It's hard to find a pet more loving and loyal than dogs.
No pet should be an impulse buy. Don't give in to whining and pleading as you're passing by a pet store.
A pet will cost you a lot of time and money, and it will be with your family for its entire life.
To make pet ownership a positive experience, do some research before you bring a pet home. You want to know precisely what you are getting into with the type of animal you're considering, after all.
That said, it's only fair that you know all about dogs if you're considering adopting. At the beginning and at the end of their lives, dogs can be a lot of work. But if you're up for the challenge, you'll be rewarded with boundless love and loyalty.
I have a bias here. I don't approve of entirely outdoor pets.
They get neglected, especially during the winter months. I feel if you have a pet, it needs to come inside and be part of the family - at least occasionally.
Dogs go through a golden age at about the middle of their lifespan when they are housebroken and calm.
They no longer chew your shoes, and they usually come when called. This golden age only lasts a few years. At the beginning and at the end of their lives, dogs can be a lot of work.
Puppies need house-training, and they need to learn the rules of the house. Otherwise, they might chew up everything. They are rowdy and rambunctious.
With a puppy, you pretty much need someone at home full-time for the first few months. Fortunately, they are adorable, too, so there's a payoff.
Old dogs revert to puppyhood in many ways. They can't hold their bladder as well. Accidents occur.
Multiple trips to the vet may be required for health problems. (Consider pet insurance. Seriously.)
Fortunately, by this time, they’re part of the family, so you bite the bullet and clean up after them just like you would for Uncle Harry. (I know, I hope he doesn't need me to, either.)
For the biggest payoff, get a long-lived canine, so that those golden years will be worth the effort on both ends. Small breeds tend to live longer than large breeds. On the negative side, small breeds are often noisier and more frenetic than larger dogs.
If you are a control freak who wants to make the very best choice for your home, you may want to consider buying a purebred.
You can get great dogs at your local animal control facility. And you'll be doing society and nature a favor.
But if you have specific requirements, such as one that doesn't shed a lot, look through the books, and there will be a breed that meets those requirements.
My friend, Kim, for example, wanted to get a dog for her daughter. Her husband did not want a dog. Repeat, no dog.
OK, she asked, but why don't you want a dog?
Because he said, it would tie us down. It will chew up the house.
It will terrorize the cats. It will mess in the house. It will shed. I'm allergic. It will bark. We'll have to walk it.
Kim and her daughter plunged headfirst into every dog book they could get their hands on and emerged with a couple of breeds that fit his specifications. Five years later, proud daddy loves to walk the little Shih Tzu around the neighborhood.
You can find a dog that's calm; a hyper, dog; a watchdog; a lap dog. You can find a dog that doesn't shed and a dog that doesn't bark.
Whatever you want in a family dog - it's out there. But realize that large dogs usually need lots of exercise. And any dog needs a good 20-minute walk at least twice a day.
And unlike cats, you can't just run off for the weekend and leave them. Dogs are pack animals. They need people around. They also need to be walked, fed, and watered. Frequently.
Think about how much spare time and energy you have before you say yes to a dog.
Now that you know all about dogs, I can say from personal experience that choosing a dog as a family pet can be one of life's most rewarding relationships.