By Phillip Snyder, Executive Director
Published in the North Port Sun on August 17, 2014
We think we want a dog. That's certainly a familiar statement heard at the Suncoast Humane Society and all shelters that feature pet-adoption centers. A question they should be asking is, "Are we ready for a dog?" Dogs are a huge responsibility. They can be more so than some other animals as pets. They require a lot of time and energy. We know that dogs come in different ages, sizes, shapes, colors, coat lengths and textures, and temperaments. So what type of dog best fits your requirements?
How much time do you have to devote to your new pet?
All dogs need attention. If you have a very busy schedule, travel a lot and are seldom home, you'd better consider an aquarium. It's not that busy families can't have dogs; they just need to choose the right type and temperament.
Border collies and other types of dogs have breed characteristics requiring exercise and attention throughout the day, and sometimes night. So they may not be the proper choice.
Perhaps an older dog, or at least one of the breed types that will be satisfied to just lie around and enjoy the air conditioning, would be a better fit. If need be, there are dog walkers, house sitters, and doggie day care facilities that offer great services.
New dogs need socializing and training from the beginning, and many on a continous basis. Here again, an older dog may be easier than a puppy or a rambunctious teenager. Training your dog will prevent many problems in the future.
How about space? Some pets, like our feline friends, can thrive in much smaller spaces. Many dogs need room to romp, including large yards. Some people say, "The bigger the dog, the more space and exercise they will need." I think there are exceptions to this. Some large and especially giant breeds can do well in smaller areas, as long as they are walked and exercised appropriately.
We also know that some smaller breeds and breed mixes, such as certain terriers, could run the farm several times a day and be ready for more.
Your new dog may have lots of energy, but will you?
Walking and exercise is healthy, but some dogs will leave you huffing and puffing while they beg for more. Different types of dogs require different amounts of exercise. A Shih Tzu type will get by with a shorter walk, but most larger, lean, long-legged dogs will need space to run and someone to keep them company.
Are you a neat freak?
Don't want to be brushing fur from the furniture? Long-haired dogs shed a lot of long hair. Short-haired dogs can shed like needles on your carpet or couch. Only a very limited type of dogs shed less. And what about dander? Does anyone in the family have allergies? This is Florida, you know.
If I haven't talked you out of it, then what type of dog do you really want?
There are purebred dogs and mixed-breed dogs. Sadly, 25 percent of the dogs surrendered to animal shelters are purebred, so you don't have to go far to find one. There are many books that describe the characteristics of purebred dogs.
Mixed-breed dogs can be the product of two purebred dogs, or the product of both sides of the family being of unknown or multiple mixtures.
There are several advantages to adopting a mixed breed. For example, you may be getting the combined traits of two or more breeds. This dog is likely to be free of genetic defects common to certain purebreds.
Mixed-breed dogs are often considered the "natural dog," which makes for an unique companion. And it is a wonderful feeling to know that when you adopt from the Suncoast Humane Society or another pet-adoption center, you are giving a dog or cat a second chance at life.