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There is a reason why they say dogs are man’s best friend! Nothing beats coming home to a wagging tail and friendly face. Prior to dog ownership, however, it is important to understand the responsibilities that coincide with being a canine owner. Before choosing a dog, you should make sure and prepare for the needs of your new family member. Different sizes and breeds of dogs will require varying amounts of space, activity, and attention. It is also important to keep in mind the costs of bringing a new furry friend into your family—you will want to make sure you have a budget for veterinary care, food, and other expenses that may come up.
If you plan on keeping your dog outside for long periods of time, you will need a plan to keep them protected from the elements. The Texas summer heat can be very hard on our furry friends, so make sure there is a fresh water source that is always kept full, as well as plenty of shade and protection from the sun and other harsh elements.
The average lifespan for dogs is between 8 and 16 years, so keep in mind that you are making quite a commitment when you bring your new family member home. During their lifetimes, dogs will require breed-specific grooming, including nail-trimming and bathing, which should be routinely performed multiple times throughout the year. Also, pets are required to be licensed and can only receive a license after meeting certain health requirements and a Rabies vaccine from your veterinarian. Be sure to check with your county and city about what registration requirements and other regulations they may have, prior to adopting a dog.
Supplies a new dog owner will need
• Collar with ID tags.
• Dog bed and crate.
• Dog brush.
• Food and water bowls.
• Leash and harness.
• Sturdy and safe toys.
Selecting the right breed
When selecting your new dog, its breed will play a large role in the dog’s temperament and needs. There are thousands of mixed breed and pure bred dogs waiting in rescues and shelters every day to find the right family, so make sure to consider adopting a pet in need before seeking out a pure-bred dog. Many rescues and shelters can help you to pair one of their available dogs with the specific needs of your family, and many of these dogs are adopted out having already received vaccines and a spay or neuter surgery!
If you are considering a pure-bred dog, make sure to consider each breed’s quirks to make sure they will fit in with your family’s lifestyle. The following AKC groups give information about each classification:
• Herding Group – instinct-driven to control other animals and are often used on farms as working. They are very intelligent and make great family dogs, but keep in mind that these dogs are very high-energy and require lots of activity and training.
• Hound Group –skilled at hunting because of their remarkable scenting ability. Have great stamina and can run long distances. Some breeds “bay” and potential owners should consider the baying noise prior to purchasing one of these dogs.
• Non-sporting Group – varied personalities but are generally strong dogs. Not as active as the sporting group, but sometimes may be hard-headed and stubborn to train.
• Sporting Group – instinctively active and highly alert. Skilled at finding game in water, woods, or brush. Ideal for hunting. Require regular, high-energy exercise and training.
• Terrier Group – have a large amount of energy and can be reactive to other animals. Were originally bred to hunt and kill rodents. Require a strong-willed owner to properly train them and keep them in line. A great and loyal companion for the family willing to work with them on training.
• Toy Group – small, may be better for families living in tight spaces. Can sometimes be fearful, so proper socialization is key. Many Toy breeds make great lap dogs.
• Working Group – generally used for pulling sleds, executing water rescue, or guarding an owner’s property. Highly intelligent and are fast-learners. Most are large to very large in size, which should be taken into consideration by potential owners.
Common dog behaviors
A dog’s temperament is genetic; dogs have a fixed personality based on their breeding. Because of this, it is very important to fully understand a breed before adopting a particular puppy. With training, a dog’s temperament can be adaptable, but they will still be inclined to revert back to their innate disposition.
Dogs communicate similarly and have several gestures that have very specific meaning:
• Barking – dogs bark to alarm an owner of a present threat or to scare away the menace. A dog may also bark when they are scared or angry. Anxious or excited barking is not uncommon as well.
• Biting – biting, like barking, is a form of communicating with a human. Dogs bite when they are nervous, scared, or angry. Make sure to observe a dog carefully for signs that it feels threatened, such as licking the lips, panting, holding the ears back, tensing of the muscles, or shying away. Your furry friend is trying to communicate that he or she feels threatened, and we want to recognize these cues before he feels threatened to the point of biting.
• Chewing – it is normal for puppies to chew through anything and everything, especially while teething. Be sure to provide your puppy with safe, appropriate toys under proper supervision to that he does not swallow anything that may become lodged in his GI tract.
• Digging – most dogs dig to hide food. On occasion, they will be uncovering hidden food, usually small game such as rodents or rabbits. A dog may also dig to uncover a cool surface of dirt on which they want to lay, or simply out of boredom.
• Jumping – Dogs often jump out of excitement or to beg for attention. The best way to keep your dog from jumping is to train him to perform the appropriate behavior instead. For example, if your dog jumps on you every day when you get home from work, train him to sit when he sees you coming in the door.
• Panting – dogs sweat very differently than humans. Heat is released through their feet and by panting; panting also helps a hot dog regulate their body temperature. Panting may also indicate that a dog is nervous or excited.
As with any pet, prior research and understanding of a pet’s needs ensures a happy life together.