You want a dog. It’s time. Whether this is your first dog or one of many, a lot of planning and thought goes into the decision. It’s the big question of “What kind of dog should I get?” It’s not just which one looks the cutest. There are so many things to consider when choosing the right dog.
Of course, if you’re like me and lots of other dog lovers, they all look amazing and you just want someone to give you all the dogs!
Sadly – time, space, and money are limiting factors in this house. So “all the dogs” aren’t an option for this girl.
So how do you choose the perfect dog?
Little dog or big dog?
Long-haired dog or short-haired dog?
Rescue dog or dog from a breeder?
High energy dog or lazybones dog?
Puppy dog, golden years dog or somewhere in between dog?
Or do you wing it? Take your dog-loving self down to the shelter or adoption day and let the dog choose you?
Does anyone else know the book Go Dog Go? That’s what I felt like writing these lines.
Choosing The Right Dog
Here are the key things to think about when choosing the right dog for you and your family:
- Age of the Dog
- Energy Level
- Grooming and Maintenance
Age of the Dog
Think about your stage in life right now. Do you have time for a brand new puppy? Are you able to get up with a puppy at night? Can you devote the time to training a puppy so it becomes an amazing dog? And can you deal with potty training and accidents in your house right now?
If you don’t have the time to devote to a new puppy, you might consider adopting an older rescue dog that’s already been through much of those stages. Dogs that are out of the super needy puppy phase might just be the perfect dog for you.
Another bonus of choosing a dog that’s not brand new is you can get some insight into their behavior already. Most shelters and rescue organizations are excellent resources for knowing which of their dogs are ideal for different family situations.
Even if you have your heart set on a particular breed of dog, there are rescue organizations dedicated to certain breeds as well.
For example – you can find rescue groups for Golden Retrievers (one of the most popular family dogs), Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, Dalmatians, and so much more. If you’ve got your heart set on a breed, don’t think your only option is getting one from a breeder.
A dog’s energy level plays an important role in choosing a dog. Of course, there’s no guarantee. Dogs are individuals and you can have two dogs of the same breed or from the same litter and they will act completely different.
Here’s a real-life example that happened with us. We adopted our dog Charlie as a tiny puppy. He had been left behind with all his siblings when someone moved out and left them there. Shame on you whoever you were! Anyway, we chose Charlie. He was high energy. He needed daily exercise and behavior training.
We fostered his brother once for about a four-month period. They were complete opposites. His brother was calm, goofy, and kinda lazy. Nothing like Charlie. And they didn’t really coexist well together either.
That’s one excellent reason you can consider fostering to choose the perfect dog for you. You’ll get to see the dog’s energy level in your own home and really get to know them. Also, note that size doesn’t correlate to energy. Just because they’re small doesn’t mean they are low energy and vice versa.
If fostering isn’t an option, here are a few general guidelines about high energy/low energy dogs:
High Energy Dogs
- German Shepherd
- Labrador Retriever
Remember, this list isn’t all-inclusive and there is no guarantee. You may get the laziest and calmest Labrador around when typically they are high energy dogs.
Low Energy Dogs
- Basset Hound
- Great Dane
- English Bulldog
Size of the Dog YOu Choose
There are no rules that only big dogs can live in big houses and only small dogs can live in apartments. There are plenty of households that vary in size and location with all types of dogs that thrive.
But you do need to think about the size of the dog you choose for you and your family. Big dogs eat more. They take up more space. Big dogs need bigger beds and bigger crates. And when they have accidents, it’s a much bigger mess to clean. I’m a big dog person. Not that I don’t like little dogs, but I just lean towards bigger dogs more. But I know firsthand that it does make a difference in your space.
Is it important that your dog sleep in the bed with you? Consider that before getting a large dog or be prepared to get pushed out of your bed. We slept with our 80+ pound dog for years and trust me – he usually won the bed wars.
Along with bigger everything comes a bigger price tag usually. Everything from more expensive beds to more expensive flea and tick medication – it generally all increases in price with an increase in size.
Dogs need grooming just like we do. They need their nails cut, hair brushed, regular baths, and preventative medication. Some dogs are easier to groom than others and that might help you in choosing the right dog for you.
A Poodle or a Bichon Frise is going to require more grooming than a Weimaraner. If you’re unsure, check out a local doggy daycare or a vet’s office and see if you can talk to the groomer. Most facilities will have a professional groomer on-site and they can be a fantastic resource for all your grooming questions. They can tell you which ones shed the most (hello Golden Retrievers) and which ones need more frequent hair cuts.
Here is a small list of dogs that will require frequent grooming either by you or a professional.
- Yorkshire Terriers
- Bichon Frise
- Cocker Spaniels
Need More Help Choosing A Dog?
Foster a Dog
One thing you can do that might help with choosing the right dog for you and your family is to foster a dog. Go to your local shelter or rescue organization and see what it takes to become a foster family.
Fostering is a great way to see if the dog is compatible with you and your environment. And you might surprise yourself. Maybe what you have in your mind as “the perfect dog” will actually turn out to be completely different once you go and meet several dogs.
If fostering isn’t an option for you, then volunteer at a shelter. Volunteer to walk the dogs or care for them in other ways. This can also help you decide which type of dog is best for you.
If you have children, take them with you. See how the dogs react to kids. Are they cowering in fear each time your child gets loud or are they a little too rough? There are so many important traits you can pick up on just by fostering or volunteering.
Maybe you think you only want a big dog, but you foster a little dog and it turns out to be a perfect match. Or you think you want a puppy, but it turns out they might be a little too much work at this stage in your life.
Think of it as a doggy test drive. What better way to see if you and your potential new dog are a match than having them live with you for a while?
Reach Out To A Local Dog Trainer
Another option to help you choose the right dog is to reach out to a local dog trainer. See if they have time to answer a few questions for you about different breeds of dogs. They are a wealth of information and some of them have seen it all when it comes to dogs.
Clearly, the question of “What Kind of Dog Should I Get?” isn’t always a simple one. There are so many considerations. There are no guarantees and lots of uncertainty. One thing is true though – it’ll be one of the most rewarding decisions you ever make. Dogs love you unconditionally. They become part of your family and they are always happy to see you.
No matter what dog you choose, be prepared to experience your heart filling up with love and joy.
Tell me your favorite dog stories! How did you choose the right dog for you? I’d love to share real-life experiences with the rest of the dog-loving readers. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and feel free to include a pic of you and your dog babies!