Getting a dog is a big decision, especially if you’re living with your family. As a new family member, your dog has to get along with everyone and adapt to your lifestyle.
Though it’s tempting to just go to a pet shop, a breeder or an animal shelter and pick the first dog who excitedly runs to you and showers you with affection, you have to hold back, sit down and assess your lifestyle, the qualities you’re looking for a dog, and the care and training you can provide.
This way, you’re as sure as you can be that you chose the right dog for your family, and that you can give them the best life possible.
Here are the factors to consider when choosing your dog, and what you have to do next to find the perfect match.
Factors to consider when choosing the right dog for your family
First and foremost, assess your lifestyle, because your dog will have to adapt to it, or you will have to make some changes for your dog.
How long are your working hours? Can you attend to your dog before, during, or after work? Some people have to leave for work as soon as they wake up in the mornings and there has to be someone else in the family to take care of the dog.
Sometimes no matter how people want to adopt a dog, their work gets in the way. Think ahead and imagine you have a dog– will you be able to play with them, or would they be left in the house most of the time?
How much you go out
Next, observe how long you stay in your house. Are you a homebody, or are you a social butterfly with a lot of commitments? Do you travel frequently? Who takes care of your dog when you’re out, and if you want to bring them with you, you have to make sure the places you go to are pet-friendly and that you’ve trained them the proper behaviours when outside.
Your physical activity
Another thing is how much you exercise. Are you a couch potato, or a runner? Do you enjoy lazing out on the sofa, walking around parks, or hiking? You should know how much you move, and if you want a dog to move around with you, or to encourage you to do the opposite.
If you’re someone who enjoys lying in bed and watching TV, do you want a calm pooch who sits and cuddles with you, or do you want one who pulls and takes you outside for a run? If you are physically active, do you want a dog who runs with you, or one who calms you down?
Be honest about your own physical limitations while considering the physical abilities of the kind of dog you want.
You probably already heard this saying, “If you want your house spotless ALL THE TIME, don’t get a dog.” Having a pet and a clean house at the same time takes extreme effort, but it’s not impossible.
Before getting a dog, check your furniture and other household items. Remember that when your new fur-family member comes, some changes will be made. Dog-proofing your house is important if you want your furniture and your pooch to get along. Or at least, check your mindset. You should be prepared and okay with losing some of your favourite pieces.
Your family members
If you have kids in your house, you have to be extra mindful in choosing a dog. An energetic dog that enjoys being petted and is not sensitive to touching or noise would generally adapt well with children.
Keep in mind that pups younger than four months old are often not handed out to homes with young children as they have specific needs and are more delicate.
Family members with special needs
Consider anyone in the family with allergies before getting a dog. For those with allergies, certain breeds are preferable since they are known to sweat less and have less dander.
Family members with special needs, whether emotional or mental, should be taken into account too. You can choose specific dog breeds that get along well with them.
Also, if you’re living with your grandma or grandpa, you may need to choose a docile dog that’s calmer and less likely to jump on or knock over your older family members, especially if they’re suffering from physical ailments.
The dog’s size
You need to consider what size of a dog you prefer and your home can accommodate. Apartments, whether you own your flat or rent it, may have guidelines on pet sizes. If you have a backyard or a large space your dog can run around in, you may want to consider larger or more energetic breeds.
Before making a decision, think about your lifestyle and how much space you have for your new fur baby.
Their energy level
The overall energy or activity level of your new furry family member is another thing to consider. Not all big dogs would tire you out, and not all small dogs are content with short walks to and from the kitchen. Some dogs require a lot of exercise, while others are perfectly happy to just lounge about the house.
If you're a sporty person who enjoys hiking or running, you'll likely want a dog with lots of energy so they can keep up with you.
Breed temperaments take away the guessing game and surprises you may contend with in mutts. Some dogs are bred for hunting or guarding, while others are bred for companionship. If you have children at home, you may want a breed that’s more calm and friendly.
For more detailed information, you can research about the best breeds for a family dog. However, breeds don’t always determine a dog’s personality, so it’s best to spend some time getting to know the dog before taking them home.
Determining what age you prefer your dog to be is also important. Puppies require more care and training, but if you have time in your hands and you're up for the responsibility, then it’s not a problem!
But if you aren't prepared for the responsibility that comes with having a puppy, you can choose to get an adult dog. Take note that adult dogs may come with their own health concerns, requiring special care and attention.
The training they need
Every dog needs a certain level of care and training, and some need more than others. Before getting a dog, ask yourself first if you can be patient and dedicated during dog training, and if you have enough time.
Remember that every dog has different personalities, and there are specific training techniques that might work on certain temperaments, and would not work as well with others.
Indeed, having a dog adds fun to your life, but you still need to check if your budget allows it. Do an honest evaluation of your finances. Dogs need vet checkups, good food, supplements, preventives. Consider everything– food and training, veterinarian costs, even travel costs to the nearest vet, accessories, yard work and house repairs.
Remember that adopting a dog is quite similar to adopting a child-- the major difference is that your dog will stay under your care all throughout their lives.
Steps to choosing the right dog for your family
After you’ve considered the factors listed above, here are the next steps you can take to get closer in getting the right dog for your family.
Discuss it with your family members
Before deciding to get a dog, talk to your family members about it. Is everyone in favour of adopting a dog? Do you live with an adult partner, kids, or elderly relatives? This could affect your decision, knowing you can get extra help from them in taking care of your pooch.
Think about why you want a dog and what you hope they will do for you and your family. Be honest with yourself. This will help you determine what kind of dog is perfect for your lifestyle.
Visit different dog breeders
Once you’re really decided and you know which dog you want, you can start visiting reputable dog breeders. Visit several trusted breeders in your neighbourhood.
Consult your friends, family, veterinarian, or dog trainer for recommendations on breeders. Ask your breeder detailed questions, and if the answers don't satisfy you, move on.
Check the animal shelter websites to see if any dogs are a match
Breeders aren’t your only option. Consider adopting a dog from a rescue group or an animal shelter. You can give dogs there another chance at life.
Always have a firm plan in mind.
Don’t go to breeders or shelters without a firm plan because if you meet dogs first, you might end up getting the first dog that looks at you with loving eyes, even when they're completely opposite from the perfect fit for you and your family! They’re irresistible.
Decide first and then check breeders and shelter websites first once you do have a dog in mind so you can look for a match.
Dogs come in all different sizes and forms, and picking the right one for your family is up to you and your family members. The good news is that you have plenty of options to choose from, and plenty of resources to do your research.
And the better news is that once you choose the right dog that suits your lifestyle, you are improving not just your life and your family’s lives, but your dog’s life as well.