Ah the biggest question that any responsible would be dog owner asks, MONTHS before they get their dog.
And the answer is just as important as the question itself. However, to answer that question there are others questions that must be asked first. (confusing? Sorry)
- Living arrangements: Do you own your home or rent?
- If you own, do you own a condo? a Suburban home? a Farm? Or maybe you own an urban dwelling like a NY Brownstone? These are things you must take into consideration when getting a dog
- If you rent, do you have landlord permission for a dog IN WRITING? If yes, what kind of living space do you rent? An apartment? A Condo? A house? or maybe you rent a lot and park your trailer there? (and there is NOTHING wrong with that!)
- Do you have kids? If so how old are they? How many of them? Are they high or low energy? These are VERY important when choosing your dog! The wrong dog around kids can result in tragedy for both human and animal.
- How much money do you make per year? Per month? Dogs are not cheap if you take proper care of them. Vet bills can run a hefty level depending on where you live. In some states a vet may only charge $50 for a spay or neuter. Other states, like where I live, a regular vet might charge over $200 for the same surgery. And its not just Vet bills you need to worry about. There are Registration fees (usually around $5-$10) and grooming if you don’t have the time or expertise to do it yourself.
- How much time do you have per day to care for this dog? Think carefully on this. Dogs are almost completely dependent on their humans for basic needs. How would you feel if you were locked home all day, for 9-12 hours, then yelled at for messing in the house? On the subject of housebreaking, it takes a lot of effort and time to properly train a puppy to use the outdoors. Patience is key here.
- Are you an active person? or do you prefer to sit at home watching YouTube and Anime? Do you go on long car trips or vacations? These are also important.
Now then, lets say you answered these questions as such.
You own your home, you live in a small suburb with a decent sized back yard, you have two kids, one 5 years old, the other 11. You make a tidy sum of 65K a year, Vet bills in your area are not high, but not cheap either, you work from home while your spouse works a day job in the city so you have lots of time to be with the dog. You are a reasonably active person, you jog a few miles every morning after the kids go to school, but for most of the day you are in your office handling w/e. Your family goes on a road trip vacation every summer, usually to a nation park.
There are several dog breeds that would fit this life style. The most popular is the Labrador Retriever. Well known for their high activity, but with the ability to chill out most of the day. They are generally good with kids, but still require supervision in case they get to playing a little too rough. Labs typically ride well, are easy to train, and require fairly little grooming. They are prone to some health problems, like skin cancer, hip dysplasia, and some intestinal woes as well, but most of these can be avoided with proper diet and exercise, and in the case of the skin cancer, regular check ups with the vet, as well as watching for any strange lumps or formations on the dog’s skin.
Another popular breed for this life style is the Golden Retriever. Many of the same behaviors, with different healthy problems. Goldens do require a bit more grooming because of their long hair (it is hair not fur) but it can be managed with a daily brushing.
A less obvious choice would be the German Shepherd, the Belgian Mal, or even the Staffordshire Terrier. Each has their own downfalls, but all are excellent family pets if raised properly and from stable lines. A GSD (German Shepherd Dog) is incredibly smart, goal oriented, and fiercely loyal to its pack. Same with the Belgian. However both breeds, if not properly socialized as pups, can be stranger aggressive. Alternatively, every now and then you get a Little Brother, my own German Shepherd/Husky mix who is and always has been so friendly he will let a stranger hook him to a leash and walk away with him. I actually had to put a padlock on my dog yard for this reason.
Now with the Staffy I am sure you are wondering WHAT I am thinking, suggesting a pit bull type dog to a family with small children. Well heres the thing. Dogs are only as dangerous as they learn to be. Yes genetics play some part in their natural levels of aggression, but would you accuse a young boy of being amurder just because his father killed someone? No you wouldn’t.
Staffys are an incredible dog, they are loyal, smart, and actually score better behavior wise than the popular poodles and Labrador retrievers! A true Staffy can indeed be just as dangerous as any other dog, which is why you should never leave a smile alone with ANY Animal. Not a dog, not a cat, not even a hamster. You know how many hamsters get rehomed for biting a child that squeezed them too hard? one estimate says that roughly 75% of hamsters bought for children either die or get rehomed within two months, because the child unintentionally harmed the animal.
A Pit bull can harm your child badly, but so can a Lab. Hell, believe it or not, if you get a Chihuahua, you increase your chances of being bitten by a dog by 300%. Compared to getting a pit bull where your chances go up by 120%.
A pit bull is an active dog, with the ability to settle down for long days of doing nothing. They will play with your kids and protect them. But don’t let them get bored. Bully breed, Shepherds (of any kind) and other ‘working line’ dogs get destructive when bored. But this is easily solved with good exercise and mentally stimulating toys, preferably ones that dispense a treat on occasion to keep their interest.
Now I am not saying all active dog will destroy your house, but they are more likely to if not entertained. However, when it comes to sheer destructive tendency, avoid the Rat or Jack Russell terrier. They are TERRORS! To get such a dog, you need to VERY active, you need to work on training EVERY SECOND OF EVERYDAY! I had a Rat terrier once, named Mouse, I rehomed her after 3 months, during which time she destroyed $3,400 worth of electronics, prescription glasses, and collectable plushies (including one given to me by a WWII veteran when I was four and attending a Veterans Day parade with my Korean War Veteran Grandfather).
My point is, DO YOUR RESEARCH!!! ASK QUESTIONS! A breeder is not going to think of you as stupid if you ask about the breed, they should actually think higher of you for being so thoughtful.
One breed to avoid, and this isn’t really a breed, and most states require a special permit anyway, is the Wolf Hybrid. Yes they are beautiful animals, but Wolves are not Dogs, even if genetically they are the same. A wolf’s prey drive is many times higher than a dog’s. There is a reason you hear these tragic stories of kids being killed by wolf dog pets. While a Wolf dog CAN be a good pet if raised properly, the vast majority of people don’t know how to raise them. If you had never raised a human baby, would you try to do so without looking up any info on how to do it? Would you try to grow a poisonous plant without having some idea of how to avoid having it kill you? No you wouldn’t, but everyday hundreds of people get a wolf dog because its ‘cool’ or ‘wild’. Guess what, smoking was cool, and to some still is, and now we know its kills you! You know what else was once thought of as cool? Death matches, people literally fighting until one or the other dies.
The reason I say to avoid Wolf Dogs is not because bad dogs, its because they aren’t really dogs. Look what happens when people raise baby chimps like children? Some poor women gets her eyes ripped because she got a hair cut. Wild animals are not pets. Can you have one in your home. Sure, lots of people get wild animals as pets, but the ones who do it successfully are the ones who learn what it takes first. Go on youtube, look up Pet Raccoon damage. Go ahead. Do it……Pretty bad huh? Now imagine paying for all that drywall. Oh and don’t piss off your new pet Bandito, because their bite can put their teeth through leather and even Kevlar. I’ve seen a raccoon chew its way out of a metal wire dog crate before. And don’t get me started on those people who think its a good idea to take in a baby fox. Are they cute? Oh yes. But they dig into furniture, they kill smalls pets including cats and dogs, and they smell HORRIBLE. Oh and don’t forget, once mating season comes around? males and females alike make sounds like tortured babies screaming into the night.
So no, wild animals are not pets.