VET Q & A : All in the Family

Q: My family has decided to get its first dog. Are there any suggestions you can make regarding the selection of a puppy? A: Picking the right breed is an essential first step. You must learn about the natural dispositions of the various breeds. For example, the temperamental nature of some terriers and toy breeds might make them poor choices for a family with active young children. Similarly, trying to house large breeds in small quarters can result in stress for both humans and dogs, especially when the cute, 20-pound St. Bernard puppy grows into a 120- to 150-pound adult dog after a year. Make it a family project to read and study the characteristics of the breeds that appeal to you.

Second, decide on the logistics of household care before the puppy comes home. Where will it stay during the day when it's alone? Where will it sleep? Will the puppy be allowed on the furniture? Be sure that everyone agrees to enforce all the rules from the beginning. The puppy will appreciate the consistency.

Discuss other costs: The added expenses for food and veterinary care, or the cost of fencing a yard or of buying a doghouse, may make for unhappy situations in the first months of dog ownership.

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