In his best selling novel, Marley and Me, author John Grogan freely admits that he and his wife did little to no research before adopting their lab puppy, Marley. Their choice was based on what they thought they knew about the breed, so the actual behavior of their new addition came as quite a shock and expense.
A significant percentage of dogs surrendered at shelters are there, not because they are bad dogs, but because their breed (and associated behavior) is a mismatch with the family.
If you’re thinking about adopting a dog, here are ten things to keep in mind when choosing a companion.
**Your Activity Level–The best owner-dog matches are made when the owner can keep up with the dog and vice versa. If you’re kind of a couch potato and hate exercise, you probably don’t want to adopt a high energy breed that would be unhappy with the lack of activity. If you’re an outdoorsy person who likes to hike and bike, choose a sturdy, athletic breed that won’t always be dragging behind you.
**Your Finances–Even healthy dogs cost money. The biggest expense over the life of a dog is probably food, but even yearly vaccinations and flea and heartworm prevention costs can add up. Certain breeds are more prone to costly medical problems, and it’s always terribly sad to euthanize an animal because the owner simply can’t afford to treat the problem. If you have a specific breed in mind, ask your vet if there are any problems that the breed tends to have, and also consider buying pet insurance.
**Your Lifestyle Now And Your Lifestyle In The Future–Do you travel frequently? Work long hours? These are all things to keep in mind. Some dogs are more independent and can be left alone for longer periods of time. If your job keeps you away from home for extended periods, you probably don’t want to adopt a puppy. Do you live in an apartment? What is your yard like? Do you have steps and will a dog be able to navigate them?
**Your Kids–If you have children or plan to have children, this is one of the most important aspects when it comes to harmoniously introducing a dog into your household. Dogs have a variety of responses to children. Some adore them, some tolerate them and move away when they have had enough, some shy away always, and some will react dangerously. Families with children, or who plan to add children, should attempt to avoid the last three categories and definitely the last two. It’s also not true that all puppies love children. Your vet can help you weed out breeds that tend to not do well with kids, but a particular dog’s temperament has more to do with it. Kids should always meet the dog or puppy before you bring it home.
**Health Of Other People In The Household–A dog can impact the health of someone who is allergic or who suffers from asthma. Some breeds are better tolerated than others, so talk to your doctor if this applies to you.
**Your Temperament–Take some time to think about what is important to you, and what triggers annoyance in you. If high-pitched noises get on your nerves, don’t choose a breed with a distinctive bark. If you’re a neat freak and can’t stand even a speck of dust, don’t choose a long-haired breed that will shed all over your house and make you feel resentful.
**Your Other Pets–Do you have cats? Some breeds are highly incompatible with cats. Do you already own a dog? Take this pet’s health, activity level and behavior into account before bringing a new animal into the household.
**The Legality Of Your Breed Choice–Some states and counties have breed specific legislation, banning certain breeds, or requiring you to spay or neuter your pet. If you live in an apartment or rental home, you may be limited to a dog of a certain size. Make sure you do your research before bringing home your new dog.
**Coat care–How much time are you willing to put into caring for your pet’s coat? Long-haired breeds will need to be groomed, while shorter haired breeds can get by with regular baths at home.
**Breed-specific Personalities–Each breed has characteristics that make it unique. Do some research into what you can expect from a breed before you adopt, to make sure it fits into your idea of what makes a great dog.