Pet a man’s best friend

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When it comes to choosing your family pet, dogs truly are “a man’s best friend,” as the saying goes—or woman’s or child’s best friend, too. Dogs provide unconditional love, protection, health benefits and more. Here are the top reasons to invest in a dog—whether you are single, have a family or are retirement age.

Loyal—While most breeds will stay true to their owners, there are some dogs that go above and beyond and become known as “shadow dogs.” The Rough Collie—intelligent, friendly and most famous as “Lassie”—will never stray far from its family.  Another famous movie dog is the courageous Akita, also known as the Great Japanese Dog. “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” is based on the true story of Hachiko, an Akita that would wait for his owner every day at the train station and continued to do so for nine years after his master died. Other top picks for loyalty are the Labrador retriever, and the Brittany, a hunting/gun breed originally used for bird hunting.

Therapeutic—In addition to Seeing Eye dogs, those that help the visually impaired, four-legged friends are often used to help in a variety of situations. Therapy dogs can be used to help patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, can provide comfort to children and the elderly in hospitals, and, according to a study from the American Humane Association, have been shown to reduce anxiety in cancer patients. Labrador retrievers, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Saint Bernards all can make excellent therapy dogs.

Companionship—Looking for a low-key dog, one that will stay by your side and cuddle with you on the couch? Affectionate and gentle, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel enjoys relaxing and requires little exercise. Yorkshire Terriers make the perfect “lapdog,” and the patient Golden Retriever is consistently ranked as being perfect for families with children. For seniors, a poodle is easily trainable and hypoallergenic; for one with minimal grooming needs, try a Dachshund or Beagle.

Protection—Are you looking for a watchdog but one that can also be a great family addition? There’s a reason German shepherds are the most popular for police canine units. Eager to learn and obey, these dogs excel at listening to and acting upon commands. They are fiercely protective of their homes and humans and are definitely on guard when it comes to intruders.

Exercise—According to the American Heart Association, owning a pet may help protect you from heart disease. People who own dogs tend to exercise more, especially if they have a breed that requires daily walks, and those that do tend to get the recommended level of physical activity per day. This is turn can lower your cardiovascular risk. If you want a dog that will help you stick to an exercise regimen, Jack Russell Terriers, Australian shepherds and Border collies are all breeds that require a great deal of daily activity. Petco has a large assortment of harnesses, leashes, fetch balls and other outdoor toys to get your dog—and you—up and running.

As always, do extensive research on the breed you’re considering and speak in depth to breeders to make sure you’re not buying from a puppy mill. Then, when your new four-legged friend is home, relax in the loyalty and companionship you’ll build with your dog.

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