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Every year thousands of dogs are turned over to animal shelters because they were given as a gift without first consulting the gift recipient, or families discover they brought home a biter, barker, digger or jumper. So before selecting your dog, do your homework. With a little pre-planning, you can find the dog that most closely fits your family's or recipient's lifestyle.

Variety of dogs, variety of nuisances

Dogs can create many nuisances some of which are more common in particular breeds. A barking dog helps protect against intruders, but excessive barking is problematic. Some breeds known for their barking include the Alaskan Malamute, Bassett Hound and Fox and other Terriers.

A playful, energetic puppy can make a great playmate for your child. But as your puppy grows, that hyperactivity could become overwhelming. Certain breeds tend to maintain that high energy level well into their adult size bodies. Such breeds include Boxer, Cocker Spaniel and Golden Retriever.

Dogs dig for many reasons — to bury a bone, to escape from a fenced yard, to keep cool or out of boredom. A torn-up yard can be the last straw for many dog owners. Diggers include Fox Terriers, Norwich Terrier, and Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen.

Dogs can be aggressive for many reasons. Poor breeding, physical abuse and edisease can cause aggression. And certain dominant breeds can tend toward aggressiveness if not handled properly. These dogs should be chosen with caution and the understanding they require strong leadership. A few include: Akita, American Pit Bull Terrier and Rottweiler.

Grooming is another consideration. While it may sound painless, the upkeep of certain breeds can be overwhelming. High maintenance breeds include the Cocker Spaniel, Collie, Poodle and Schnauzer.

Traits to look for in a family dog

Finding a dog that'll be easy for your child to handle and assist in training will reduce many unforeseen problems. Easy trainers include Australian Shepherd, Cocker Spaniel and Maltese.

Calm, gentle breeds are important for families with small children. Keep in mind that size doesn't dictate these traits. Gentle breeds to consider are Bassett Hound, Beagle and Great Dane.

There are many other traits to consider in choosing a new dog. Before bringing home your puppy, read a book or articles about the breed that interests you to determine if he'll fit your family's lifestyle.

Special considerations

Little ones sometimes get too close to a dog while he's eating or chewing a bone or startle a dog while she's sleeping. Sometimes, small children hang on dogs, pull their tails or threaten a dog's safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 800,000 people, mostly children, are bitten annually severely enough to require medical attention.

Apartment living is another consideration. The size dog you choose is important to both your dog's well being and to maintaining your sanity. High energy and medium to large breeds generally need large areas to romp. Without it, your apartment could become a round-the-clock racetrack.

The costs of pet ownership should also be weighed out. First, there are the obvious costs such as purchasing pet food and annual vaccinations. Other expenses include licensing, monthly heartworm pills, chew toys, training, veterinary expense, grooming, kenneling and more.

Where to find your dog

The Humane Society, an animal shelter, or an accidental litter of pups is a great place to find your dog at an affordable price. Giving a home to a dog that might otherwise be put to sleep or caged indefinitely and not contributing to the over population of dogs are good reasons to go this route.

Furthermore, you'll find mixed breeds, which are less likely to inherit the diseases and disabilities often common in pure breeds. Keep in mind, however, sometimes these dogs are strays or weren't properly cared for by their original owner. Ask the animal shelter what is known about the dog's history.

Another way to find your new puppy is through a breeder. Taking home a puppy whose history is known and hasn't been exposed to a poor environment is a plus. However, caution should be used even when buying from a breeder. While most are in the business for their love of the breed, there are exceptions.

Finally, keep in mind that puppies shouldn't be removed from their litter before 6 weeks of age, and preferably 8.

Training Tips

No matter how careful you are in selecting your pet, chances are, your puppy will develop a problem or nuisance behavior. Prevention is the first step. Around six months, your puppy will be old enough for an obedience course. Teaching your puppy the basics will make it easier to manage problem behaviors. If you can't take a class, purchase a dog-training manual and stick with it.

If your dog shows signs of aggression, talk with a professional trainer or your veterinary. Depending on the cause, there may be a simple solution. But if your child's safety becomes an issue, your only option may be a new home for your pet.

Try to understand and accept your pet's imperfections and adjust your home accordingly to reduce aggravations. In time, your dog will accept the household routine and become a part of it.

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