I very often hear people say, “if I knew then what I know now about this breed of dog I have, I would have never gotten it.” Most people do not consider the traits of their dog’s breed until after the dog is home and wrecking havoc in their family, and some never consider it at all. Researching the history of a breed of dog, it’s temperament, and it’s trainabilty should be done before that breed of dog is brought into the home. Doing your due diligence in this area is one of the many things you can do to help decide what breed of dog is the right fit for you and your family. Knowing how to choose the right dog for your family can make all the difference in the dog you end up bringing into your home.
Before I tell you ways to help you choose the right dog, I want to talk about some ways you should never choose a dog. Never choose a dog with your emotions. If you want to bring a dog home because you feel sorry for it, you want to save it from something, or because you want it to save you from something, then it’s likely not the right dog for you. Just like with any decision in life, making them based on emotions is never a good idea. If you answered yes to any of the above questions, take time to sleep on it or at the very least spend a few hours considering it. Time and again I hear stories where a dog was brought into a family because it was “necessary”, “its last chance at survival”, or because “I needed a friend”. Rarely does this work out smoothly. Oftentimes the dog is not the right fit and there is much heartache involved. So don’t choose a dog based on how you feel. Think with your head, not your heart on this one.
Also, don’t choose a dog because all of your neighbors and friends have one. Dogs are not things to collect. I’ve seen many families get a dog because their friends have one and it turns out to be a terrible choice of breed for their family. Our families are all different, and our dogs should be too. And lastly, don’t choose a dog because you remember having one like it as a kid. Your role in your dog’s life as a kid is very different than as an adult, therefore that breed will likely not be a good fit for you.
So how does a family decide what type of dog is the right fit? The best place to start is to do research on the breeds that you are interested in. Find out the breed’s history, as that can impact how it will behave and what it’s exercise needs will be. Find out the breed’s temperament and trainability. Every dog is unique in these areas, but most breeds have some standards that you can glean a lot of information from. If you are not an active family than it is best to stay away from breeds that have temperaments described as very active, prey driven, and energetic. Likewise if you are a busy family with multiple kids, you’ll want to stay away from breeds described as lazy and cumbersome. Use the internet to find out as much as you can about your breeds of choice.
If you are looking at getting a mixed breed, research the breeds you suspect are part of the dog’s makeup. If nobody knows the breed of the dog you are considering, you can do a DNA test to help find out and then do your research. It is always better to do research and narrow down a few breeds that are a good fit for your family and then go search for a dog, than it is to find a dog and then research if its’ breed is a good fit for you and your family or not. Many people determine the right breed and then run ahead and get one that doesn’t fit because they can’t find their breed fast enough. This normally does not go near as smoothly as waiting to find the breed that fits.
Besides doing breed research, there are other ways you can pick the best dog for your family. Another great way is to ask those around you who have been around multiple breeds of dogs. Groomers, dog trainers, veterinarians and kennel employees are all people who have experience with multiple breeds of dogs. Use them to help you understand the negative and positive aspects of the breeds of dog you are interested in. Avoid asking breeders of dogs about their breed of choice as they will obviously be biased towards it. Still yet, visiting an AKC or UKC event where multiple breeds of dogs are present is another great way to see the breed up close. Obedience trials, agility trials, and confirmation shows are good examples of places you can go to see various breeds of dogs and speak with the people who own and train them.
But what if you want to adopt an older dog from a dog shelter or rescue group as opposed to a full breed puppy? As I stated earlier, I do believe it’s best to determine a few breeds that are the best fit for your family and then try to find that breed in a rescue situation if it’s an older dog that you want. But if find yourself at a shelter looking around without doing any breed research beforehand, remember not to make any decisions based on emotion. Get as much information about the dogs that interest you as you can, go home and do your breed research and if that dog’s breed seems to be a good fit for your family, visit it several times before you make a final decision. Older dogs make wonderful additions to the family, but they can come with a lot of baggage. You won’t unearth all that baggage before you bring it home, but you can find out a lot more with multiple visits than you can with just one.
Adding a dog to your home is a huge commitment and investment in time, money, and love. A dog depends on you to meet all of its’ needs for life. Rehoming a dog for any reason is very tough emotionally, but to rehome it because it wasn’t the right fit for your family is especially hard. Spend time looking at all the facts of the breed and listening to those who have experience with it before you make a decision to add it to your family. It can make all the difference in both your life and the life of that dog.