How to Choose the Best Dog for Your Family

Aug 01, 2019     |      Sophie's Circle

A toddler girl hugging a Siberian Husky in the woodsAdopting a pet into your home can be an exciting adventure. Dogs can help lower your stress levels, reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke, keep you active, and provide you with an endless supply of tail wags and comfort. However, if you select a dog that does not fit with your training expectations, family needs, or grooming budget, the result can be a constant state of tension instead of a growing bond. We want everyone to feel safe and happy with their adoptees. That's why we made a cheat sheet of questions for you to use when selecting the right dog for you and your family.

How Does He Act at Playtime, Walking in Public, and Greeting New People?
Just as is often the case with other humans, the first thing that may attract you to a particular dog is probably how he looks. However, if he is not comfortable around new people or he plays excitedly with other dogs, this may be a red flag depending on your lifestyle and family needs. Adults with grown children and a solid background in using positive reinforcement canine training techniques may prefer a different personality and temperament than those expecting to have young children in the home or take long walks in the park each day. 

What about Around Young Children and Other Pets?
This is such a great question that most shelters and foster parents try to answer it with each adoption posting because, again like humans, every dog has his own personality and quirks. When there are young children in the home or other pets, it is crucial for everyone's benefit that you select a dog with a known history of being sturdy and steady enough for toddler lovies as well as tolerant of those other pets in your home. Rest assured, dogs with certain laid back temperaments that are raised with cats from their puppy days can get along quite well with their purring roommates. Before you adopt, ask for more observance details about the adoptee if you have any concerns. 

What Breed or Breeding Combination is He?
To us, all dogs are loveable and, when properly placed with the right owners, can be amazing companions. That said, DNA plays a huge role in the personality, behavioral tendencies, and training abilities of the dog. Therefore, we understand why you may want to do some research on the breed or breeding combination before electing to adopt that particular pooch. If, for example, the adoptee comes from a breed of dogs requiring a lot of exercise and you live in a small apartment with limited time to spend outdoors on lengthy walks, this may not be the right dog for your needs. Also, if the breed is one that is designed to be independent, he may be more challenging to train than say a Labrador Retriever which is bred specifically to stay with humans and watch for signals before performing the requested task.

Please remember, the nature of the dog and the overall personality of the dog can be very different than the breeding standards, depending on many factors including how he was raised and trained. Therefore, while breeding backgrounds are useful in selecting your dog, you may also want to ask the foster parent or shelter about any concerns directly before making a final decision. It may turn out the dog you thought would be too high strung is actually very calm and the ideal pet for a small space. Just be sure not to get upset when a herding dog tries to corral all the kids in the park, including some that are not yours. There are some behaviors that may too imbedded in the DNA to change.

Are There Special Medical or Dietary Needs?
This question is not always easily answered as there could always be unexpected medical expenses in the near future. However, while any known special considerations should be listed on the animal's profile on the adoption website, it is good idea to research the breed for common health concerns, ask the shelter for any additional information they have collected on the dog's health, and have your veterinarian give your adopted pet an examination. If you feel a connection with an older dog or a dog with some known health problems and you are concerned about the expense, you might be able to receive discounted or even free medical care for rescuing a dog who is, through no fault of his own, more challenging to adopt out. 

Can He be Easily Trained?
It is easy to think all dogs are alike in terms of training, but there are some breeds and individual dogs that more readily respond to and remember new commands than others. Terriers, for instance, are known to require more patience, time and perhaps a different approach than say Poodles when it comes to training. As the result, you may want to do some research on the recommended breed training techniques and time requirements before deciding on the best dog for your lifestyle and time constraints.

Already have a dog? The official website for Cesar Milan is a great place to start for training that may work with all dog breeds. 

What about Grooming?
All dogs will at least occasionally require a bath and good brushing. They will also need their nails clipped, which may be done from home. However, there are some breeds that require daily brushing and special grooming to keep their fur coats from matting. Calling the local groomers to get an idea of pricing will help with your decision to adopt that a dog with a higher level of grooming needs, depending upon your budget flexibility.

In short, while we agree you should like the looks of your pet, that adorable face may be belong to a dog that is not compatible with the other pets in your home, your children or your overall lifestyle and budget. Although you may have your heart set on adopting a certain breed or age range, you might be surprised at where the answers you receive to the above questions lead you during the decision making process. We know the right dog for you is out there waiting to greet you daily with a joyful tail wag. To see our list of candidates, visit our adoption page and check back frequently for new applicants. The dog for you with that special connection you seek is likely either on a rescue site now or coming soon!