If you are thinking about obtaining a dog for the first time there are many things which you should consider before doing so. Consider carefully how a dog will fit into your life. Dogs need your time and attention if they are to thrive, so if you have a busy lifestyle and heavy work commitments a dog may not be right for you at this time. You will need to think about the size of your home, your working hours, neighbours, family, holiday arrangements and the financial commitment of keeping a dog as a pet. Please consider very carefully before you decide to take a dog into your home. If you make a decision to obtain a dog then it is a commitment which should be for life. Dogs live for many years so if your circumstances are likely to change considerably over the next few years you should think about the impact of this on your ability to look after your pet. Take your time to decide whether you can commit yourself to caring for a dog, never rush into it on impulse. If you make the wrong decision at this stage it may lead to a very sad situation for yourself and the dog in the future.
If you have carefully considered the issues involved in keeping a dog and have reached the conclusion that a dog is the right pet for you it will be necessary to consider what type of dog you should take on. Would you like a pedigree or non-pedigree dog? If you choose a non-pedigree puppy it can be difficult to know what your pet will be like as an adult; however non-pedigree dogs are usually less expensive to purchase than pedigree animals, often make excellent pets and are less likely to have the health problems which affect many pedigree dogs. If you decide a non-pedigree animal is the right type for you, try to meet the mother and the father of your chosen pet if it is still a puppy; this will give you a fair indication of what the pups will be like as adults. If you would prefer a pedigree pet it can be easier to find out about the likely characteristics and temperament of your chosen type, however pedigree animals do tend to be quite expensive to purchase. If you intend to breed and show your dog then it will probably be sensible to obtain a pedigree pet.
Once you have decided whether you would like a pedigree or non-pedigree animal it will be necessary to choose the particular breed or type of dog which would be most suitable for you. Probably the next decision to be made is what size of dog would be best for you. Dogs can be very broadly classified as large, medium or small breeds. Large breeds of dog are not generally suitable if you live in a flat or small house. Elderly or infirm owners may not be able to handle these large animals and they may be too boisterous and clumsy for households with small children. You should remember that larger breeds of dog cost more to keep, both in terms of feeding and veterinary bills. Some large breeds of dog can produce lots of saliva and will slobber copiously over everything and everyone around them! Large breeds can be very gentle despite their size and can be good with children. Medium sized breeds are suitable for many situations but once again they may be too strong for elderly owners. Medium breeds fit into the lifestyle of many families and they can be very good with children. Smaller breeds of dog can be easy to manage and can be suitable for older owners; however when they are young they can be just as energetic as any other breed. Smaller dogs can be a hazard sometimes since it is easy to trip over them. Sometimes smaller breeds of dog can become snappy and this may be a concern, especially if you have children.
Now you have decided what size of dog is best for you it is possible to start looking at the individual breeds in more detail. Now is the time to think about the role of the dog in your household. Do you need a family pet, good with children? Would you like to get involved with showing or competing in agility or obedience events? Do you want a guard dog? Do you have other pets in the household which need to be considered? All of these factors may influence the type of dog which would be best for you. Obviously your reasons for obtaining a dog should be considered carefully and you should try to find out which breeds would be best suited to your needs and circumstances. Each household will be different in this respect but in general most dogs will be kept for companionship. If you are considering taking on a dog for other purposes than this you should find out as much as you can about your chosen interest before you go ahead.
If you are looking for a family pet the temperament of your chosen animal will be incredibly important to you. If you live in a busy household with children or elderly people you would probably find an aggressive or boisterous dog a handful. The best way to assess the likely temperament of your new dog is to meet the mother and father of your proposed new pet. If they are gentle and mild mannered your new pet is likely to have similar characteristics when it is older. I would always advise against getting any puppy which is already showing signs of an aggressive temperament- they are likely to get worse as they get older and could become very difficult to manage as adults.
If you are considering taking part in agility or obedience competitions with your new pet the ease of training will be an important factor. Breeds which seem to be most receptive to training are those such as Border Collies, Retrievers and German Shepherds. Everyone will need to be able to train their dog to some extent. Most dogs and their owners will benefit if a few obedience commands are known and obeyed.
Unless you are lucky enough to have a huge garden the energy levels of your chosen breed should be considered as well as its size. Some dogs need lots of mental and physical stimulation to keep them healthy and happy. Breeds which have been bred for purposes such as herding or hunting tend to need plenty of exercise. They are often also breeds which benefit from training and plenty of mental stimulation. If you own a breed such as this then you may find that they are very receptive to training and do well in activities such as agility trials. If you have a dog which requires lots of exercise and it does not receive it the dog may become obese or develop behaviour problems due to boredom. Dogs with lots of energy include Dalmations, Border Collies, Flat Coat Retrievers and Jack Russell Terriers.
Closely linked to the energy levels of a breed are its exercise requirements. Some breeds of dog such as Basset Hounds, Corgi, Whippet and Bichon Frise only require a relatively small amount of exercise. They only need short walks and occasional games in the house may help to keep them fit. Dogs which require medium levels of exercise include Boxers, German Shepherds and Retrievers. They need walks daily and benefit from occasional long walks and also from games in the garden such as catching a ball or frisbee. Dogs which require a great deal of exercise include Springer Spaniels and Dalmations. They need long walks and plenty of exercise in the form of games or free run of large outside gardens. If you love long walks and have the time and energy to take your dog out regularly an active breed will be fine for you. If you don't enjoy walking and have little time to spare for this activity a less active and energetic breed will be a must.
Some breeds of dog are more likely to be noisy than others. This may have to be a major consideration for you if you live in close proximity to other houses. Noisy dogs can cause a great deal of friction between neighbours and this could lead to complaints being made to the local authorities. If you leave any dog for long periods of time they may bark or howl for attention. However the breeds which have been developed for guarding activities tend to be the worst offenders. Potentially noisy breeds of dog include German Shepherds, Jack Russell Terriers, Doberman and the Rotweiller.
The amount of grooming your new pet is likely to require is often an important consideration since many people find themselves short of time these days. Dogs with long coats will obviously need more grooming, combing and brushing. They may easily pick up grass seeds and burs in their fur and their coats become easily matted. Some breeds such as the Poodle will require professional grooming. Dogs with very short, fine fur may need to wear coats in cold weather. All dogs shed their fur and this usually ends up on the carpet and soft furnishings. If the shedding of fur will be a problem to you then you may be better off with a breed with a short coat.
Once you have a short list of breeds that may be suitable for you then it is time to consider if any of them have any potential health problems. Many breeds are known to be susceptible to certain conditions and you should find out if this is the case for your chosen breed.
Once you have decided on a particular breed then it is time to think about whether you would like a puppy or an older dog. Puppies are adorable but will not be house-trained when you get them and will chew things around your home. Older dogs may sometimes be easier than puppies but they may have an unknown history and may have needed to be re-homed because they have some behavioural problems, which could also become a problem for you. If you do decide to obtain an older dog try to find out why it needed to be re-homed. This is particularly important if you have young children since many dogs are re-homed due to problems with aggression.
Now you have decided exactly what type of dog is right for you it is time to go out and look for your new pet. You may decide to purchase your new pet from a reputable breeder. This is often the most reliable way of getting the type of pet you would like. You will often be able to meet both parents of your prospective pet in this situation and reputable breeders will be concerned about the type of home their dogs are going to. Family homes are another good source of puppies and in this situation you should at least be able to meet the mother of your new puppy. Pet shops and other dealers should generally be avoided unless you know they have a very good reputation since puppies from these sources are more likely to have come into contact with infectious diseases. Dogs from rescue establishments often make loving pets but do try to find out why the dog needed to be re-homed.
Whatever dog you get, it will give you many years of companionship and pleasure if you make the correct choices at the beginning.