Selecting A Dog


So you want a new puppy/dog. How do you find one that will fit into your family and your routine, have a good personality, and experience minimal health problems? Remember, even a free pup can become very expensive if it turns out to have health problems requiring lots of veterinary care! And temperament problems are one of the most significant causes for animals being abandoned or turned into shelters. A little research on the front end can prevent a lot of heartbreak.

Identify Your Needs

Your first step is to decide what your needs are. Do you have a large, fenced yard that will hold a larger, more active dog? Or do you live in an apartment and need a more sedentary dog? Are you willing to spend a lot of time grooming a dog, or would you prefer a “wash-n-wear” breed? Do you have small children that the dog will need to tolerate? Are allergies a problem? Do you want a dog that needs a lot of love and attention, or would you prefer a less demanding, more aloof personality? Be honest with yourself in determining your needs. Then read more about dog breeds that will fit your needs.

A word about mixed-breed dogs: They can be as loyal, trainable, and rewarding as a purebred dog. Often, they have fewer health problems if their parents are two unrelated breeds, because they have not doubled up on genes (such as the genes responsible for hip dysplasia) that are common in certain breeds. If the dog you pick is already mature, what you see is what you get. But if you select a mixed-breed puppy, you may be surprised by the dog’s size, temperament, or other characteristics as it matures.

Do you have any interest in showing your dog in the breed ring, or competing in obedience, agility, fly ball, herding, hunting, lure coursing, tracking, earth dog trials, or other fun dog activities? To be really successful in some of these sports, you may want to select a breed that has special talent, and then find a breeder who has bred for talent in those areas.

You should also decide whether you want a puppy or an adult. If you get a puppy, be prepared for housebreaking, teething and chewing, and teaching the dog basic house manners. In exchange for surviving the trials and tribulations of puppy hood, you get to help shape the puppy’s personality during crucial formative periods. Adult dogs often are easier to integrate into a busy household if they have received good training and socialization. Moreover, their personality is already formed, reducing uncertainty about whether you and the dog will be a good match. On the other hand, when you get an adult dog, you may inherit problems created by the prior owner through abuse, neglect, or ignorance. The AKC website includes several excellent articles that are helpful to people thinking about getting a new dog.

Still interested in learning more? Then on to Step 2.