How to Find the Perfect Pet
I wanted to share my tips for how to find the perfect pet. I’m lucky to have found the perfect companion in Phaedra, my standard poodle. We also have another dog, Maximus, who is a little pug. This post is mostly dog-centric but a lot of the advice applies to cats too.
Tip #1 Do Your Research
Take the time to do your research! Don’t just wake up one morning and buy or adopt a dog without doing research. One of the big reasons to research what type of pet is best for you is so that you can find a great personality match like I did with Phaedra.
To figure out what type of dog was best for me, I did a ton of research. I knew that I needed a hypoallergenic dog because Ray has pet allergies. (Note – pugs are NOT hypoallergenic). I researched dog breed personality types, energy levels, etc. I wanted a very smart, loving, obedient, large companion dog and standard poodles fit the bill.
I also looked at what health risks poodles are prone to. The number one health risk is Addison’s Disease.
I’m very happy I put in the time to research dog breed personality types and energy levels, because Phaedra is the best dog I have ever had. She fits me perfectly. I always thought I was more of a cat person than a dog person, but she convinced me that I’m a poodle person.
Before Phaedra, I had two Birman cats that I’d adopted when they were 7 and 9 years old. I chose to adopt older cats because I know that it can often be hard to find homes for older pets. I loved my cats. They definitely had behavioral issues that I learned how to deal with through research on cat behavior.
Some important questions to ask yourself if you’re thinking about a dog
- What role is your dog expected to fill in your life? (companion, working dog, watch dog, service dog, emotional support dog, etc)
- What experience do you have with dogs?
- Do you want the dog to be good with other pets?
- Do you want the dog to be good with kids?
- Do you want a puppy, a young adult, or a senior dog?
- What size dog do you want?
- How much regular grooming are you willing to do?
- Can you handle shedding?
- How much time can you spend daily on exercising your dog?
Some helpful resources
- Animal Planet Pet Picker Quiz – use this to decide what pet best suits your lifestyle
- Animal Planet Dog Quiz – use this to decide what dog best fits your personality and lifestyle
- Animal Planet Cat Quiz – use this to decide what cat best fits your personality and lifestyle
- Hypoallergenic Dogs – a list of dog breeds that are hypoallergenic
Tip #2 Do the Math
Make sure you have a good idea on the amount you need to spend monthly on your pet. With Phaedra, I take her to a groomer and spend $80 (plus 20% tip) every 4 weeks to get her groomed. Because she has Addison’s Disease, I spend $160 on her DOCP shot every 6 weeks. I also have 2 scripts that she takes (Prednisone $10, Diethylstibestrol $50), too. And that’s not counting what I spend on her normal shots, food, toys, etc. Max goes to the groomer too, but it’s like $25 for his visit.
Now, I never expected to have a dog with Addison’s Disease, even though I knew that it was a health concern for Standard Poodles. I thought that by finding a responsible breeder and looking at the parents and grandparents, I would avoid this issue. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Phaedra was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease (after getting very sick and nearly dying because it is difficult to diagnose) at around 2 and a half years of age. Her breeder offered to take her back but I refused. I love her and I was not going to give her up just because she had a health issue.
Make sure you also include a budget for training if you’re getting a dog. One of the best things I did was obedience courses with Phaedra. We both learned so much in the classes and it helped socialize her. I also socialized her by taking her to work with me (30+ people in the office I used to work in and everyone loved Phaedra). I taught her to take her pills as treats, which has made both of our lives easier. I don’t have to fight to give her pills like we do with Maximus.
You should also budget for emergency vet care. Last year Max had a seizure in the middle of the night and we had to rush him to the emergency vet. It was more expensive than our normal vet since it was emergency care.
Tip #3 Decide to Adopt or Buy
You can find responsible breeders and get a pet that way. Or you can adopt a pet. Yes, you can even adopt purebred pets. I’ve adopted a Persian cat, Siamese cats, Birman cats and even a pug in my lifetime.
While the majority of pets that I’ve owned in my life have all been adopted, I purchased Phaedra from a breeder. I researched standard poodle breeders to find a responsible breeder when I was looking for Phaedra. Through Dave’s sister (who is a master groomer), I got in touch with the Poodle Club, who then recommended responsible breeders. I reached out to the different breeders they recommended and went from there. Phaedra’s breeder was someone who bred and showed poodles, so I thought this made her a good choice.
Max is Dave’s dog, but obviously Ray and I help take care of him. Ray is allergic to Max, and recently Dave has developed allergies to him too. Pugs are very cute, happy little dogs, but they shed like crazy. They’re not a good match for me. Regardless, Max has a forever home with us.
One of my best friends has always adopted all of her cats but recently decided that she wanted a cat that was more dog-like that would follow her around and keep her company. She researched cat breeds and decided on a Ragdoll. This has turned out to be her perfect cat.
If you’re going to adopt a pet, check out breed specific rescues or local shelters. You can talk to whoever is working with animals to get their help in finding a pet that matches your energy level and needs. Here in Florida, I’m a supporter of the Florida Poodle Rescue and Coastal Poodle Rescue. I would like to adopt a standard poodle in the future.
Whatever you do, please do not buy a dog or a cat from a pet shop, puppy mill or backyard breeder. Backyard breeders and puppy mills breed pets without taking into consideration the health of the animals and you’re more likely to end up with very sick animals. Pet stores, in some places, get their pets from puppy mills. However, some pet stores have pet adoption days where you can adopt cats and dogs that need homes.
Some helpful resources
- Adoption Basics – from the Humane Society
- Petfinder – look for pets in your area
- Petango – helping pets find a forever home
- The Shelter Pet Project – by the Humane Society
Tip #4 Make Sure You Have the Time
No matter what, make sure you have the time to invest in a new pet. Pets, especially puppies, take a lot of time and energy. When I got Phaedra, I made sure that I could take her to work with me so that she would be with me pretty much 24/7. In fact, the 9 months I worked outside of the home in offices that did not allow me to take Phaedra to work with me were miserable.
Cats usually take less time than dogs. I’ve often heard friends describe cats as fun roommates that share the house with you. Poodles, on the other hand, are velcro dogs, always wanting to be by your side. I often take Phaedra with me when I go hang out with my best friends (they have dogs and cats too), unless Ray or Dave stay home. Phaedra is rarely alone.
Plan on playing with a dog a few times a day. You’ll also be walking your dog. Or you can find a dog park close to your home and take your dog there to help them burn off energy. On days that I can’t go outside for more than 20 minutes with Phaedra (because of rosacea flare ups related to heat, one of my triggers), I do obedience training and play with her to help her burn off energy. I also invested in puzzle toys so that she has something to do while I’m working if she isn’t cuddling with me.
Tip #5 Knowledge is Important
Make sure you spend time reading about the daily care needed for your pet. Learn the possible behavior problems, housebreaking tips, and training. One of the advantages to adopting a dog is that many already come housebroken and with basic obedience training.
Decide whether or not you’re going to crate train your dog. Both of my dogs are crate trained, though they rarely use them. The crate acts like a small den, so your dog has somewhere to go to feel safe. When I have people over to fix things, I crate the dogs so that they are out of the way and safe.
Dog Training books I recommend
- The Art of Raising a Puppy – the Monks of New Skete
- Training the Best Dog Ever – using positive reinforcement, what I do with Phaedra
- Dog Training for Dummies
- Dog Training the Smart Way
- Be the Pack Leader – Cesar Milan’s way
Tip #6 Set Rules
Make sure everyone in your household agrees to the rules that will be applied to your new pet. Consistency with obedience is important. Make sure you decide how the dog will be fed. I won’t feed my dogs from the table or my plate, they get treats in their bowl or from my hand if we’re training. I don’t let people feed them scraps or food from a plate because I don’t want them begging. Some of the other important decisions are
- will the dog be allowed on the furniture?
- will the dog be allowed to sleep on the bed?
- who will be feeding the dog? how many times a day?
- who will be walking the dog?
Poodle Specific Info
Poodles are awesome because they don’t really shed, their hair gets caught in the surrounding hair. That said, they require a lot of grooming. You need to brush your poodle daily. You should also plan on taking your poodle to a groomer every 4 to 6 weeks to be shaved and bathed. If you don’t want to do that, you can try grooming on your own.
I prefer to take Phaedra to a groomer, so that’s what I do, but I also spent a few years grooming her myself. I invested in the clippers, blades, scissors and grooming table so that I can groom her at home in a pinch. At the very least, it’s a good idea to have a small set of clippers to do a sanitary shaving.
Poodles come in 3 sizes – Standards, Miniatures and Toys. They’re determined by height. Standards are over 15 inches at the shoulder, Miniatures are between 10-15 inches at the shoulder, and Toys are under 10 inches at the shoulder. I prefer Standards because I like larger dogs, but all sizes are cute.
Poodles are one of the smartest dogs in the world. They’re also one of the easiest to train. They are masters of reading body language. They want to please you. They do require a lot of companionship, which is why they’re perfect for me. I want a companion always by my side. This also means that poodles are not for everyone. If you don’t want a dog who wants to be by your side 24/7, you’ll want to find a more reserved type of dog.
What’s your perfect pet?