How to Find the Perfect Dog for Your Family

When you adopt a dog, you’re selecting a new family member for the next 10 to 15 years. With this in mind, it’s incredibly important to find a dog that’s compatible with you, your family, and your lifestyle. Here are several considerations to factor in when you’re searching for a canine family member.

Size The first question to answer when choosing a dog is, how big do you want your pet to be? You may love the look of giant breeds like Great Danes, but if you’re petite or live in a small home, a large dog may not be manageable. On the other hand, toy breeds make great lap dogs and don’t need much space, but they can be fragile and don’t fare as well at the dog park.

To determine the right size dog for you, think about the size of your home and yard, the handling ability of you and your family members, and what you want to do with your dog. For most dog owners, the answer lies somewhere in the middle of the size spectrum.

Adoption Adoption is, without question, the best way to procure your new four-legged friend. When you consider the number of animals that are living in shelters and rescues, it’s easy to understand why adoption is the ideal choice. According to the ASPCA, “Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year.” That’s a lot of animals waiting for their forever homes.

In addition, adopting is a much more cost effective way to bring a dog into your life. Plus, you’ll get an idea of the dog’s temperament and personality. Buying from a pet store means getting less support once you bring your pet home. And buying a purebred dog has the potential to be very costly down the line, as many purebreds are prone to breed-specific health issues.

Energy Level Next you need to decide if you want a dog that’s more couch potato or marathon runner. Start by assessing your own activity level: Are you someone who thrives on an active, outdoorsy lifestyle, or do you tend to spend most of your time sedentary? Don’t expect a new dog to change longstanding habits. Instead, look for a dog compatible with the lifestyle you already lead.

Determine how much time you can commit to exercising and playing with your dog. All dogs require daily exercise, but some need less than others. Toy breeds are more likely to be content spending most of their time inside, while working breeds can become destructive if their high exercise needs aren’t met.

Also consider what kind of activities you’d like to do with your dog. Some breeds live for fetch, while others are more interested in running than retrieving. Small dogs are great for playing inside with toys, but may not have the stamina for long runs or hikes. If you just want a dog you can take leisurely walks with, look for a medium-energy dog that’s easy to train.

Coat Type There are five dog coat types: smooth (or short-haired), silky, wiry, long fur with undercoat, and non-shedding curly. Dogs with non-shedding curly coats are often referred to as hypoallergenic because they create less dander, making them a good option for allergy sufferers. However, these breeds can have high grooming demands. Smooth-coated dogs tend to be the most low-maintenance in terms of grooming, but you’ll still need to factor in brushings and baths.

When deciding between different dog fur types, determine how much time you’re willing to commit to grooming your new dog. While you may like the appearance of a freshly-cut poodle, if you’re not willing to spend time and money on grooming, you could end up dealing with matted, unruly fur and an uncomfortable dog.

Personality Do you want a lap dog, a confident, independent pooch, or somewhere in between? Dogs vary in their affection levels, but you can find a dog of any size to match your desires. Want a cuddly companion? Consider a Bichon Frise or a Collie. Prefer a dog that’s more sidekick than subordinate? Check out the Cairn Terrier or the Irish Wolfhound.

Some dog breeds are also more kid-friendly than others. If you have or plan to have kids, you’ll need a dog that’s gentle and patient with small children. Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are the quintessential family dogs, but there are many breeds and mixes that are excellent with children.

If you have small pets like a cat, you’ll also want to make sure your new dog won’t be aggressive toward them. Stick to breeds that aren’t known for having a high prey drive. If you’re adopting from a shelter or rescue, ask if the dog’s temperament has been cat-tested.

Be Prepared Once you narrow down your choice of dog and are ready to take the plunge, you want to have everything in place before you bring your new friend home. Make sure to buy a collar, leash, dog bed, crate, food and water bowls, healthy dog food, treats, and doggy waste bags. This will make it easier to bring your new pooch home and let the bonding begin. Also, if you plan on getting an elderly pet, be prepared by making these home modifications.

When it comes to food, what to feed a puppy can be considered more important than adult dogs, and this is for two specific reasons. This delicate growth phase can be compared to building a skyscraper: the foundations are laid knowing that only if the most suitable and qualitative raw materials have been selected can one can rely on a lengthy operating life without much need for restoration.

For puppies, the raw materials are represented by nutrition; the growing awareness on the part of an ever-wider audience that most pet food doesn’t contain raw materials one can rely on has rendered the choice of pet food supplier fundamental. It has become difficult to understand who one can trust, and it’s even harder to understand what is true, what is false and who is telling the right things. Trust should be given to those who perform serious food research and publish this in serious scientific journals, to those who use raw materials from uncontaminated regions, and to those who offer experience in food-related pathologies.

Dogs may all come from a common ancestor, but today’s breeds offer enormous variety in physical traits and personality types. With so many options, you’re sure to find the perfect dog for you.

Cindy is a freelance writer and dog lover. She started Ourdogfriends.org as a fun side project for herself and to educate pet owners and potential pet owners about how dogs can enrich our lives. She enjoys writing about dogs and pet ownership.

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