How To Choose A Dog
That's Right For You!

How to choose a dog is a process that goes way beyond falling for the first one that attracts your attention. While "good chemistry" is important, if your decision is based on that alone, it may well lead you down the rabbit hole.

For the dog's sake, and yours actually, you've gotta take a few more things into consideration before choosing a pet.

john kennedy family with their dogs

Basic Considerations

First of all,  are you dog savvy?  Have you boned-up on all the responsibilities that owning a "Rover" entails and fully understand what's involved so that the decision to get a dog is not impulsive?  If you have, then you'll know it's not a trivial matter.

Here's something else to think about:  What are your future plans?  Can you confidently commit to lovingly take care of a pet for up to 15 or more years?  Before you answer,

Read this article "How Could You?" and then come back.

Healthy dogs live fairly long lives, and they get very attached to you. Buyer's remorse is not a good feeling when it comes to the prospect of giving up a puppy or adult dog - many sad faces at shelters will attest to that!

Still with me? Good!

Ready For More?

So having thought these things through,  if you're still on board, we'll move on to the nitty-gritty of choosing a dog, before you make a final decision

With a little know-how.... choosing the right dog will be a breeze and you'll have no trouble selecting a four-legged friend that will best fit into your family and be a treasured pet for years to come.

So let's get to it.

How To Choose A Dog For Your Lifestyle

Do you want your dog to be in harmony with the type of things you like to do?  This factor bears consideration if you want your dog to be included in your activities.

For example, if you are a high energy person, or family, and thrive on lots of outdoor activity, such as:

  • Hiking, choose a breed with good stamina from the sporting or herding breeds. Flat Coated Retriever, Akita and Labrador Retriever are breeds that come to mind.

  • Boating and water sports, select a breed known to love the water and has the swimming abilities to match. Two such dog breeds are the Newfoundland and the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. While both are excellent around water, don't forget their life jackets.

  • Daily running buddy, pick a dog that can keep pace with you. Many breeds could fit the bill depending on your mileage. Size of breed need not be a deciding factor as the Beagle is pretty good for the average runner. For more demanding runs the Whippet can easily go the distance.
two dogs on a boat in harbor
woman running on beach with dog

The Excitement of Canine Competition

Perhaps you are drawn to the excitement and fun of competitive dog sports and would enjoy owning a breed that you can train and enter into canine agility trials. If this has appeal, selecting a dog breed for these activities will take your search toward dogs that are natural athletes and that have the ability to focus and follow commands off leash.

Although all dog breeds can compete in agility, some of the breeds easiest to train for it are Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Welsh Corgies.

Just remember one thing, this sport requires both dog and master to have plenty of stamina.

cattle dog jumping hurdles in agility competitionAgility

Apart from the energetic canine sports, the beauty of the conformation shows has great appeal for those interested in working toward champion status for their purebred dogs.

Many people develop an interest in this hobby by attending dog shows or watching them on television - especially the famous Westminster Dog Show.

Make A Note: Attending dog shows is a great way to learn more about dog characteristics and dog breed temperament. Plus, it's really fun to watch dogs enjoying all the activity and getting pampered at the same time.

Costs Of Owning A Dog - Reality Check!

Taking proper care of a dog does cost money and many people in their excitement to have a pet, don't take this into consideration. Big mistake!

So, before you venture into pet land, do take a look at what's involved money-wise.

First you have the cost of obtaining your chosen pet.  This can range from $50 to $100 at your local shelter for a mixed breed;  up to $600 for a specific breed from a breed rescue or non-pro breeder; and up to $2,000 or more depending or rarity for a purebred.

Here are some of the recurring fixed costs:

  • Regular health checks
  • Vaccinations
  • Annual Licenses
  • Pet insurance
  • Back-up savings for health conditions not covered by insurance
  • High quality food - this cost is variable depending on the size of the dog, be it a Great Dane or a Chihuahua, but it is considerable.

dog vaccination reminder imageVaccinations
dog having hair dried with hair dryerRegular Grooming
image of dog license tagsAnnual License Tag

And here are some of the other needs:

  • A comfy dog bed (and replacements as needed)
  • Dog Crate
  • A doghouse - especially in extreme climates
  • Leash, collar, food and water bowls
  • Grooming
  • Microchipping - especially if traveling with your dog
  • Boarding
  • Professional dog obedience training

In addition to the regular expenses, most dog lovers like to purchase treats, toys and birthday presents for their dogs.  It adds up very quickly! 

And, according to the latest stats it's growing.  The most recent data revealed that Americans spent $70 billion on their pets last year.  Of that amount. 20 billion went to vet expenses,  32 billion for food, and 16 billion for supplies and OTC meds.

After that shocker, pick yourself up off the floor and let's move on.

Will A Dog Fit Into The Family Schedule?

Is someone at home most days to take care of a dog, or does everyone have a job? Most dogs are such social beings, that many will suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for more than a little while.

Lap dogs can go more places, but other breeds left alone too long may turn into barkers out of boredom or anxiety - your neighbors may justifiably be a little put out. If you can't take your dog with you, think of having a dog walker come by to provide some exercise and companionship  or perhaps consider two dogs to keep each other company. The other alternative is doggie daycare, but there is a cost involved.

Whichever dog(s) you select, if they are home alone and prefer to be outside, make sure the area is gated and safe. Provide sufficient water in a shaded spot and a solid dog house for shelter and comfort no matter what the weather.

And, by all means leave some distractions...a few of their favorite toys. If your dog stays inside, invest in some pet calming music which studies have shown help dogs stay calm, relieves separation anxiety, masks sound phobias, quiets barking, and ultimately lets your pup find their zen.

small dog napping on bamboo love seatLaid Back Lap Dog

Other Considerations When Choosing A Dog

Space - If you are attracted to the larger breeds, do you have the room? Using the Great Dane again as an example, it's pretty obvious that this breed needs a good deal more room to roam than a Yorkshire Terrier, but it's surprising how often large dogs find themselves in small apartments or condos. Go figure!

Hair - Some like it long, some like it short, but most of us don't like it on the couch. Do you have a dog-proof house - perhaps with sealed wood or tile floors.   And maybe a leather sofa instead of fabric? Definitely something to ponder if you're not too fond of running the vacuum! Also, be aware that grooming needs will differ between the long and short-haired.

old English sheepdog sitting in the grassMust Love Grooming!

After you've come up with a clearer picture of your chosen pet, go one step further  using this check list

  • Find an ethical breeder. National dog breed associations have members who are required to uphold ethical standards of breeding.
  • Don't go to pet shops as their dogs usually come from from puppy mills. The exception to this is Petco which sponsors events to help homeless pets find families to adopt them.
  • Pet adoption is a very worthwhile consideration when you are seeking a pet for your for family, as there are thousands of dogs given up or abandoned every year, who need good homes. It also helps children learn about the plight of animals. 
  • Most breed associations also have "rescued" dogs for adoption and of course your local shelters are obvious places to explore.

True dog lovers are willing to make many adjustments for furry friends as they consider the advantages far outweigh what we do for them. However, owning a dog does mean making a commitment for a number of years.

Before choosing a dog for your family, one final thought..

If you missed this article "How Could You?" up at the top, check it out now. Its message is profound and really brings home the responsibility we have to a dog when we bring one into our family.

After all, this site is all about the ultimate care of pets!

Resources: Dog expenses calculator
Some images licensed under CC BY 2.0 Creative Commons

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