Ask a vet for advice on choosing a pet

online vetPart 2, by Online Vet Dr. Laci

Trying to answer the question, “What breed is best for my home and family?”

Okay, you’ve decided if you are going to go dog or cat, but the the next decision is a bit more difficult. Whether it is important to you to go with a purebred or a mixed breed is something you should spend a lot of time deciding. By selecting a mixed breed from a pound or a purebred from a breed-specific rescue agency, an abandoned animal will be re-homed so this is really something to consider. You will be changing the world for this pet! Also, with a mixed breed, some of the genetic problems associated with inbreeding can be avoided and the initial cost to acquire the pet will be considerably lower by sticking with a mixed breed.

If you are set upon a certain breed, the best way to predict the attitude and physical attributes of an adult pet is to do your research about their parentage–and don’t cut corners. Unless you know the parents, it is merely a guessing game trying to predict the size, health, or behaviors the pet will develop as they grow up. It sort of defeats the point of getting a purebred in the first place and you might as well adopt or rescue. In contrast, selecting an adult, something that often not considered, whether rescue or purebreed, allows you to actually see their physical characteristics, health and behavior of the animal. You also skip many frustrating steps of puppyhood when you adopt an adult.

If you do choose a certain breed make sure the pet’s physical characteristics, attitude, and needs best suit your family. Also consider that the lifespan of the pet, since the giant breeds of dogs live considerably shorter lives than smaller breeds.

Some tips to finding the right pet for your family:

  • Visit dog and cat shows to observe the appearance of the adult individuals of each breed.
  • Do your homework reading! There are a variety of books, and Internet sites that can help to guide you through the selection process. Some books concentrate on the physical characteristics, history of the breed, or health concerns, while others cover breed behavioral characteristics, and how to select individuals from a breeder, shelter, or litter.
ask a vet

Just because a small dog literally fits in a smaller living space doesn't mean they will be calm lap dogs.

Don’t overlook the pet’s behavior, exercise needs, and temperament. Just because you are purchasing a Jack Russell does in no means they make an easy apartment dog. Things to consider as you try to decide upon a breed of dog or cat include activity level, exercise requirements, coat care and any reported behavior problems of the breed.

Something usually given little thought is the origin of the breed. This may initially seem silly if you don’t care about the breed’s history, but these traits and behaviors for which the breed has been bred and selected (herding, protection, hunting, etc.) are the most strongly inherited.  These factors are also an important consideration when considering the type of household, exercise and training that you will need to provide for your pet, and the types of behavior problems that might arise.  Once you have narrowed the selection down to a few breeds, you can always ask a vet to guide you regarding the physical and behavioral problems that you need to be aware of for each breed; believe me, we’ve seen it all! Bringing a pet into your home is a huge decision and one that should not be made lightly.

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