For the New Year, what kind of new dog is best?

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With the New Year come plans for some to acquire a new dog. Making the right decision, if you're lucky, will last for 10 to 15 years.

One of the biggest traps is the thought of getting the kind of dog you had when you were younger, either as a child or as an adult. But that might not be the best idea!

Your age and lifestyle has changed over the years. What time do you have for a dog? What space do you live in? Do you have children?

Who has primary responsibility? How is your physical condition? Do you have a fenced area or live near a park and walking area?

Answers to these questions can determine not just the size but temperament and age.

If you are aging and certainly can't guarantee your health, the age and size of the new dog is critical.

Do you have a plan should the dog outlive your ability to take care of him? If you don't, then getting a dog that is older rather than a young dog or puppy might be the best decision.

Size is equally as important. A smaller dog is easier to take along if you wish to travel with him. Also, a companion that can be a lap dog is a great comfort.

Having a medium or large dog pull you down the street - or worse, topple you over - is not a good idea. A small, manageable-sized dog is your best bet.

You might have always owned Labs or Goldens, but now that might not be best.

If you have a young family, will your kids be overwhelmed by a large dog? Or can they tolerate a dog that might jump?

Are they old enough to help walk and train? A medium-sized mixed breed might have just the right temperament.

Growing up with a young dog or pup can instill confidence and responsibility in kids and provide hours of fun and exercise for both.

If you choose a high-energy dog, how do you plan to get that energy out? Do you jog or ride a bike? Do you go to the beach, to a park, a dog park? Dogs need exercise as much as humans do.

Does someone have allergies? Hypoallergenic dogs whether small, medium or large might be in your future. Any dog that has hair instead of fur is good.

Doodles of any kind are great, whether you are older or have young families. Good trainability and temperaments can be found in those poodle mixes.

If you live in an apartment or condo, do not get a breed that is barky. Even if you have had good luck before, the odds are not in your favor with a terrier or certain hounds.

An insecure dog is also not a good bet since they can have anxieties which might result in noise - and this might not be fixable.

Be realistic and thoughtful about your decision. This new family member will be with you for a long time.

Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training. ajbird@hargray.com

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