As owner of The Balanced Dog, a dog trainer in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I am frequently asked by people how they can be sure they get the right dog for their family.
First off, congratulations!
Congratulations on your decision to adopt a new dog. More importantly, congratulations on taking the first important steps towards becoming a responsible dog owner!
Below is the very best advice that I can offer you:
Everybody Should Go To Meet Any Prospective Dog
Once you find a dog that you interests you, be sure to bring as many family members as possible. (ALL family members is ideal.) That includes any dogs that you already own! This will help you determine from the beginning if there are any potential personality conflicts. Particularly between the dogs!
Be Honest With Yourself About What Would Best Fit Into Your Lifestyle
This could help you determine if a particular breed or mix of breeds will be appropriate for you. For example, if you work full time and are tired when you get home and find that weekends are the only time you get a chance to walk in the park, then a heeler mix (a dog that needs a high level of activity and exercise) might not be the right fit for you. If you have a tiny apartment, a Great Dane might not be the dog for you. Evaluate your lifestyle and find the dog that will best fit.
Don't Pick a Dog Just Because it is Cute!
This is hard, I know, but trust me. This goes hand in hand with what I mentioned above. You want a dog that will fit with your personality and your lifestyle. Spend time with the dog at the shelter. Take it for a lengthy walk. Play with it a bit. Be sure that you are besotted with the whole dog, not just its appearance!
What if You Don't Have a Lot of Dog Experience?
If this is your first dog and you're not sure what you're able to handle, consider adopting from a rescue organization rather than a shelter.
First off, a rescue organization frequently fosters the dogs that they adopt out. This allows you to obtain a lot more information about the dog and any potential issues the dog has. A shelter may not have much information on a dog for several reason. It may have been a stray and have no personal information. Also, a dog will behave very differently in a shelter environment than it will in a home environment.
Second, rescue organizations frequently obtain their dog from shelters. So you are still adopting a dog that needs a home and saving it from shelter life.
If you've never owned a dog, or are interested in adopting but unsure if a dog will fit into your lifestyle, consider fostering a dog. As a foster, you aren't obligated to keep the dog forever. (Though if you fall in love with a dog and choose to adopt it, that is wonderful too!) It will help you determine how a dog will fit into your lifestyle with making a lifetime commitment to the dog. In addition, you are helping to keep a dog out of a shelter while it finds a forever home!
Ask a Trainer for Help!
A dog trainer can absolutely assist you! I've helped clients determine which breeds, or mixes of breeds can best fit their lifestyle. I've helped clients introduce their dogs to new adoption prospects and determine if the dogs will be a good match. I can also help clients reach out to shelters and rescue organizations to help locate adoption prospects that will be a good match!
Adopting a dog is a wonderful, fulfilling thing for the entire family. Taking a few steps before hand to be sure you're making the right decision can make a huge difference in how your new furry friend assimilates into your family and life.