: Nine Great Online Canine Resources

The online world is full of great resources aimed at keeping you up-to-date on doggie developments, whether it’s about finding and socializing a dog, health issues, or locating someone to dogsit or groom your pooch.

Here are nine of the most useful Web sites for dogs and those who love them:

  • American Kennel Club: The official breed organization for the U.S. maintains a large repository of all sorts of dog information. A great place to explore all the different breeds the club recognizes.

  • American Veterinary Medical Association: A huge resource for vets and dog owners, with sections covering finding vets, scientific education issues, and a huge amount of information related to animal health.

  • The Bark: Online version of this New Yorker-for-dogs publication, featuring high-quality articles about all things related to what they call “dog culture.”

  • Dogfriendly: A must for those planning to travel with a dog. Features state-by-state and city-by-city links to pet-friendly hotels, motels, and activity centers all over the U.S.

  • Dogster: A kind of social networking site for dogs, where your dog can strut his stuff with pictures and info you write — and meet other pooches in your area and beyond.

  • Dogster’s For the Love of Dog Blog: An entertaining read for those wanting dog news and such, brought to you by the people at Dogster.

  • Petfinder: This service matches homeless animals with prospective adoptive owners, boasting 13 million adoptions since 1995. You enter your ZIP code and get a list of adoptable dogs in your local area.

  • Pet Sitters International: Going strong for 15 years, this site aims to match up pet sitters with those needing that service. Entering your ZIP code connects you to pet sitters near you.

  • National Dog Groomers Association: A great way to discover information on grooming your dog — and find dog grooming professionals in your area.

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