Q. My husband and I have decided to get a dog. The problem is deciding what kind. I want a small lap dog and he wants a big dog. Do you have any ideas in helping us decide so we are both happy with the dog we choose?
A. Picking your future companion is a very serious decision that should not be made on a whim. Dogs are a huge responsibility. If you have taken the time to carefully think through if you are ready for a canine in your life and came to the conclusion you are, then by all means go get your new family member.
Now comes the age-old question – big dog or little dog? You will want to consider both your needs and the dog’s needs when choosing the right size dog for your family. You want the dog to be a good fit for your lifestyle. Breed and personality are very important things to consider when adopting a dog.
There is a lot to consider beyond size of a canine because breeds have drastically different temperaments and do best in different living situations. So I would recommend researching the different breeds to see what would be a good fit for your family. Both you and your dog’s energy levels are important factors.
One thing to consider is that big dogs age faster. Toy breeds sometimes live twice as long as giant breeds like Great Danes.
Big dogs eat more and therefore cost more to feed. The ASPCA estimates a small dog will cost $55 per year to feed, a medium dog $120, and a large dog will cost $235 per year to feed. Your dog food expense is one area where you don’t want to cut corners. Feeding quality ingredients is important to your dog’s health and may save you money down the road.
Veterinary costs may be more for a big dog, especially medications.
Large dogs generally need more living space and daily exercise. Picking up after them is also a bigger job.
Dogs instinctively protect their territory. Small dogs can be as good as watch dogs as big dogs by barking to alert you of strangers. A big dog can be very intimidating to intruders, but don’t discount small dogs for intimidation. Some think and act beyond their actual size and can be plenty fierce.
Small dogs do have a reputation for being yappy, but training plays a big role in shaping a dog’s manners. They will need as much training, boundary setting and socialization as a big dog if you want them to be well behaved.
You may want to foster a dog to have a trial run at a particular size or breed. The foster agreement may last two weeks or two months and then the dog moves on to a permanent home. If you foster several dogs, you will learn what you like and dislike along with what size and breed of dog fits your lifestyle. Many rescues give fosters first choice on the dog being fostered if a home is not already lined up, so be sure to ask.
Just think how much better life will be to come home to a dog, whether big or small.
Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected]