Everyone loves a puppy…really, what’s not to love? And it’s easy to get drawn in by cute, floppy ears and sweet puppy breath. Before you know what’s happening, she is curled up in your eight-year-old’s lap in the backseat as you race back home before the puppy needs another potty-break. Call it “The Impulse Puppy.” 

On the other hand, if you’re a planner and ponderer considering a new canine addition to your family, you will probably scour the web and comb through breed books until your eyes are crossed. You can overwhelm yourself with details to the point where you throw up your hands in frustration and get a gerbil instead.

It’s time to find a middle ground.

The average dog lives 10-12 years and some smaller dogs can easily live to be 16 or even older. When you make a lifelong commitment like this, it’s important that his personality fits in well with your family’s needs so you can all be happy.

Every dog is perfect for someone. And everyone deserves the perfect dog; it’s just a matter of finding the right match. So, if you're contemplating a puppy, or even looking to adopt a dog from a rescue organization or shelter, there are important factors to find that perfect match. 

Just a few key considerations:

Hair, Hair, Everywhere

Do you love to vacuum? Do you freak out at dust? Do you smile when you see a coworker with hair on his pants-leg? Do you have allergies?

All of these things are important as you’re considering the type (and color) of dog you want to live with.  If you have a house full of white carpet, the choice between a black lab and a white poodle … big difference.

Also if you or your kids have mild allergies, a lower-shedding dog that you can keep trimmed/groomed is often a great choice.  While there’s no such thing as a no-shed dog, Poodle mixes and some of the other long-haired dogs shed less than their short-haired brothers.

See Spot Run

Some breeds of dog need lots of room to run and play, and some like a more peaceful environment where they can just sleep on the couch in comfort. If you live in an apartment, a greyhound might not be the best choice for you, but he might be a perfect fit for a family in the country where he can run until he’s all worn out.

And if you’re a runner who’d love for Fido to run along with you, an English Bulldog might not be your first choice! Make sure you have a good understanding of your future dog’s energy level and exercise needs, and match that to the environment you’re able to provide.

You’ve Got…Personality

Some dogs truly love every person they come across. Some dogs bond well with one or two people and  aren’t quite as friendly with strangers.

If you have a large family or entertain often, consider the stress this will place on a dog that prefers a “smaller world.” On the other hand, if you have a quiet household, an extroverted dog might get bored and need frequent trips to the dog-park.

And while everyone believes their dog to be the smartest dog ever, be aware that some dog breeds are, well, not quite as intellecutally gifted as others. If you want a dog that can learn a host of impressive tricks — who can fetch the paper and make you a pot of coffee — make sure you look at the breeds that are higher on that scale.

Consider your breed’s abilities as you’re setting expectations for her ability to perform.

Larger Than Life

Are you a minimialist, building a not-so-big house in a gentrified urban area? A Great Dane or Irish Wolfhound might not be the dog for you. While each dog is unique, make sure you know roughly how large that cute little puppy might grow. This is especially important when considering mixed-breeds, as their final size can be a bit…unpredicable. Do the best job you can to anticipate the maximum size your dog might grow to, and make sure you’re willing to accept that before you adopt him.

Plays Well With Others

Finally, one of the most important factors as you’re choosing a dog is his or her tolerance of kids and other animals. Especially if you have smaller kids in your home (or you plan to during the dog’s lifetime…), be sure to consider how the dog will react to sharing his environment and how well he will tolerate them. Know your limits, and don’t be ashamed to bypass a dog that won’t adapt well to your family.

Ultimately, choosing a dog is an important and long-range decision. Too many dogs end up in shelters or rescue programs because their owners missed the boat. Remember that it’s a lifetime commitment before you bring home “that cute little puppy” based on emotions. Be sure to know what your family expects from a dog, and what needs of his you’re able to provide. When those match up well, both you and your dog will have a long, happy, loving life together!

Tags: Training and Behavior

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