Ask the Dog Guide: Choosing a Family Dog

January 2nd, 2009 by Dan

Question: Hi, my name is Emily and I have always wanted a dog. We’ve tried 2 times but me and my siblings were too young to handle it. My Dad finally said we could try again, because we are all more responsible and older. We just don’t know what kind to get. We have a medium sized, fenced back yard. We want a dog that is playful but not too hyper. We want something that does not shed a lot and does not drool like crazy. I am very excited to hear back from you. Its greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Answer: Hi, Emily. I don’t know how old you are, but please before trying again to care for a dog, make sure everyone in the family, parents included, is ready to help care for it. Kids can’t handle everything that a dog needs without the help of an adult. For example, vet visits require an adult to drive and pay the bill, and parents should attend obedience classes with the dog and the children in the family so that everyone understands how to practice the behaviors the dog learns in obedience class.

Kids with a dog

Kids with a dog

Photo by Plounsbury.

Remember that it’s very hard on a dog to be rehomed, and if “we’ve tried 2 times” means that you previously got two dogs and then had to give them up, please be absolutely sure you can provide a lifelong home to the next dog. In fact, instead of adopting right away, how about first providing a foster home for a dog in need at your local animal shelter? Foster parents provide love, care, and training to dogs waiting to be adopted, without the 10-20 year commitment that adopting means.

When you are absolutely sure your family is ready to give a forever home to a dog, I think an adult dog adopted from a shelter would be the best choice for you. If you don’t want a lot of drool, avoid the molusser family of breeds, which includes Mastiffs, and stay away also from dogs like Pugs and Bulldogs which also have facial wrinkles. All dogs shed, although Poodles don’t leave hair around the house; however, Poodles have special grooming needs due to their unique coat. To avoid heavy shedding, choose a dog with minimal undercoat, and feed a healthy diet, like either a super premium grain-free kibble or raw.

As for energy level, I think that an adult Retriever mix might be perfect for you, or possibly a Spaniel mix. If you can, choose a dog who’s currently in a foster home, so that you can find out from the foster parents how he behaves. Remember that every dog needs daily exercise, and just running around the yard won’t do. Your dog will need walks and/or other exercise like a dog park visit every single day. It’s a big responsibility, as I’m sure you’ve heard many times from the adults in your family!

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