Step One: You
A dog is for life
Owning a dog is a lifetime commitment. Animals develop deep bonds with you and your family. Any change in ownership can be extremely traumatic, so you should be prepared for the responsibility involved in dog ownership. Dog owners need to be able to provide shelter, food, water, medical care, and love and attention.
Any dog you get should be suitable to not only your lifestyle, but your surroundings. If you live in a shoebox apartment, then a large dog is not a good choice. You don’t want your dog to develop health issues, be bored, or destroy things. Large dogs really belong in big places with lots of outdoor space.
Consider which breeds are suitable for your region's climate, especially if you have a yard and want to keep it as an outside dog.
Be sure about your decision
Above all, make sure that getting a dog is a wise decision for you, your family and your living situation - not just now, but 10, 12, and even 15 years from now.
Do you travel too much for a dog?
Having a dog is great, but it does mean that you can't pick up and leave town at the drop of a hat. If you travel frequently, think about how you'll make sure your pup is taken care of while you're gone. Do you have family nearby that can puppy-sit? Is there a good boarding facility near you (and can you afford it)?
Also consider the option of traveling with your pet. Small dogs can travel in-cabin with you when you fly for a fee. If you want to be able to fly with Sparky, be sure to get a breed that's supposed to stay small (you can check different airlines' websites for their size regulations.)
Are you allergic?
You won't be happy having a dog if you're allergic. Although there is no such thing as a truly "hypoallergenic" dog, there are some breeds that are less allergy-causing than others, such as poodles, shih-tzus, and Portuguese Water Dogs. There are also a huge array of so-called "designer dogs" (various breeds mixed with poodles) that are supposed to have reduced shedding.
Results may vary widely, however, because there are different aspects of dogs that can cause allergies (like saliva, dander, and pollen that gets trapped in fur), so don't assume that a dog that is simply "low-shedding" will not trigger your allergies.
The best thing to do is to spend some time with dogs of the breed or mix you're considering and see how it goes. If you’re thinking about getting a labradoodle, for example, ask to borrow a friend's labradoodle for an afternoon. If you don’t know anyone with that kind of dog, contact a breeder and see if you can hang out with his or her dogs for a bit.
Do the people you live with also want a dog?
If you have roommates (or a live-in significant other), you need to make sure that they are happy to have a puppy in your shared home, and that they are willing to contribute to pet care - because, inevitably, they will be called upon to help out with your dog. House training (and dog training in general) requires really consistent routines and rules, and it will only work if everyone in your household is on board.
Also keep in mind that your pup will eventually, without a doubt, pee or chew on something belonging to your housemates. So make sure that they're enthusiastic about living with a pup (and be prepared to kick in some extra help with the household chores as a "thank you" for them putting up with puppy chaos).
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