Buying or adopting a dog is a big decision. Before you fall for the heart-melting eyes of a new puppy, take some time to decide what kind of dog is right for you, how dog ownership will affect your lifestyle, and what your responsibilities will be as a dog owner in Ontario.

Canadian's Favourite Breeds

The number one CKC-registered dog breed favored by Canadians is the Labrador retriever, followed closely by German Shepherds and golden retrievers. Poodles, Shetland sheepdogs, Yorkshire terriers, Bernese mountain dogs, boxers, bulldogs, and miniature schnauzers round out the top ten.

Of course, the Canadian Kennel Club doesn't account for mixed breeds, lovable mutts, and unregistered breeds that are also very popular.

Ontario Dog Laws

In 2005, Ontario dog laws went into effect that ban pit bulls, breeds related to the pit bull – Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier and American pit bull terrier – and place strict restrictions on pit bulls owned before the law took effect. The intent of the law is to keep people safe from dangerous and aggressive dogs. It's also important to note that any dog that resembles a pit bull could be subject to the law. If you choose a mixed breed dog that looks like a banned dog, you may risk losing your pet. Always do your research before bringing a dog home and you should be able to avoid any issues.

How much does it cost to own a dog?

Dogs aren't expensive as children, but there are a lot of things to consider. Vaccines, exams, heartworm and flea prevention, food, insurance, and dental costs can add up to over $2,000 a year for a 40 LB dog; even more if you hire a professional groomer or have a fondness for spiffy sweaters. Check out the cost breakdown by the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA).  Consider pet insurance for your dog as a way to help reduce and manage expensive vet bills.

Buy or Adopt?

Unless you really care about pedigree, adopting a pet is a practical and affordable way to go. Most of the pets you'll find at a shelter or rescue are healthy, socialized, and well-cared-for.  It's usually a lot less expensive to adopt than buy from a breeder, and you'll find a huge selection of dogs to choose from, including pure breeds.

Puppy mills and the pet stores who sell their puppies have a terrible reputation. The puppies that come from poorly run puppy mills are often prone to behavioral and health issues, and may have trouble adjusting to a family environment.

Bracing for the Cold

Ontario can get extremely in the winter, and dogs are just as susceptible to cold as their humans. When the temperature drops, keep your pups inside, and opt for pet-friendly salt for de-icing your sidewalk and driveway. Large dogs bred for winter conditions (like huskies) will fare better in the snow than smaller dogs with thinner fur, but no dog should be exposed for long periods of time. Health conditions like diabetes and heart disease can affect your dog's ability to stay warm.

Dog Parks

Ontario is a great place to have a dog! There are plenty of off-leash parks where you and your pooch can enjoy a lively game of fetch and play with other dogs. Before heading out to a dog park, however, be sure your dog's vaccinations are up-to-date. Puppies are vulnerable to all kinds of germs left behind by other dogs. Vaccinations will protect your pup against the most common bugs so you can enjoy each other for a long, long time.