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Sooner or later every parent hears it, the dreaded, "Can we get a dog? Pleeeease!" It starts as an occasional question and soon turns into a chant. My son even said he would prefer a dog to a baby brother! Once you realize there’s no escape, use these ideas to make the process easier.

What kind of dog?
Do some research. A friend offered me an Australian Shepherd which sounded pretty good until I found out they have a tendency to snap – at children’s faces! They’re not vicious but they are herding dogs and although corralling children isn’t a bad idea, using a dog isn’t the way to do it.

There are many good books out about dog breeds and you don’t even need to buy them. Just spend the afternoon at your local Borders or Barnes & Nobel, have a latte and read for a couple of hours. The web is also a good source of information.

Also, think about who will really care for the dog. My son swore he would take care of our dog but he’s only five. I knew most of the responsibility would fall to me so I convinced him that a small dog like a Westie would be perfect.

What sort of space do you have?
If you have lots of space big dogs can be great. Some breeds are very gentle and can take a lot of wear and tear from kids. But if you have a small yard and the dog will be inside most of the day a smaller breed makes more sense. Think about what is in your yard. I have a large garden and when I read about their digging habits, Westies got dropped from my list.

A puppy?
Yeah, yeah, they’re cute, warm and cuddly but they chew, cry and pee. Sort of like your kids! If you, personally, are home all day, really love dogs and can devote a great deal of time to one – puppies are fine. But puppies are a ton of work. Consider an older dog. Many are given to pounds for reasons other than behavioral problems. Our dog was given up due to someone developing an allergy. These dogs are trained, housebroken and very grateful for another loving home.

Breeder, pet store or pound?
If you have your heart set on a specific type of dog, go to a reputable breeder. The AKC web site will point you to breeders in your area. Pet stores can be a good place to look but are often more expensive than a breeder.

The pound or SPCA is probably your best bet for finding a dog but it takes some time. We spent every weekend dog hunting for a whole summer. We visited pounds in several towns. You will find that pounds in urban areas will have a lot of pit bull/rotweiller/shepherd type of dogs. Many will be strays right off the streets. Pounds in suburban areas will have a more diverse selection. You can get a puppy from the pound but they go quickly.

Get to know the staff at your local pound or SPCA. Once the staff at ours knew us and what we wanted they were able to alert us to new dogs that fit our criteria. They will also know a lot about the history of the dogs they have. We knew that our dog had lived with a child, didn’t care much for sharing the house with other pets and was allergic to one brand of dog food.

When you do find the one, grab it! We went to lunch to think about one dog and lost her. My son was heartbroken. Which leads me to another hint. Don’t take the kids with you when making a final decision. You will be caring for the dog – you should make the final decision alone.

So it took us a while but we got a gentle, loving lhasa apso – which usually costs $400 or so, for only $20.00. (Dogs who are not yet spayed or neutered will cost more – you basically have to pay for the spaying before the pound will let you have them.) She is four years old, a great, if goofy looking, watchdog who is housetrained and devoted to my son. Watching him sleeping using her for a pillow makes it all worth it.