How do you know if you are ready for dog ownership?
Experts say you need to examine your lifestyle, living arrangements and finances. Then, you need to find the right match.
"There is a home for every dog, but every home is not right for every dog," said Kim Saunders, vice president of operations and communications for St. Hubert's of Madison, N.J., which has two animal shelters and a dog training center.
When deciding whether to get a dog, everyone in the household should be comfortable with the idea, experts say. Once the entire family is on board, it's important to decide who the primary caregiver will be — the person responsible for feeding, walking, training, exercising and enriching the dog.
Potential dog owners also should figure out whether they have enough time to care for a dog. Even if long workdays are typical, however, dog owners can arrange with a neighbor or dog walker to help out.
"Lots of busy people have pets," said Dr. Brian Collins, who supervises veterinary students' appointments and surgeries at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine. "It's a matter of whether you are going to make the changes necessary to make it a priority."
As a general rule, puppies and adolescent dogs require more time than adult dogs, said Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Adoption Center in New York City. Personality and energy level should be considered for a successful dog-family match, she said.
A high-energy dog won't be an issue for a physically active family, experts say. But if your family fits into the "couch potato" mold and doesn't have much more to give at the end of the day, a low-energy dog may be a better fit.
Do some research before deciding on a breed or mix of breeds, said Dr. Meghan Herron, assistant professor of veterinary clinical sciences and head of the behavioral medicine clinic at Ohio State University. Some dogs have been bred over generations for specific jobs, such as herding and retrieving. Behavioral problems such as chewing things and barking at their owner can result when dog owners don't compensate for those jobs with physical exercise or stimulate dogs' intelligence with games.