How to choose the right dog for your family

ivy the vizslaI’m loving being a first-time dog owner. Our little Ivy has made such a big impact on our family over the last year–and I’ll be the first to admit that it hasn’t all been good.

But Ivy is a part of our family and I can’t imagine not having her in our lives now. She’s definitely changed us all for the better.

It was my decision to get a dog; there was a little harassing from the girls over the years but I probably did not enough conversations with my husband. I think Jack’s commitment to Northwestern helped me to finally pull the trigger. I figured if we got a dog after he left for school, he’d never bond with her. I’m glad he’s had the chance to get to know Ivy since he’s leaving for college next month!

When I made the decision, I did my research (though probably not enough of it) and was in love with the vizsla breed. I knew that’s exactly what I wanted.

What we’ve found in the last year is that there’s a lot that goes into choosing to first own a dog and then deciding on a breed. Many of this we didn’t consider and later had to adjust to fit our Ivy into our lives.

And honestly, I think it’s gone pretty well. I’ve taken on the majority of the responsibility with Ivy, and I’m really okay with that. But the kids have learned a lot about patience, responsibility and how to care for another creature.

I want to share some of what we learned if you’re considering adding a dog to your family.

Do you want to adopt or buy?

If there’s a particular breed you have your heart set on, it’s worth it to do your research and find a reputable breeder (they’re not all created equal). Other families go the adoption route and find their next family member at shelters. Whatever you decide, be aware of illnesses that are common for certain breeds and stay away from breeders who offer below-market pricing.

How much money do you want to spend?

ivy the vizslaKnowing your budget will help you decide if working with a breeder is the best option for you. Buying from a breeder can run you a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the breeder, location and breed. Some breeders have additional requirements you’ll need to fulfill after the fact, and spaying and neutering is not included in your fees.

Adopting from a shelter or humane society usually looks a lot different. The dogs are typically older (not puppies) and if they haven’t already been neutered, it’s usually included in the adoption fee.

How much time do you have?

Dogs take a lot of time, especially if you start at the puppy stage. And like people, every dog has a different personality and disposition. All dogs need some training, and some are a little hard-headed. Before choosing a dog, learn a little about the breed and decide if you have what it takes to train him. And be ready to invest in a trainer to come to your house.

Keep in mind that the best dogs are those that are well-adjusted and socialized with other animals and children of all ages. It makes them easier to take with you when you’re on the road–both in town and out of town. (We discovered Bring Fido, a website that lets you know where you can bring your dogs when traveling.)

How active is your family?

Sedentary families do better with dogs that don’t need much exercise, but understand that any pet is going to want and need some form of exercise. But some breeds crave running, chasing and being in the water. Make sure your family is ready to take that on and make your dog a part of the family. In our house, a tired vizsla is a happy vizsla…and a happy mom (because that means she’s less likely to eat her favorite snack–socks).

Whatever you decide, pets have a way of changing up the family dynamic–just like any addition to your family. They’re a long-term commitment that you shouldn’t enter into lightly. Have a family meeting and do your research to get ready for your new addition!

I am a 44-year old married mom of 4. I love my family. If you’re a mom, then you know kids and a spouse keep you busy. It’s easy to forget yourself in the process of taking care of your family. My mission is to help other moms take care of themselves so they can be more available to their loved ones and lead more fulfilling lives.

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