I, for one, can relate to that feeling you get when you see a cute little puppy in the window, or  a dog up for adoption at your local shelter. You find yourself envisioning him or her accompanying you on a hike or playing fetch with you in the ocean or simply curling up on your lap. Thoughts of "Charlie" or "Daisy" as appropriate names start to float in and out as you envision your newest family member in the front seat of your car with a newly purchased dog bed and bag of chew toys. The idea of adding a dog to your family is an emotional decision and it can really tug at your heart strings.

But, as with any large decision, and introducing a dog into your home is a huge one, you should really take some time to weigh out all the factors. I'm looking to assist people in choosing the right dog so that fulfillment (for the dogs and the humans) wins out over frustration, doubt and potentially giving him up.

The leading reasons dogs end up in shelters largely boils down to lack of time and/or money and inappropriate household dynamic. Let's address these issues ahead of time to get everyone considering the right things before choosing the right dog to come home with.



Be it a puppy or adult, a new dog takes a lot of time to acclimate into the dynamic of your home. Consider, in advance, how much free time you have to devote to your new dog every day as this will help in the decision making process. For instance, if you have an hour of free time to devote to your new dog every day, be sure to get a dog that won't chew up that hour (and then some) needing an extensive walk to drain his energy. You will need a low energy dog that can get by with a 20 minute walk once a day leaving the other 40 minutes for other needs, such as grooming, training, house-breaking and feeding. 



A fifteen pound Pug will be a lot more affordable to feed and groom than a hundred and fifty pound Mastiff. Consider how much expendable money you have to devote to your new dog as this will also help in deciding which type of dog is right for you. Keep in mind, there are a lot of financial considerations besides food and grooming. Don't forget dog training classes, vet bills, and all of the periodical purchases like beds, dog gates, chew toys, leashes, collars, tags, x-pens, crates, boarding, dog walking, etc.



Considerations like having a backyard or a newborn baby in the house also need to be a part of the decision making process. If you have a lot of property with large animals on it…a teeny tiny Toy Poodle may not be the solution for you if you're looking for an outdoor dog. If you plan to change residences in the next few months, you may want to hold off on bringing home your new dog until you are settled in your new place and you make sure you have permission to have a dog move in with you.



It is always a good idea to do your homework on the different breeds to see what typical traits you can expect and what each dog was bred for. Looking for a small dog to be your new companion? Consider a Pug or a King Charles. If you're looking for a running mate, consider a Labrador Retriever.  If you don't want to bother with a lot of specialized grooming, think twice about a Standard Poodle. If you want to avoid having a dog that sheds a lot, consider a Bichon Frise. The bottom line is you want to have a dog that will integrate well with your family and your lifestyle. 

Each household will have its own set of requirements, so read up on different breeds to find out more about grooming requirements, typical energy levels, heat/cold tolerance, average size once full grown as well as little nuances, like which dogs have a tendency to drool. Narrow down your search before you go looking for your pup so you don't get bamboozled by a cute face that requires a lot of attention on all the points in your "no" column. 

Because each dog is unique, remember that regardless of breed, each dog will have his or her own temperament. Look for a dog whose energy and vibe seem to be a good fit for you. Note, this can be difficult to determine in a shelter or at an adoption fair because the environment itself can be a bit off-balance. If you ever have the option to remove the dog from the environment for a bit to get the dog on his own, that is always a bonus. Hiring a professional to help facilitate this process is always a good idea.

Keep in mind, however, that a dog's temperament can change over the years and breed traits are to be used only as a guideline as every dog is unique. It is still a useful exercise to narrow down your search for the right dog.



  • It is always good to check out your local Animal Shelter, and contrary to popular belief, many purebred dogs can be found at your local shelter. Some shelters even allow you to put your name on a list to be notified when a particular breed arrives. 
  • You can always check out Breed Rescue Organizations if there is a particular breed you are interested in.
  • If you have your heart set on a particular breed and can't find it in your local (or even long distance) shelter or rescue organization, be sure to do your homework on your breeder. There are a lot of puppy mills cloaked in fun pictures of the puppies with great little write-ups, so do your due diligence to make sure the breeder you select is legitimate.



Bringing home a new puppy or dog to join your family can be so exciting at first, but the novelty can wear off quickly as soon as Scout poops in your dining room. A good thing to do BEFORE bringing home your new four-legged friend is to assign responsibilities to every member of the family so that everyone contributes to his acclimation and general wellbeing while the excitement of getting the dog is still high. No one will sign up for poop patrol when there's poop on the carpet to scoop…trust me.

Another way to set everyone up for success is to hire a professional to assist in the process of bringing home and introducing the new dog to the new environment. This way, you'll have everyone stepping off on the right foot while avoiding bad habits out the gate.

Word to the wise…do your homework before selecting your vet and your trainer. Don't be afraid to have a real conversation to make sure their philosophies match your expectations. Ask a lot of questions and make sure that you feel good, in your gut, with how your vet and your dog trainer plan to work with and build a relationship with your new dog.

Choose wisely and enjoy your new companion my friends! Dogs are wonderful creatures and I have a lot of respect and love for the value they can bring to a life experience when all aspects are managed well.

–Chad Culp, Certified Dog Trainer and Canine Behavior Consultant

© Thriving Canine 2011

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Choosing the Right Dog