Before you bring home a new addition, make sure all members of your family—whether they be human or animal—have met one another. Observe how everyone interacts, and make sure there aren’t any personality conflicts. Another important aspect is whether anyone in your family has allergies. Some dog breeds shed less, which will be helpful for someone with allergies. In any case, during your first introduction, anyone with allergies should let your potential canine companion lick their hand to see if they’re allergic to their saliva.
If you have children, or are planning on having children, consider breeds that are highly trainable, as dogs who are easy to please are better situated for families. If you’re rescuing a dog, take your time to find the right fit, as previous trauma may lead to difficulties with children. Generally speaking, larger dogs are more compatible with children, as they tend to be more patient with being climbed on or having their tails pulled.
It’s important to also consider what the size and makeup of your family means for the kind of dog you can best handle. For instance, older people or families with young children may not have the time for a high-energy dog.
Before you decide on a new best friend, consider these questions about your lifestyle to help you narrow down what size and breed of dog would be a good fit for you:
- What is your lifestyle like?
- Will you have time to take your dog on multiple walks per day?
- Will you have the patience for any walks at all?
- Are you prepared to commit to taking care of and being responsible for a dependent?
- Are you particular about your home in terms of cleanliness?
- How often do you work long hours at the office?
- Do you travel for work and/or pleasure?
- Do you like being at home, or would you rather be out exploring?
- Why do you want a dog? Is it for companionship or protection?
Size and breed
When it comes to the size and breed of dog you should get, think carefully about your living situation. Consider these questions:
- If you rent, does your landlord allow pets? And if they do, are there stipulations on size and breed?
- Whether you rent or own, what kind of space do you have? Is your house small? Do you have a yard? Are there any nearby dog parks? If you live in a rural area, do you need to worry about wild animals?
If you’re unable to commit to several walks per day, a small dog might be better. However, large dogs can still make good apartment dogs, due to their calmer nature. But you’ll need to make sure you can spend time at a nearby outdoor space.
In terms of breed, the temptation to buy a purebred dog is high, but a mixed-breed rescue dog has its benefits, too. Mixed-breed dogs tend to have more mellow personalities than purebred dogs and are less prone to genetic defects, which means less problems for you to deal with in the future.
Age and lifespan
There are four age groups to consider when adopting a dog:
- A puppy: Adopting a puppy will give you the most control over their development, but it’s akin to having an infant—you’ll spend a lot of time cleaning up accidents, you’ll be sleep-deprived, and you won’t have time for much else in your life.
- A juvenile dog: Usually considered aged 1 to 3, adopting a juvenile dog means you’ll likely be getting plenty of sleep and won’t be dealing with potty training, but you may have to deal with any negative personality traits they learned elsewhere.
- An adult dog: Adopting an adult dog will allow you to skip annoying puppy behaviors, but you’ll still need to provide some training and supervision. However, with an adult dog, you do run the risk of behavioral issues that may not have been apparent during the adoption process, but instead come to light after you’ve brought them home.
- A senior dog: Adopting a senior dog means you’ll likely have a trained companion who is calm and happy to be loved. On the downside, they’re more likely to have health issues and you won’t have their presence in your life as long, which isn’t to be taken lightly.
In addition to age, consider their lifespan. Some breeds may only live for seven or eight years, where others can live to be 18 or older. What kind of long-term time commitment are you willing to make? Please remember, when you commit to adopting a dog, you’re committing to taking care of them for their entire life.
Temperament, not temperamental
Every dog—no matter how similar in age, breed, or training—will have their own distinct personality and energy level. However, it’s still worth taking into consideration what a dog breed was initially bred for to determine temperament. For instance, a dog that was bred to hunt will need plenty of exercise, a dog that was bred to guard will be protective of their family, etc.
A playful dog will require lots of exercise, so a more mellow dog might be better for older people or someone who isn’t home a lot. Intelligent dogs are great companions for people who are looking for comfort, and loyal dogs will stick by your side once you’ve developed a close relationship. Hopefully, you’ve already begun asking yourself why you want a dog, which will help you decide which temperament will be a boon to your home.
Love does cost something
Although adopting a dog isn’t as expensive as, say, buying a house, it’s important to consider this aspect of expanding your family. There are adoption fees, food, accessories (like a dog bed, toys, etc.), training, grooming, visits to the veterinarian, and, especially if you adopt a puppy, the potential for repairing damages to your home. You should also check to see if your renters or homeowners insurance premium will increase if you add a pet. And, given the chances of unexpected medical costs, you should investigate buying pet insurance, too.
There’s a lot to think about before jumping into dog ownership, but there’s also a huge reward. Please think carefully about all the considerations listed above, which will go a long way to helping you make the right decision for your family. And remember: Your relationship with your dog will be what you make it. Take the time to find the right fit, invest in your relationship, and create the life you want. The unconditional love of your four-legged friend will be worth it.