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Question
Hi,

I have a few questions regarding dogs,

1. What would be the appropriate size and type of dog for a house on about a quarter of an acre?
2. What is the process for adopting a dog?
3. What should you feed a dog when you first get it, dry or wet food?
4. What is the most popular breed of dog for a family of four (2 adults, 2 children)?

Answer
Hi Louis,

Just about any dog will do fine in a home that has a quarter acre. If your plan is to not walk your dog and to let it outside by itself, your property would need to be fenced in. If your dog would be outside daily for long periods of time it would require some form of shelter and shade, access to clean water, or a doggie-door to be able to get back into your home.

Generally, sporting and working breeds need more mental stimulation and exercise than other breeds (but this isn't cast in stone). Unless you do things with these breeds such as daily leashed walks or jogs, or participate in agility competition or competitive obedience activities, these breeds may get bored being in the same area day in and day out, and not really get the exercise it needs despite the large area. In dogs, boredom can translate into undesirable habits such as digging, constant barking, being destructive, or even self-mutilation.
How much exercise and mental stimulation a dog needs really hinges on the individual dog, more than a specific breed, but with most dogs a tired dog, is a calm dog! It's really surprising how much the proper amount of exercise can fix many behavioral issues. All dogs need training as well as your time and attention. A dog should not live it's life outside, separate from it's human family.
So with the exercise levels a dog requires in mind, dogs that generally need less in the way of exercise are:

Pugs
English Spaniel
Boston Terrier
English Bulldog
French Bulldog
Shar Pei
Italian Greyhound
Bullmastiff
Chow Chow
Japanese Chin
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

If you plan on exercising your dog on a daily basis along with it being outside in your fenced yard, then any dog breed (or breed mix) will do fine with the amount of land you have, and you should concentrate more on breeds that generally are good with children. You should also consider your lifestyle and try to match it with the temperament of a dog. These dog breed selectors might help you choose a breed that's a good match for your family:

http://www.iams.com/dog-breed-selector
http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/search.htm

You didn't say how old your children are. Tolerating children is something else an individual dog should be evaluated for. Don't go by the breed description alone. Usually puppies raised with children grow up to be dogs who are good with kids, providing the children are taught how to treat the dog from the start.

Be sure to read up on breeds you are considering, including health issues associated with the particular breed. Buying from a responsible breeder is one of the only ways of knowing if a puppy comes from parents who have been screened for potential health problems.

The process of adopting a dog varies from place to place. At an animal shelter or humane society it can be as simple as seeing the dogs in their kennel and paying for it. Adopting from an rescue group can mean you fill out an application, and if you are a good match for the dog then the group might want to interview you and actually see your home and meet your family. Many rescue groups evaluate their dogs for temperament to better ensure a good and lasting match between adopters and dogs. The best rescue groups are in it for the good of the dog, and will carefully scrutinize potential adopters. If you buy a dog or puppy from a breeder (some breeders sell adult dogs too) you can see the conditions the dogs live in, and ask questions to ensure you get more or less what you're looking for. The downside to buying from a breeder is it costs more, but you're paying for screening prior to breeding, and all that goes into ensuring better quality puppies. You may have to wait for a litter to be born. If you would like to browse adoptable dogs, here are a couple of places:

http://www.petrescue.com.au
http://www.adoptapet.com.au

If you are considering buying from a breeder, here's some info on what to look for:

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/puppy_mills/tips/finding_responsible_dog_bre
http://www.petside.com/article/how-find-great-breeder

Here's some good info on adopting an adult dog:
http://www.amrt.net/adoptdog.html

Anytime you get a puppy or dog there's a period of adjustment for it, before it becomes accustomed to your home, family and daily routine. Expect this for at least two weeks, but it can be longer for an adult dog.

What you feed a dog depends on it's age. A puppy should be fed a puppy food diet for it's first full year. Adult dogs can be fed either canned or dry. Dry can be less messy. It's really your own personal choice, so long as the food is complete and balanced. When it comes to buying dog food, you can't go by it's advertising or flashy looking packaging. The only way to know what the food contains is by reading the ingredients on the label. What you're looking for is a food that has a named source of meat (such as Chicken, Beef, Lamb, etc.) as the first ingredient listed, and not simply "Meat".  A dog food is pretty much made up of the ingredients listed before the source of fat or oil. A good rule of thumb is to buy the best food you can afford. You actually feed less of the more expensive foods because they contain more nutrients. Here is some really good info on reading and understanding what's in dog food:

http://www.dogfoodproject.com/index.php?page=betterproducts

One more thing to consider is if you've ever owned and trained a dog before. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. Take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your family's dog. Enrolling in a dog obedience class (or puppy "kindergarten") is a great place for you to learn how to control your dog, while your dog learns how to obey.

I can't say what the most popular breeds of dog are, but that's not a good way to judge which dog would be a good fit in your home. Dogs aren't one size fit all. A good breed for your neighbor might not be a good breed for your family to own. Besides breed, look at the individual dog's temperament. There are plenty of aggressive Golden Retrievers, and just as many gentle Pit Bulls.

Please feel free to get back to me if I can be of further help.
Best of luck,

Patti  

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Patti

Expertise

To date, I've owned 7 dogs, all of which have lived into old age. Having cared for them in all stages of life, I feel I can offer sound advice to other pet owners, and people considering getting a dog. I am knowledgeable about the AKC (American Kennel Club) dog breeds, training and exercise, caring for sick and elderly pets, feeding, as well as many holistic treatments pets can benefit from. My only request is that you write me using standard English and punctuation.

Experience

My life experience in this field is more like "on the job training" rather than an actual degree in animal welfare. You may benefit from my experiences over the past 30 years. Aside from the dogs I've owned, I'm also involved in "breed rescue" and have fostered several dogs, all of which have been adopted to wonderful "forever homes". I find helping people who want a dog very rewarding.

Education/Credentials
Real life experience, based on over 30 years of dog ownership.

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