As a general rule, things work out best when you match your activity level to the dog’s. Are you looking for a dog that will go out jogging with you or one that’s satisfied with a leisurely stroll around the block?
An important thing to keep in mind: “The size of the dog doesn’t dictate the amount of exercise it needs,” Peterson said. “Exercise needs vary by breed and what the breed’s original function was. For example, a mastiff just needs light exercise, while the much smaller border collie needs a great deal of regular exercise.”
She added a warning that if dogs don’t get the “stimulation that they need, they’ll find their own ways to entertain themselves — like chewing on your shoes.”
The dog’s coat — type, length and thickness — determines how much time and expense you’ll need to put into grooming.
“Different breeds have different grooming needs,” Peterson said. “Breeds with a long, heavy coat, such as the Shetland sheepdog, need regular grooming to prevent mats and tangles. Double-coated breeds such as the Akita require weekly brushing. Dogs with hair, like a poodle, need regular haircuts at the groomer.”
You also should factor in extra cleaning time for your home, Zukoff said.
“I think something a lot of people don’t think about is just how messy dogs can be,” she said. “If you get a big, slobbery dog like a Newfoundland or St. Bernard that’s going to be shaking its head and slobber is going to be going everywhere and there’s going to be hair everywhere, you’re going to spend a lot more time vacuuming and wiping up the walls than if you got a little poodle.”
See it for yourself
If you’re getting a puppy from a breeder, insist on visiting the kennel.
“Ask to see at least one of the puppy’s parents,” Peterson urged. “Get an idea of what the future holds for your dog in terms of temperament and appearance. Observe the premises. Is the kennel clean? Odor-free? Pay attention to how the dogs and puppies interact with their breeder. Does the breeder appear to genuinely care for the puppies and their adult dogs?”
Look for love
When it comes to picking out the exact animal that will be your companion for the next several years, you want one that wants to be with you.
“When you visit with the dog, the dog should be interested in you, should be watching you,” Zukoff said. “It should have a slow wagging tail and just look kind of loose and friendly. It’s when the dog is more stiff or still and not paying attention to you, that dog doesn’t seem as friendly and is going to be harder to train, it might be harder for me to bond with. I always like to say you want to look for a loose, wiggly dog as if it’s saying, ‘I’m all wiggly because I’m excited and I love people.’ ”
Check the animal’s physical appearance, too.
“Dogs and puppies should be clean, well fed, lively and friendly,” Peterson said. “Look for signs of malnutrition such as protruding ribcages or illness such as runny nose or eyes, coughing, lethargy and skin sores.”
All for one
Poll: Which of Rick Nelson’s must-try foods at the State Fair do you most want to try?