QUINCY, Mass. -- Checkout Lane column with advice on buying a dog.
When you're staring into a pair of big, brown, puppy dog eyes, it can be difficult to think practically. Love at first sight can be powerful, but dog owners who haven't considered the breed can pick the wrong dog for their lifestyle, says Kelly Cram, assistant animal control officer at the Kingston Animal Shelter.
``Most of the dogs surrendered to us come because people bought them at a pet store without knowing the breed,'' Cram said. ``They buy a puppy because it's cute, but seven or eight weeks later, they decide it's the wrong dog.''
With thousands of breeds and mixed breeds to choose from, some basic research can make your search easier.
Whether you're shopping at a pet store or a local animal shelter, the first thing to consider is what you expect from your dog, said Kathy Blackadar, owner of Fin Fur & Feather in Hanover.
If you have an active lifestyle and want an exercise partner, choose a large working dog like a German or Australian shepherd, or a hunting dog like a basset hound or greyhound.
``These dogs need exercise on a regular basis. They need something to do,'' she said. ``They're not going to be happy lying around the house.''
If you're partial to big dogs but have a less active lifestyle, Blackadar recommends Labrador or golden retrievers.
``They love a walk on the beach or a romp with the family, but they are also happy to lie in the den,'' she said.
Large dogs tend to be mellower than smaller breeds and can offer more protection, Blackadar said. But if you have limited space or want a dog to cuddle in your lap, you should look for a smaller dog.
Although they have a reputation for being hyper, small dogs are easier to care for than larger breeds, she said.
``A lot of people want a lap dog because they're less work,'' she said. ``They eat less, require less exercise and many of them don't shed.''
Once you've decided on a breed and size, consider the family you're bringing the dog home to. If you have children, pick a dog that can tolerate their behavior.
Although most dogs can be trained to be family pets, some breeds, like Labradors and golden retrievers, are known to do better around children, Blackadar said.
Before you buy a dog, ask about its history and former owners.
``You run into a problem when the dogs are nervous or scared because they've never been around children,'' she said.
Whether you buy a puppy or a mature dog, you're still going to have some training to do.
``You can train it to your house, your family, your lifestyles,'' Blackadar said. ``Most dogs become a member of the family.''
The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Mass.
Alysa Landry may be reached at email@example.com.