You Can't Buy Love, Or Can You?

by Emily Lambert

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You are seriously considering it -- adding another member to your family. A furry one with four legs, devoted eyes and a tail wagging in delight. Adding a pet to your humble abode is a big decision, not to be taken lightly. Choosing a breed that fits into your lifestyle is of utmost importance. Are you looking for a dog to accompany you on camping trips or one to lay at your feet and watch TV? Perhaps you are searching for a family pet that will be gentle with your children.

There are over 200 breeds of domesticated dogs in the world today, categorized into six different groups -- hounds, sporting dogs, terriers, non-sporting dogs, working and herding dogs and toy dogs. Doing a brief analysis of each category, and its breeds therein, will help you make the right decision for the happiness of both your dog and your family. This does not mean you must steer clear of mixed breeds. Mongrels can be just as lovable and well trained. But, even with a mongrel, it is important to study the personality traits of the most likely breeds that have mixed.

A furry companion to call your very own does not have to come with a breeder's price tag. Look up the popular Labrador Retriever in your local newspaper and most likely you will see it selling for around $600. A hefty sum to swallow before you purchase the crate, toys, and dog food that will need to accompany it. There are many alternatives to choose from today that are much less costly than a breeder or a pet store.

Once you know what breed you are looking for, you can begin your search. Here are the spots to comb:

ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Visit to locate your neighborhood animal shelter. Up to 60% of dogs will die at the ASPCA this year because there are not enough homes for them to go to. I have known many great pets to come from this establishment. Loyal, furry friends that desperately needed a new home. The adoption fee is from free (above 7 years) to $250 and includes vaccinations and spaying/neutering of your pet. (Please check with your local shelter.) Unfortunately, the animal's history is not always known. While some owners drop off their pets and provide this information, other animals are found and brought in without any idea of their past life. Unless you know the history of the animal, it would not be wise to adopt one with a young child at home. This is an on-line database covering roughly 4,000 animal shelters and adoption organizations from the USA and Canada. Many pets and locations are featured on this website. You can easily narrow your search by location, breed, animal, gender and age. The fees to adopt these animals will vary. Often the wait for these dogs is long but, unlike the ASPCA, you are fully informed about the animal you are adopting. These dogs often spend time with a sponsor who has become familiar on a day-to-day basis with the dog. The sponsor has seen the dog interacting with other animals, and other people, and can share this information. Most rescue organizations do not take in dogs that have been aggressive in the past. This is a real plus if you have kids or other animals in your home you need to consider.

Guide Dog Schools Most guide dog schools have puppy raiser programs. The puppy raiser is responsible for training and socialization skills. This means training the puppy in basic commands (such as sit, stay, come and rest) and taking the puppy out to many different public places like the bank, the post office and the mall. The dog is raised in a family environment for the first 16-18 months of its life. After he is given back to the school, a series of tests are performed. If he does not pass these tests, he is up for adoption. Sometimes the test is not passed due to a simple fear of thunder. Other failures can be more severe such as evidence of aggression, or a physical problem like allergies. While the cost is high relative to animal shelters and rescue organizations, the quality of dog is also above average. For example, Seeing Eye has a fee of $500 (or less depending upon age and reason for rejection), and Guide Dogs for the Blind has a fee of $300. These dogs are usually bred at the school specifically for guide dog training and include Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, or Lab/Golden mixes. There is often an even longer wait when going through a guide dog school than through a rescue organization. So if you are interested, you must be patient. Put your name on a list and follow up consistently. (Use a search engine to find guide dog schools throughout the country.)

Local Newspaper/Veterinarian Do not forget to scan your local newspaper and veterinarian's bulletin board for adoption notices. These dogs usually have no fee attached. The owners are simply happy to find a loving home.

The perfect pet can be found at a breeder, the pet store or at your local shelter. Why pay top dollar at a breeder or pet store when you can adopt an animal for a much lower price that needs a loving home? Not only will you be saving money, but also you may be rescuing your future playmate from another night of sleeping on his cold, concrete floor.

Updated September 2013

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