So, it’s time. You know you have the essentials to get a pet, and you know the importance of adopting vs. buying. Now, it’s time to consider what kind of pet is perfect for you – size, temperament, activity, and all! (Side note: since dogs are the most popular pet, we will focus this post on choosing the right dog.)
Just like with searching for a spouse, or claiming someone as our best friend over another person, we look at what kind of person they are. Their personality, behavior, and interests are all factors we consider in other people; and the same goes for dogs too. We all want our dogs to mesh with our lives, to be just another (albeit four-legged) member of the family. And with this desire, comes much to think about.
Size: Choosing a dog based on the space you live in is important. If you live in an apartment, it would not be ideal, for you or the dog, to adopt a large breed – such as a Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, Bernese Mountain Dog, etc. These dogs require ample space to both move around and feel comfortable, and for you as well. For people living in apartments or smaller condos/town homes, small to medium-sized dogs are more ideal. So, depending on where you call home, the size of your living conditions should factor in what size dog you should adopt.
Temperament: While it’s nice to think that we would all be unbiased when it comes to choosing a dog, especially breed, realistically that’s not possible. Each individual dog has their own individual personality, and it’s important to know what kind of personality best suits you. First thing’s first, erase your brain of all those Pit Bull stereotypes. For a temperament test performed by the American Canine Temperament Testing Society, Pit Bulls passed with flying colors with a score of 83.9%. They even surpassed the Golden Retriever (83.2%) and the Beagle (78.2%), and highly out-did the average passing score of 77% for all breeds. While this can not be said for all Pit Bulls (there are bad eggs in all families), the owner is usually the problem. With gentle, loving, and proper leadership, Pit Bulls make great family pets. So, don’t exclude them just because of their bad rap!
Some dogs however, no matter the breed, may just have a bad temperament. Maybe they suffered from a traumatic past experience, or have lost trust in certain humans (some dogs even relate better to women than men, or vice versa). Whatever it is, there are ways to test out a dog’s temperament before adopting them. Most shelters already know a dog’s personality, and will inform you before adopting, however, if you are curious for yourself, there are some things you can test out on your potential future dog. Calmly and gently touch their feet, ears, and tail. These are sensitive spots for dogs, and if a dog shows signs of aggression when you touch them (i.e. barred teeth, growling, nervous retreating), these are things to consider, especially if you know your dog will be around young children. Another useful tip is knowing how a dog reacts around other people and animals. Most shelters allow you to walk the dog you are considering. Seeing how they react while on leash and on the street around other people and animals is a great indicator of a dog’s behavior. And lastly, make sure to have the entire family present when considering a dog. Making sure the dog meets each family member before adoption is important not only to determine behavior, but is also part of the bonding process.
Activity: Just like with a human partner, we also look for common interests when it comes to our pets. Do you enjoy running, or are you more of a couch potato? Are you outdoorsy, or do you prefer to snuggle up inside? Activity is determined mostly by breed. Highly active breeds include Beagles, Fox Terriers, and German Shepherds. So, if you are looking for a running buddy, or someone to play fetch with on a daily basis, these may be the breeds for you. However, if you enjoy watching TV marathons, or live a less active lifestyle, Bulldogs, Basset Hounds, and the Bullmastiff may fit better in your family. Age and health is also a factor in the activity level of a dog. Older dogs (which need just as much love!) are more suited for a calmer, less-active lifestyle. On the other hand, puppies and young adults, given they don’t have any health restrictions, need ample exercise and play time. To see a more detailed list of the activity levels of certain breeds, visit Happy Healthy Puppy.
While this may seem like a lot of information, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Factoring in all of the above, and adding requirements of your own, is important when deciding which dog is best for you and your family. Make sure to do your research. Adopting a dog should not happen on a whim, and “love at first sight” doesn’t always determine a healthy, happy relationship.
Knowing what you want and need in your life, and meeting many different dogs, is key in choosing “the one”. So get out there a mingle! There are many adoptable dogs searching for you as well!