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Dogs: America's most popular pet

What's involved in raising a puppy? Dogs demand lots of your time and attention. They need plenty of exercise and thrive on interaction with their "adopted family."

Daily walks, frequent baths and feeding can be time consuming, but these requirements make the dog an ideal pet for a family that has many hands to help and attention to give to the pet.

And, we are in love with these creatures. Dogs are the most popular pet in homes across the country, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association's most recent survey.

Deciding whether to buy a purebred or adopt from your neighborhood Humane Society is a personal decision. If you decide to buy a purebred, research the various dog breeds to find the best match for your household and the puppy. Check with breed clubs, read dog magazines, go to dog shows and talk with the staff at your local Humane Society for some guidance. Dog Breed info.com is a wonderful resource for learning about the different breeds and their individual characteristics and for finding breeders.

Obviously, you want to find a healthy pet. Signs of good health or health problems can be seen in the skin, coat, eyes, ears, mouth and weight of your pet. Part of your responsibility is to know what these signs are before buying the animal.

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Once you decide on the type of dog you want, you will need to prepare your house and your family for the new friend. This will take some time so don't wait until your pet is already in the house. Decide where the pet will spend most of its time, where it will sleep and eat. Will you fence your yard? What will you do to protect and keep your pet from straying?

You will need to buy a collar, tag and toys; find a veterinarian and arrange for a sitter for occasions when you have to leave your pet. Plan to use the same veterinarian and sitter whenever needed, so your dog will become familiar with them and visits will be more pleasant.

It's difficult to say what price you'll pay for your dog, because pricing is based on the type of dog you buy, its size and even the region in which you live. A puppy from the shelter usually costs from $15 to $75, while one from a breeder could range from $250 to $1,500, according to newpet.com.

The price for your dog may or may not include that of immunization, spaying or neutering. You'll need to reserve $50 to $100 for those procedures.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says a spayed or neutered animal could save you the licensing cost of $8 to $15. Licensing is required by most states but the regulations vary from one community to the next.

Annual medical care, as reported by the ASPCA, averages $150 for a small dog, $175 for a medium-sized one and $200 for a large dog. In urban areas, this figure could be higher.

 
 
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