Searching for Fido

Tips for getting a family dog.

“Mom, when are we going to get a dog?” Does this question sound familiar? If so you’ve got plenty of company. According to the ASPCA, 62 percent of all households in the United States have a pet, which includes 78 million dogs. If you’ve made the big decision to enter the world of dog ownership, there are lots of things to consider. With insights from the American Kennel Club (AKC) and real life experts—parents who have been-there, done-that— here are some key tips for find the right dog for your family.

Know the size and temperament you want. According to AKC, parents must consider the full-grown size and typical personality of the dog. Parents should research the adult size of the dog—not the cute, tiny size of a puppy. Bigger dogs also tend to need more space to live, exercise and socialize. As far as demeanor, there are a few questions to ask yourself. Do you want your dog to be active or subdued? Would you want a canine that’s friendly to everyone he meets? Should the pup be capable of being left alone during the day?

Do some research. While www.petfinder.com is one of the most popular pet research tools, families can find loads of information on dogs at www.akc.org and www.adoptapet.org. Talking to other parents who have gotten a dog is helpful, too. “My best research came from talking to friends, who have raised a puppy or adopted a rescue dog,” says Jen Walheim, mother of six who recently welcomed a Golden Doodle puppy into her family.

Adopt. Since so many canines need homes, rescue organizations and the ASPCA are great options. “We got our latest rescue dog through Labs 4 Rescue,” says Kevin Moriarty, a father of three who has adopted two rescue dogs. “It was a great experience. She’s a black lab and has been a wonderful addition to our family, especially for my daughter who is disabled.”

Consider allergies. Kira Maton had to think about allergies when selecting a breed. “We needed a dog that was allergy-free, but also wanted a larger-sized breed because we have two active boys,” says Maton, a mother or two children. After months of research, she chose a standard-sized poodle for her family.

Be realistic about the work. Parents need to make sure they’re realistic about what goes into getting a puppy. “It’s a lot of work training the puppy, getting up at night with him, and managing vet appointments,” Walheim says. While the kids adore the new puppy, in most cases, the routine care for Fido tends to fall on the parents. “My kids love our dog and will play with him when they are around, but the bulk of the work falls on me,” Walheim adds.

See the rewards. Of course, getting a dog isn’t all about work; there’s loyalty, companionship and playtime. Dogs provide children with the benefits of friendship and love, too “I love seeing how happy our dog makes the kids when they are playing or cuddling with him. They each have their own little relationship with him, some like to use him a pillow after a long day, some like to play ball with him or take him for a walk. He’s really part of the family!” Walheim says. Kira Maton agrees, “It’s so nice to see how each person in my family shows his love for our dog in his own special way.”

While getting a dog remains a huge decision that shouldn’t be rushed, there are lots of research options to help you determine the right dog for your family. And while you can’t ignore the extra work that comes with a new dog, you can’t forget the priceless memories a new dog will bring to your children and the entire family in the years to come.