Dogs can make great companions, but it's very important that you do your research before getting one.
Remember the puppy you brought in when you were a child, the one with the scruffy fur and eager beaver eyes? There is probably a good reason why your father thundered his disapproval back then - it takes much more than a few dog biscuits and a seven-year-old's enthusiasm to keep a pet. More so for dogs, who require human attention as well as constant monitoring of health and nutritive needs, no matter how busy you may be with your school project or that new girl in class.
Today, you are old enough to get anything you want without seeking parental approval. You have a corporate job and a state-of-the-art apartment in the most happening part of town - complete with a housekeeper who adores animals. Time to get a dog? Maybe, but here are some tips to zero in on just the kind of canine you will be comfortable with.
For starters, you will have to decide on the size of your potential pet. Do note that a larger dog will need enough space to bound around, and neighbourhood parks where they can be taken for workouts are a definite bonus. So, let's look at a few of the more popular dog breeds, shall we?Labrador Retriever
How would a very dear friend, who hasn't seen you in twenty long years, react if he came by you completely by accident at a busy street corner? Take his response and multiply it by five, and you get a rough idea of how your Labrador will greet you nearly every second of the day. One of the friendliest dogs in canine-dom, these guys originally worked alongside fishermen - helping them pull in nets and retrieve any that get away. Though they were bred primarily to perform as an efficient retriever of game, Labradors have a stable temperament suitable for a variety of activities beyond hunting.
Now, these guys are intelligent, strong, highly trainable and incredibly gentle with little children. They come in black, fawn and chocolate, and are eternal optimists - even in the most depressing of conditions. But here's a word of caution. Do not get a labrador retriever unless you are certain about having the time to exercise it regularly. What else? If you are the kind who does not approve of his dog hitting shamelessly on complete strangers, steer clear of this guy. Labradors love everybody, and absolutely everybody. German Shepherd
Or Alsatians, are they?
German Shepherds first came into the limelight when they were used by Nazi soldiers in World War II, and when the dust began settling down in 1945, nobody wanted to touch them with a barge pole. Pegging this as gross injustice to a race of otherwise lovable beasts, breeders in England and the United States decided to rechristened them Alsatians - thus assuaging the feelings of a population that now ostracised anything remotely Germanic. A good thing too, because German Shepherds have proved themselves as steady, loyal and courageous dogs that make for a great companion as well as an ultra-faithful security guard. However, it must be noted that these guys belong to a working breed and may possess certain characterstics that a few among us may find difficult to live with.
For one, they are constant shedders. So, if you do not want dog fur enveloping every nook and cranny of your house - bed, upholstery and all - you may either want to get your housekeeper an industrial-strength hoover or opt for a canine with a less messy coat. Also, if the Shepherd isn't trained well right from childhood, you may end up with a disobedient yeti who likes nothing better than leaving stinky puddles on the couch and making short work of everything in the vicinity.Doberman Pinscher
Now, if you don't raise this guy right, you pay for it - bigtime. A dog with relatively less history behind it than most other breeds, the Doberman Pinscher is muscular and proportioned in a way that combines elegance and strength with speed and endurance. One of the most intelligent among canines, it is ever on the alert and obedient to a fault. Okay, wait... we should - perhaps - clarify on that last bit. As the Doberman Pinscher is very domineering, it's important that the owner show him who's boss from the time it's a little toe-gnawing mutt. If you seem to be a reluctant master, the Doberman will be more than willing to sit at the head table and bark the occasional order at you. But bring him up well, and your Doberman could be the perfect companion you have always been waiting for. As long as you're there to save the postman, that is.
Want a doggie who won't ask for a lot more than your constant love and affection? Get a Cocker Spaniel! The smallest among spaniels and the sporting group of dogs, this guy will always be by your side - whether you are pottering around at home, shooting game in the open, or taking a dip in the pool. But then, be aware that while the Cocker Spaniel is small in size, they still happen to be an active sporting breed that needs daily exercise. Take the guy for a run through the park, brush and trim his hair a little, and - in return - he will shower you with affection, the kind of which you never knew existed. Introduce him to your child, and believe us, you will end up with a couple of 'best friends forever' on your hands. Golden Retriever
The Golden Retriever, with its intelligence and eager-to-please attitude, is one of the most popular breeds out there. But before you start picturing him as a pansy mutt, do note that the Golden Retriever can be quite the wild adventurer too - doing everything from helping you hunt, playing mountain guide, assisting you with the oddest of chores, and playing rescuer (if something were to go wrong). Lovable and intelligent, they treat adults as well as children with an equal degree of gentleness. As they love pleasing their masters, training Golden Retrievers can be quite a breeze. However, if it's a guard dog you want, these guys can be just as incapable as the Labrador (they are more likely to slobber all over an intruder than produce a threatening grumble).
BOX: The Others
1. Pit Bull: This guy is a nice companion to have. Just make sure you build a strong steel cage around your residential compound to ensure that your nice companion does not attempt gobbling up the rest of the living universe.
2. Boxer: In case you start wondering why its face looks punched in, refer to the name again.
3. Daschund: Don't know about you, but I would prefer to keep a rat. A white one.
4. Pomeranian/Spitz: Arguably the single-most irritating quadruped to walk the world, these guys have the heart of a lion, the constitution of a powder puff and the bark of a dying banshee. Best kept out of earshot.
5. Great Dane: Get used to people asking why you are walking the horse, not riding it.