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When bringing a new dog home, it may be tempting to just pick whichever dog you find cutest (or any other perfectly understandable reason). However, it's probably best to do your research first. Why? There are many important factors with choosing the right dog for you, including: breed, size, energy level, age, health, grooming needs, their background, where you're getting them from, and more.
Thus, in order to figure out what kind of dog suits your lifestyle, make sure to slow down and consider your options. At the end of the day, you want to make the right decision for you and your future pup!
Choosing A Breed
Deciding on a breed of dog is perhaps the most fun part of finding a new best friend. Overall, personality and emotional connection may win out, but it's still wise to look for mixes of breeds or breeds that suit your lifestyle. To begin with, analyze the energy level of the breed you're interested in. Are you looking for a long-distance running parter? Don't choose that flat-faced Pug or ten-pound Chihuahua. Want a lazybones TV-watching partner? Probably best not to adopt the high-energy Australian Cattle Dog pacing in his kennel—unless, that is, you're looking to change your life.
Of course, breed plays into much more than just energy level and lifestyle. If you choose to buy or adopt a "pure"-bred dog, then it's important to research the potential health and behavioral issues associated with that breed. Adversely, if you adopt a puppy who could be a mix of many different types of breeds, know that it may be harder to guess what their needs and tendencies will be like as they age.
Unfortunately, you also need to take breed into consideration if your landlord, county, or city places legal restrictions on certain types of dogs. Although "pit bull bans" are less common than they used to be, many landlords still don't permit large bully breeds or other guard dogs, like Rottweilers, in their properties. Thus, research, ask questions, and make plans beforehand so your new pup is never stuck in an unsafe situation.
Still, breed doesn't necessarily determine what your dog will be like. Some Border Collies—notoriously known for their intelligence and high energy—are incredibly chill. Some Chow Chows—stereotyped as being wary and standoffish—are sweet, social butterflies. Of course, general characteristics of a breed can be a good starting point when selecting the right pup for you, but it's important to remember not to judge a book by its cover.
Age & Size
Deciding on the size and age of dog that's right for you may not be as obvious as it seems. Let's look at size first: Typically, larger dogs are thought to be higher energy, harder to care for, and in need of more space, but this isn't always the case. Great Danes and Mastiffs, for instance, are generally low-key, independent, and live very happy lives in apartments. (As long as they're walked at least once a day.) On the other hand, the small Jack Russell Terrier is famous for its feisty go-go-go spirit. Without proper exercise, that attitude and pent-up energy might get taken out on your shoes, couch, or brand new hardwood flooring.
Still, determine what size of dog is right for you based on a few simple factors, such as: the size of your living space, whether you have outdoor space, whether you're an experienced dog owner or not, your physical abilities, and what your personal preference is. Also, if you're renting a dog-friendly house or apartment, don't forget to check with your lease to see if there's a specified weight limit for pets.
In regards to age, it's vital to consider your daily schedule, commitment level, experience with training, and other factors before adopting or buying a puppy. Although many people automatically decide that they want to bring home a young 'un, getting a puppy is not the best choice for everyone. In fact, millions of people around the world abandon, surrender, or rehome their puppies each year after they get too big for them to handle.
Thus, adopting or buying an adult or senior dog is a wonderful option for many people. Older dogs are more mellow. Their personality and energy levels are easier to determine. And they don't require nearly as much time and commitment for training, exercise, and care-taking. That stated, keep in mind that you may have to rehabilitate or re-train an older dog that's had a difficult life. As well, with a senior dog, you need to be financially capable of handling potential medical issues. Still, often times, the connection you'll make with that older dog is worth the work.
Additionally, older dogs—especially seniors—are far less likely to be adopted than puppies. Given that the relationship with an aging dog can be just as rewarding, if not more so, consider whether this factor seems like a smart choice for you.
Where To Find The Right Dog
Once you've gone through breed or mix of breeds, size, age, and a wealth of other factors, it's time to decide on where to find your dog. Most frequently, people either adopt a dog from a local shelter or rescue group or they buy a dog from a breeder. Other options do exist, such as taking a dog from a person looking to rehome or sell them. However, keep in mind that going through an organization or professional is usually a safer and more responsible option.
When adopting a dog, remember that the dog you see in the cage or kennel may change once they're "on the outside." Usually, this is a positive change. Depressed or scared dogs eventually open up. Frustrated or overexcited dogs finally get an opportunity to drain their energy and calm down.
With that in mind, always ask the employees or volunteers for a dog's background information first. If they have a history of aggression, high anxiety, or are showing even subtle signs of those traits now, don't choose that dog unless you're experienced with unstable dog behavior.
If you choose to buy a dog from a breeder, first find a responsible and reputable breeder. From there, ask that breeder about the typical temperament of their dogs, their health profiles, whether they're certified or not, and other questions specific to that breed of dog. If that breeder appears to be ignoring obvious health issues or just looking to sell puppies as quick as possible, that's probably a business you want to avoid.