What Dog Should I Get? Factors for Choosing the Best Dog for You and Your Home
By Allison Kuopus (Chicago, IL)
Whether you’ve been thinking about getting your very first canine companion or are a seasoned pet parent, there are multiple factors to take into consideration when choosing what kind of dog to bring home next.
While it may be tempting to send in an application online for the cutest puppy you’ve ever seen, you have to consider not only what’s best for you and your family, but also what’s going to be best for the dog, too. Before you make a rash decision, do your research. You can start here!
A puppy can be a huge responsibility! You’re starting from scratch with a baby who doesn’t know right from wrong. An older dog, even a year old, will probably have at least potty training. No matter the age of the pup you pick, you’ll want to dedicate time to getting your new pooch adjusted to you, its new home and your routines.
Some rescues cater exclusively to people who want to give senior and special needs dogs their best possible golden years. It takes a special kind of human to take on the responsibility and medical expense of elderly animals, but the reward is unparalleled.
One of the main things to consider is the space you have available for a small, medium or large dog, both indoor and outdoor. Are you in an apartment or a house? Do you have a yard or access to a dog park? Is there enough wiggle room around furniture for wagging tails?
Larger dogs tend to cost more over time (think of all that food!), while smaller dogs may need extra help staying warm if you live somewhere that gets cold with jackets or sweaters. As sad as it is to say, larger dogs typically have a shorter life expectancy than their smaller counterparts, although there are always exceptions.
Regardless of the size of the dog, we know the amount of love you’re going to get is huge.
Schedule and Lifestyle
You don’t have to completely uproot your routine for a new dog, but the responsibility of loving and raising a dog is time-consuming. Think about how often you’re home and how often you can walk and play with your new pal. Take into consideration whether you need a companion who will be good with kids, seniors, other animals, or special needs family members. If you work or travel a lot, make sure someone else will be around regularly for socialization and exercise. Perhaps you may need to consider getting a dog walker or enrolling your pup in doggie daycare.
Breed and personality
According to American Kennel Club, there are seven main categories of dog breeds. Each breed has its own general personality traits, physical characteristics and overall needs, and each individual dog even more specific. Be sure to research these characteristics before you settle into a specific breed. You want to make sure you can offer the dog a lifestyle that would best suite them and set them up for success.
Keep in mind that purebred dogs may be genetically predisposed to hereditary health conditions later in life, like hip dysplasia, knee problems or even cancer, while mutts with mixed genes generally speaking have less health issues.
Energy and activity level
Every dog needs at least some exercise to stay healthy, regardless of energy level. Older dogs will typically have lower physical needs than puppies, and certain breeds have more energy to burn than others. Do you want someone you can take running and hiking, a couch potato to watch movies with, or maybe a little bit of both?
Intelligence and Trainability
All dogs need at least a little training, so if that’s not something you can dedicate considerable time to, maybe you’d prefer an older dog who may not require much more training than it already has. Keep in mind, too, that more intelligent breeds will require mental stimulation regularly, or they may act out. Making sure your dog’s needs are being met is the best way to set yourself up for success especially if you have a breed who needs extra stimulation. Examples of these breeds would include, border collies, Australian cattle dogs, and Belgian Malinois to name a few.
Shedding and Coat
All dogs shed, but some more, and more often, than others. Wiry haired dogs and those with short, fine hair will shed less than ones with long coats. Some dogs, like poodles, require regular professional grooming, as opposed to the occasional brushing or at home baths. A quick Google search can help you figure out what sort of maintenance the dog you’re looking at will require.
Ask. Ask. Ask.
Whether you look for a dog from a shelter, rescue or reputable breeder, ask as many questions as possible about your potential new pup to make sure they’ll be the right fit for you. These organizations and individuals have years’ worth of experience matching dogs with forever families like yours. You might be surprised, the dog you have your eye on because it’s cute may not be the best fit for your lifestyle. I always recommend going to a shelter or adoption event and interacting with the animals. Most times your perfect companion will be one you never even thought you’d end up with.
And if you’re not sure you’re ready to commit just yet, ask about fostering options!
Written by: Allison Kuopus