How to Choose a Pet

It is extremely important to choose the correct pet for your lifestyle.  This is a decision that has at least a 10 to 15 year commitment, and needs to be taken seriously.  Too often, we see clients come in with animals that require too much exercise, too much grooming, or need to be in a home without children.  Often times, these animals are given up for adoption or euthanized because they do not fit in with their human’s schedule or lifestyle.  There are certain breeds that require less space and exercise and may fit well in an apartment setting.  There are also certain breeds that do better with a companion animal in the home.  We encourage people to research as much as possible prior to choosing a pet.  Dog and cat shows are great places to start formulating an idea as to which breed or mix of breeds might best suit your needs and lifestyle.

When choosing a pet, consider the following factors:

1.  Type of pet (dog, cat, other)

2.  Breed (purebred vs. mixed breed) – Consider genetic medical and behavioral issues

3.  Age (puppy or kitten vs. adult)

4.  Physical characteristics (appearance, size, hair coat)

5.  Behavioral characteristics

  • Temperament
  • Activity needs
  • Sociability
  • Protective behavior
  • Tendency to bark
  • Behavior with children

6.  Male vs. Female

7.  Source (shelter, breeder, or pet shop)

8.  Parent assessment (behavior, physical appearance)

9.  Owner considerations

  • Expense
  • Ages and limitations of family members (allergies, disabilities, etc)
  • Schedules and activities of family
  • Family’s experience with pets
  • Environment (type of home, location, fencing)

The following is a website out of Australia that encourages you to answer some questions about your lifestyle and the type of animal in which you are interested.  It then gives some suggested breeds.  You can click on the breeds listed to find out more information.  The website offers this search for both dogs and cats.  The information provided is not all inclusive; however, we think it is a good starting point.  To visit this site, please click on the following and choose the option for selecting a dog or cat.

You can also obtain more information from the following websites: (American Veterinary Medical Association) (American Kennel Club) (Cat Fancier’s Association)

One of the key elements in choosing the right pet is the concept of socialization.  This is the process in which puppies and kittens develop relationships with other animals and humans.  The most critical time for puppies is between 3 and 12 weeks of age.  The most critical time for kittens is between 2 and 7 weeks of age.  Animals that develop social relationships during these time periods are often able to maintain these relationships for life.  If they have not been properly socialized with people and other animals during these periods, they are likely to be fearful, defensive and potentially aggressive.   Although these time periods are critical, continued socialization is necessary for these relationships to be maintained.  The factors for optimum socialization and prevention of fear and avoidance in adulthood include:

  • A domestic maternal environment (nurturing)
  • Socialization throughout the socialization period
  • Continued socialization through the juvenile period

The following are some steps that can be taken for optimal social development of puppies and kittens:

1.  Choose breeding animals that exhibit desirable social behavior.

2.  Provide social interaction with other animals of the same species.

3.  Provide opportunities for socialization to humans and other species prior to the end of the primary socialization period.

Note:  Optimal adoption of puppies:  7 to 8 weeks of age

Optimal adoption of kittens:  7 to 9 weeks of age

4.  Expose your pet to as many stimuli and environments as practical during the early months of life, and also expose your pet to situations he/she may be exposed to later in life.

5.  Avoid excessively fearful situations and exposures.  This includes avoiding physical punishment; otherwise, your pet may become a fear biter later in life.

6.  Consider puppy and kitten classes for early training and socialization in a controlled environment.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have further questions about choosing the right pet for your family.  Once you have decided on the perfect pet, we can provide you with more extensive information on integrating your pet into the household, as well as future health needs for your pet.  Give us a call.  We look forward to meeting your new family member!!!!!

Some of the above information was obtained from the following source: 2003 Handbook of Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat, G. Landsberg, W. Hunthausen, L. Ackerman)