Pet ownership is as American as apple pie and baseball. According to one report, more than 54 million U.S. households own a dog.
Choosing the right dog will look a little different for everyone, but there are a few things you need to know to pick the right pup for your household.
A bad match can lead to misery for both dog and human, so it’s not as simple as going to the shelter and taking home the first canine that catches your eye.
Keep reading to find out how to choose a dog.
Consult with Family Members
If you live with other people, you shouldn’t be the only one asking, “What kind of dog should I get?” It needs to be a decision that you make together as a family.
That doesn’t mean your five-year-old will have the final say over the dog, but it does mean everyone gets a chance to weigh in on how they feel about choosing a dog.
If you have a partner, you’ll want to make sure they’re as committed to this dog as you are. Having a dog doesn’t require the same amount of work as having a baby, but it’s still no walk in the park (except for when you’re literally walking your dog in the park).
If your spouse or significant other has reservations about getting a dog, then hear them out and try to address them in a genuine way. If you can’t come to an agreement, it’s much better to delay getting a dog than risk bringing an animal into a situation where one partner will resent it.
Pick a Dog Size
Do you dream of a pint-sized puppy that fits in your purse? Maybe you’d prefer a gigantic guard dog who will protect you from late-night intruders.
If you haven’t thought about what size dog you want, then you should do that before you visit the shelter and fall for a Great Dane that is way too big for your studio apartment.
Don’t assume small dogs are always easier to care for, either. Sure, they take up less space, but a 20-pound dog can require as much house cleaning as a 100-pound dog.
If you live in an apartment, you’ll also want to check your lease for any size restrictions. If your landlord says you can’t bring home a pet that weighs more than 50 pounds, then you need to stick with that rather than try to sneak in a 75-pound dog and hope no one notices.
Look at Temperament
When choosing a dog, you may think that you’ve got the temperament thing all figured out: Small dogs are loud and neurotic, while big dogs are gentle giants. That’s true in some cases, but it’s not hard and fast.
Different dog breeds have different dispositions. Beagles have a ton of excess energy, so falling for a beagle means you’ll have to take it on frequent walks.
In fact, every dog will need some exercise. Even a more sedentary breed like the French bulldog can get bored if they don’t stay active, and bored dogs are more likely to be destructive.
One more thing about temperament, don’t get too caught up adopting a purebred. Mutts are as loving and often healthier. Unfortunately, those expensive purebreds are more prone to developing serious genetic disorders that can shorten their lifespan.
Avoid Puppy Mills
It may feel weird to talk about ethically sourcing a dog the way you talk about ethically sourcing coffee beans, but there are way too many disreputable dog breeders out there. You can’t avoid puppy mills if you don’t know what they look like.
Groups like The Humane Society of the United States lobby against puppy mills because they know that they’re bad for dogs. At best, the people who run puppy mills are guilty of passive negligence.
Dogs in puppy mills get treated like a product rather than living, breathing animals. The word “mill” refers to the fact that dogs get pumped out like they’re on a factory line. The cages are often cramped and unclean, and dogs are often poorly socialized, which leads to problems later in life.
The Dangers of Designer Breeds
Beware of dog postings that advertise so-called designer breeds at high prices. A designer breed is something like a Chiweenie, which is a mix of a chihuahua and a dachshund. There’s a good chance those designer breeds came from a puppy mill.
If you want a good companion, your best bet is a shelter or rescue group. Avoid pet stores that get their animals through commercial or backyard breeders. If a pet chain like Petsmart or Petco partners with a local rescue group to adopt out dogs, that’s OK.
Puppy mills will also remove dogs from their mothers long before they’re ready. Be wary of anyone who will let you take a dog home before it’s six weeks old.
Also be on the lookout for dog breeders who will ship you a dog without ever meeting you or even talking to you on the phone. That indicates they care about moving product more than finding a suitable home for the animal.
If someone refuses to answer questions about a dog, that’s another screaming red flag. If you’re going to get a dog, you deserve to know that it’s healthy and well-adjusted before you take it home.
The bottom line is this, you can’t know how to choose the right dog if you don’t know how to choose the right dog source.
Choosing the Right Dog: The Bottom Line
A dog should not be an impulse purchase. Choosing the right dog takes a bit of patience and a lot of research.
But once you find that dog, you’ll be finding a lot more than a pet. You’ll get a guaranteed dose of unconditional love every time you walk through the door.
Dogs are one of the best stress relievers around. For more ways to decompress after a rough day, take a look at this article.