Dogs and cats are the most popular pets nowadays, with retail stores charging between one thousand and three thousand dollars at the cash register for pure-bred dogs. There are shelters to adopt dogs and you may not care if the dog is a mix-breed, but in all cases the pets are an investment in cost and time. They must be fed, taken to the vet, given shots, and in the case of dogs, washed or groomed. For this, we human owners get companionship and often some comic relief. There are basic questions involved when deciding on a pet and most of this article will deal with dogs. Cats are known for being low-maintenance pets: they clean themselves, dutifully do their business in the litter box, and they spend 80% of the day sleeping. The real activity in a household centers around the family dog.

Each breed has its own activity level, from the laid-back hound dog to very active breeds like the Jack Russell Terrier or the Pomeranian. Dogs are loyal to their owners, and they expect a fair amount of playtime with the family. They have emotions of their own and the training and psychology of the dog’s role should reflect this. They have temperaments common to the breed, but also may have traits that are individual. Higher mammals develop personalities to aid in survival; they have to establish a presence in the ranking of the food chain.

There are important points to consider when acquiring a dog. What size dog is appropriate for the space do you have? How much exercise can you give the dog? Where will the dog live? How much experience do you have with dogs? What do you plan to do with the dog? Remember that they were bred to fulfill certain roles such as herding, hunting, guarding, or killing rats. If your garden is very important to you, you might not want to get a terrier; almost all of them will dig. Dalmatians, pointers, and retrievers need hours of hard exercise – they were meant to go for miles and miles without tiring and they need to run.

North America’s most popular dog breed is the Golden Retriever. They have a sunny disposition, they love children, and they’re loyal and affectionate. Golden Retrievers are widely used as guide dogs for the blind. They were originally used as a soft-mouthed retriever for wild game hunting. They were developed in the 1800s in Britain, a mix of various sporting breeds – the wavy-coated Retriever, the yellow Tweed Water Spaniel, Irish Setter and the Bloodhound (to sharpen the breed’s scenting skills). The Golden Retriever was recognized as a pure breed by the English Kennel Club in 1913. To accommodate the needs of this treasured family pet, they should be kept in homes with a large yard or a country home with lots of room for outdoor exercise.

Boxers and Bulldogs are next in popularity. They are solid dogs, forty to fifty pounds in weight. Even though they love exercise, they can exist well as apartment pets; they’re extremely loving and playful, as are Chihuahuas, the smallest of breeds, weighing in at two to four pounds fully grown. They don’t require a lot of space and are ideal companions for adults in apartments and families with older children who can appreciate the fragility of the tiny Chihuahua. They come in long and short coat varieties, so they should be clad in sweater and booties when going for walks in cold temperatures.

Number five in popularity is the Maltese, one of the first of the purebreds to be exhibited at dog shows in North America. The Maltese dog is affectionate, intelligent and sturdy, and loves to romp and play – especially with children. This tiny breed measures up to 10 inches at the shoulder and they weigh up to seven pounds maximum. The Maltese dog has a gorgeous, long, pure-white, silky coat that hangs straight to the ground from a center part running from nose to tip of tail. Its expressive dark eyes and dark nose, lips and eye rims enhance the Maltese dog’s exquisite face. Grooming requirements for the Maltese are fairly intensive – the coat needs daily brushing to stay tangle-free and frequent bathing to keep it sparkling white, even if you choose to give it a shorter ‘pet’ trim. The Maltese dog is a great choice for elderly or disabled people, since its exercise needs are minimal. A similar situation exists in the Shih Tzu breed, good for city-dwellers – loving and playful. They also need frequents brushing.

One breed you don’t want in an apartment is the Labrador Retriever, the seventh most popular pet dog breed. They love the outdoors, especially the water…if you throw something in a pond or lake, they’ll gladly jump in and fetch it. If you leave the door open when you’re in the bath you may end up with a large bathing partner. They’re easy to train and have a high energy level, so they’re best for suburban or country homes.

Next is the Pug, a playful, mischievous, and intelligent companion who loves attention. Dogs are social animals, so you’ll find that all of them crave attention and play. The pug is a favorite breed of royalty since the sixteenth century. They were at first considered a breed from Holland but many breeds like Pugs, Chihuahuas, and Shih Tzus are now thought to originate in China. Pugs are great for apartments, as their exercise needs are minimal. They do tend to get overweight, so a controlled diet is a good idea.

The Pomeranian is the next most popular dog breed. They make good apartment dogs, and you couldn’t have a better watchdog. They have intense curiosity and keen senses; they’ll be glad to warn the owner of any noise near or far by going on alert and barking incessantly. They seek approval and attention and with their high metabolisms they can pack away the food without gaining an ounce.

Number ten in popularity is the Yorkshire Terrier, or “Yorkie”. It’s small, highly energetic, and clever. The Yorkie seems unaware of its small size – they are brave and eager for adventure, and can be aggressive towards strange dogs and small animals. The human must establish pack leadership to keep the Yorkie from taking over the house because the dog can become yappy, doing his best to tell you what HE wants YOU to do. As a cute dog, owners might let them get away with outrageous behavior that no dog should display. They need a lot of human attention and should be given proper boundaries. They are trainable, but can be difficult to housebreak. The Yorkie is an excellent watchdog. Owners should learn to give them some gentle leadership.

Domestic dogs are universally good-natured unless humans cause them to act in another fashion, and they want and deserve love. When looking for a family pet, research the different types of dogs so that when you meet the dog in person, you’ll have a better idea of some general traits that will match your family’s situation and needs. It’s fair to everybody involved, especially the pet who is dependant on you as a loving owner.

Graphic artist Raj Bharadia specializes in drawing expressive pet messages for all types of pet greeting cards, which are the staple of his business Three Way Designs, a web site that offers the cards to online shoppers.

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