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How to Find the Perfect Pet

How to Find the Perfect Pet

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

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.

  • An estimate of what a dog costs per year
  • An estimate of what a cat costs per y ear

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

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

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?

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33 Comments

  • THANK YOU for this. I found it through the link about your new poodle, Nyx.
    If more people had this knowledge before taking the responsibility for an animal’s life, I think more animals would find happy, secure, forever homes and fewer unwanted animals would be needing adoption.
    Animals are a big commitment and people should know that and what they are signing up for when they take the responsibility for caring for an animal. I’ve had dogs all my adult life and can’t imagine not having at least one because they are such great companions. I’m also aware of what I owe to them to give them the best life they can have as part of my commitment to care for them.

    • You’re welcome! I really wish everyone would do the research before they get a new pet! The #2 reason pets end up in shelters is because the owner didn’t spend the time to research to see what pet would fit their lifestyle. (#1 reason is irresponsible pet owners who don’t get their pets fixed).

      We adopted our pug Max when he was 8 and he had a forever home with us until he passed earlier this year.

      I totally agree they’re a life long commitment (for the life of the pet). They make life worth living 🙂

  • I always say if you can’t afford the vet you can’t afford the pet. The sweet fur baby who now let’s us live with her is a Maltese mix rescue dog. She is our life.

  • Thank you for this. I love all animals and will be so happy the day I can adopt a lovely companion. Phaedra is so beautiful and you can tell how happy she is.

  • I can’t wait until we can get a pet. We are waiting for the perfect time and we will definitely be adopting when we do. Your poodle is too cute!

  • We recently got a dog and it has taken so much energy and time, but I totally love him. The hardest part is learning or teaching him to be alone when were out at work.

  • This is such an important topic… many people don’t really think much before buying a pet sadly. Most of the time they are impulse buys because of children..
    My perfect pet though is a dog hah!

  • Great tips! We had to sit down and calculate how much Luna’s upkeep would cost us, plus all of the initial expenses (toys, food bowl, litter box etc). I am pro-adoption, but because of hubs’ moderate to severe cat allergies we had a very limited pool of breeds to choose from, so we decided to get her from a responsible breeder. She’s a total doll and I seriously can’t imagine my life without her!

  • It’s So Funny You Posted this b/c I Once Took a Very In-Depth Type of Test Online One Time When I was Looking to Buy a Dog! I Didn’t Know What Kind of Dog I Wanted and I Already Had 3 Rescue Pets (1 Dog & 2 Cats!) Well it Asks You a Series of Questions and Matches You to the Perfect Breed for You! It Matched Me with a Siberian Husky Every Time and That’s What Kind of Dog I Already Had, So it Was Eerily Accurate! Lol! Who Knew? I Will have to Match Myself with My Perfect Animal Next! Lol! Have a Good Day! – Jana

  • Awesome tips. I think my husband and I have decided that our next doggy will be an adoption one. We would like to rescue again and the last two were purchased. It’s so important to help these fur friends find homes 🙂

  • These are really great tips! Even though my parents have a Cairn Terrier and we loved the breed, we researched our butts off before bringing Hunter home so we knew what to expect.

  • We adopted two and bought one. Our strays both have baggage but they’re great dogs. Rosie’s puppy is amazing because we were able to train him. However, I’ll always adopt first.

  • I used to do in-home pet dog training, and I saw a lot of cases where people had gotten a dog without taking into consideration any of these things – and it was very sad to see that no one was happy. I definitely recommend that people do their research and take into account what pets need and cost.

  • This is a very awesome post. When we adopted Buddy, we did SO much research and we were lucky to find him at the local Humane Society. Although he was old and we knew his life with us was going to be short, we definitely wanted to give him the BEST rest of his life – I think we did that. <3

  • Awesome article! I did lots of research before I adopted Addy too. I actually used the Animal Planet Dog Picker to see which breed would work for me. I originally wanted a Bishon Freize but I was SO lucky to find my little hypo-allergenic terrier at a local shelter.

  • These are all great tips. Having a dog is a lot of hard work. It is like having a baby that never grows up. We aren’t ready for one. Our daughter is asking for one.

  • Great article! Aww Phaedra is always so cute. I wish my younger brother had done some/any research before getting a Husky as they are such high maintenance dogs. I ended up with the dog because of this and it has been a steep learning curve, but he is a sweet dog and I love him and do what I can for him. It’s like living with a noisy, hyper-active toddler that sheds everywhere and tears up my house if I leave him alone. A couple of other costs regarding pets is boarding/daycare and pet insurance. After our border collie was hit by a car and had a huge medical bill looming to fix his broken back, so we had to make the hard decision to put him to sleep because we simply could not afford the $20,000+ it would cost for the first of many surgeries needed to save him. We did not have insurance at that time, but I’m glad we do know because the Husky loves to escape our yard and run down the street.

    • Boarding / Daycare and pet insurance are both good points. So sorry to hear about what happened to your border collie. And yeah, Huskies are gorgeous but veeeeery high maintenance.

  • This is an excellent article for potential pet parents. If more people read, researched, made thoughtful choices, there would be fewer unwanted furbabies, out there.

  • Great advice to potential pet parents. You definitely need to do your homework and be truly committed before taking the plunge.

  • Thank you for posting this, and thank you especially for acknowledging responsible breeders! I wrote kind of a long thing on your feedback survey talking about how I got into cruelty-free through my experiences as a cat show person and through knowing lots of responsible breeders, so I’m really happy with the tone of this post. 🙂 I have a flame lynx point Himalayan named Bowie who I did buy from a responsible breeder and who I did show in premiership for a few years. What I love about how I got him — not what I love about him, because that would be a 20 page essay on his many character quirks haha — is that although he has some health issues (irritable bowel/chronic constipation), his breeder has always been there to help me out and point me in the right direction. I know that not everyone has this experience with breeders, but it was such a great experience for me that I really do go out of my way to try and help people make the right kitty choices for them, whether that’s a rescue or a bred cat. A friend of mine who works in a city animal shelter recently had 2 Exotic Shorthairs come into her shelter — it was a dream come true for her, because she had fallen in love with my Himmy but didn’t want to deal with the hair, and at the same time didn’t really want to buy a pet because she’d always had rescues. And these two cats came into rescue and were perfect for her. It’s practically a fairy tale, TBH – she got her perfect cats, they got a GREAT home, and I helped her make contact with their original breeder, who was horrified that the person she had first sold them to had dumped them, but was more than happy to know they were with someone who loved them & valued them as living creatures and not furniture. So there’s options out there for everyone 🙂

    Some additional resources for people interested in responsible cat breeders include: http://www.cfa.org, http://www.fifeweb.org (Europe), http://www.cca-afc.com (Canada). IMO the best thing anyone who is interested in an animal of a specific breed is to try and meet them beforehand — so go to a show or a trial, and really take the time to meet the animals and talk to their breeders/owners/handlers (politely–shows are busy places!). Big shows like Eukanuba, Westminster Kennel Club, or the National Dog Show have Meet the Breeds booths specifically to help the public meet animals before they buy them. There are hypoallergenic cat breeds too — soft-coated cats like Cornish Rex and Devon Rex, hairless cats like Sphynx, and the Siberian, a big fluffy cat that carries a gene that means they produce less allergens.

    • Yeah, I’ve never had a problem with responsible breeders, just the horrible puppy mills / backyard breeders (which unfortunately FL is full of).

      I actually was told that Birmans were mostly hypoallergenic, and while they do cause less of an issue for Ray than all other cats, they still cause an issue. I’m pretty sure he still had issues with the Sphynx cat a friend of ours had. I wonder about the Rex and Siberian though!

      And I agree, with you, I should have mentioned above, visiting the animal breed is a great idea. When I was looking at dobermans, we visited a doberman breeder, which was when we determined that they would be too much for Ray to handle because of his allergies. With poodles, he had no issues.

      • :/ Toronto is definitely not short of them, either. It sucks.

        I don’t meet many Birman breeders, so maybe they are! They have a silkier coat than Himalayans and Ragdolls so maybe it’s true.

        When I first started looking at cat shows, I thought I wanted a Japanese Bobtail…and then I met one lol! They are WAY too high-energy for me. Now I’m looking for a third Persian/Himmy/Exotic since my calico Persian passed, and I’ve been telling breeders I want the dumbest cat in the litter haha. They’re too chunky and short and dumb to get into trouble, and I love that.

  • Awesome tips and extremely well put together! So many people take the plunge without thinking about anything other than “adorable”. It’s a serious commitment. We’re headed for Dog #2 and have been doing the planning for months. Definitely not something to take lightly!

  • Thank you for such a considered, thoughtful article. Although there are so many cats and dogs (and other animals) that need homes not everyone can or should be a pet owner. There was literally an article on Facebook today about an older cat that was abandoned because the family wanted a kitten.
    Adopting an animal you can care for properly and can live happily within your life style is best for both the pet and owner.
    I’m on vacation right now, and although our kitties are being well cared for by family, I feel so guilty. And I miss them. Kiss Phaedra for me ?

    • It always makes me sad when someone adopts an animal and then has to give them up because they’re not a good fit for that person’s lifestyle. It makes me wish the person had spent time researching what fit with their lifestyle. And I agree, not everyone is suited to it.

      Aww, hope your vacation is wonderful!

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