Doing your homework will help to ensure that you've found the right lifelong companion.
When you bring a new dog into your family, you are committing to a lifelong relationship. It is only fair to all involved that you take your time and do some research before choosing. Research is the key to choosing any animal to come home and live with you. When it comes to dogs, here are some tips to help you with your decision.
- Make a List. Decide what your family would like in a new pet and make two lists. First, the "Should Haves." For example, if you have kids, then your new dog should be good around children. Then lay out the characteristics you and your family aren’t especially crazy about—the "Should Nots." For many, the need for intensive grooming and a penchant for barking excessively are deal-breakers. If this is you, these would go in your "Should Not" column.
- Research Breeds. There are dogs for every personality; the more breeds you research, the better your chances of finding the perfect fit. There is a wealth of information available online about dog breeds. The American Kennel Club, probably best know for promoting events such as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, has a comprehensive list of Dog Breeds on their website, including facts about breed appearance and temperament. If you are planning on buying a purebred dog, information about breeders can also be found on this site.
- Speak to a Veterinarian. Vets spend all day with animals and have seen numerous breeds at their worst. Share your "Should Have/Should Not" list with them and see which dog breed they recommend for your family’s lifestyle. Be sure to discuss food requirements, common health issues, activity levels, and aggression potential of the breeds your family may be interested in. Take this opportunity to evaluate whether or not you would choose this doctor to be your dog’s veterinarian.
- Consider Adopting. As the Pet Adoption experts at Petfinder.com say, "When you adopt a pet, you truly save a life." Depending on the shelter, the adoption experience can vary significantly. To prepare yourself, read Pat Miller’s guide on how to evaluate shelter dogs for a safe, friendly, and adaptable temperament. Miller, a professional dog trainer and member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, shares some great tips. Here is a sample: "If all dogs on a particular shelter's website are described the same way (sweet, friendly, loving) then the shelter probably doesn't know the personalities of their dogs very well, or chooses not to be forthcoming with the information. This would be a good shelter to avoid."