Choosing the Right Dog

So you want to get a dog
How do you go about selecting a dog?

Knowing why you want a dog can help you figure out the kind of dog that best meets your needs.

Dog experts, including world-famous dog whisperer Cesar Millan, suggest you know your needs before selecting a dog. Take our quiz to find out if you’re really ready to get a dog.

black lab puppy

Choosing A Dog
If you’re really ready to get a dog, your next step is to decide the type of dog you want. Do you want a puppy, an adolescent dog, an adult dog, or a senior dog? Do you want a specific breed, a purebred, or a mutt? Are you looking for a particular type of personality or temperament? Do you want a non-allergenic or non-shedding dog? Do you want a dog that has a specific look? Selecting a dog is a complex business.

Your lifestyle plays an important role in choosing a dog, as do the characteristics of specific dogs and breeds. Be patient, it can take some time to determine what kind of dog you want, research different veterinarians, breeders, adoption options, and training facilities. Even then, you may have to wait for the perfect dog for you to appear.

But don’t worry, it’ll be worth it! In the end, you should have a happy, healthy, dog that you’ll enjoy living with for years to come.

Your lifestyle 
The way you live your life and your personality play a key role in choosing the right type of dog for you. Some key questions can help you determine what you want when you’re choosing a dog:

  • Do you live in on an acreage, in a house, or an apartment?
  • Do you have a fenced back yard? Is it large enough for the type of dog you want?
  • Do you live in an inner-city area, the suburbs, or in a rural area?
  • Can you spend a great deal of time with your dog?
  • Do you live with other people, especially children? Choosing the best dog breed for children is an especially tough task.
  • Are you selecting a dog for a specific purpose, such as herding sheep, or guarding your house?
  • What is your budget for keeping your dog healthy?

Choosing a puppy can be more expensive than an adult dog.

Dog Size 
A dog’s size is an important consideration when choosing a dog. If you have a small city apartment, you may want to think about selecting a dog that is small or tiny, rather than a larger dog or a giant dog breed.

If you want a dog that will cuddle on your lap, a 30 pound dog may be as large as you want. If you’re looking for a dog to do a lot of running, hiking and camping, you’ll probably want to consider medium or larger dogs.

If you have a large home, with a large yard, and are able to give the dog lots of exercise, selecting a dog that’s larger may be a good choice. If you have small children, you may want to consider that a larger dog may be able to bowl them over and hurt them.


Transportation is also something to think about. You probably won’t want to get an overly large dog like a Saint Bernard if you drive a tiny compact car.

Trainability
Some dog breeds are notoriously more difficult to train than others. If you don’t have the time or inclination for training dog breeds that are stubborn or difficult, you should consider a selecting a dog that is more docile and easily trainable.

Active Dog or Couch Potato? 
The activity of dog breeds varies tremendously. There are dogs that are nothing more than furry couch potatoes and that are perfectly happy to go outside and walk for only a short time every day.

Other dog breeds are much more active – they seem like they’re permanently wired on about ten cups of coffee, and need enormous amounts of exercise, mental stimulation, and attention. Most dogs fall somewhere in between, and need an hour or two of solid exercise each day.

Adult Dog, Puppy, or Senior?
One of the key decisions you’ll make when selecting a dog is the age of the dog. Do you want an adult dog or a puppy? When we think about choosing a dog, most people automatically think of choosing a cute puppy from a litter. Sure, puppies are absolutely adorable, but they are a lot of work.

If you don’t want to go through the trials of housebreaking and chewed shoes, adopting an adult dog can be a great choice. Don’t discount a senior dog that may have a few great years to give you!

Male or Female Dog
Dog owners tend to have pretty strong feelings about selecting a dog based on gender. Many owners feel that female dogs are more docile, while males are more aggressive. On the other hand, some owners feel that males are more protective and playful. Generally, these are pretty broad generalizations that tend not to hold true. Deciding if you want a male or female dog is a pretty complex issue.

A Purebred or a Mutt
The benefits of purebreds and mutts (mixed breeds) can be a controversial topic among dog lovers, and you’ll run into people prepared to swear to their death that either purebreds, or mixed breeds, are the best choice.

Purebred devotees swear by the reliability of a purebred’s temperament and physical characteristics. Similarly, mixed breed, or mutt, lovers often swear by their dog’s wonderful personality and gorgeous looks.

While both purebred dogs and mixed breeds both have advantages, the key thing to remember is that all dogs are individuals. You can take any purebred and any mixed breed, at random, stand them side-by-side, and either one could be more attractive, intelligent, a better family pet, or healthier. Selecting a dog based on the individual dog’s personality is probably the best tactic.

At the same time, in general terms, there are some interesting comparisons between purebred and mixed breed dogs. Just remember that these are only generalizations, and that all dogs are individuals first.

Learn more about choosing the perfect dog in my book, Choosing a Happy, Healthy Puppy.

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