Choosing the Right Type of Dog for You
Now that you've taken the time to analyze your lifestyle, you should have some idea of the personality type you're looking for. Are you looking for a busy, active dog, or one that wants to curl up with you by the fire while you read? Once you've decided on the activity level you can live with without losing your mind, it's time to start narrowing down your possibilities.
What Age Is the Right Age?
The first thing you'll want to decide is whether to look for a puppy, adolescent, adult, or senior dog. There are pros and cons to each choice. A young puppy doesn't have any of the bad habits that an older dog might, but it's practically a full-time job to housebreak, manage, and train a puppy. An adolescent or older dog may come with some baggage or bad habits that you have to undo, but they may already be housebroken or partially trained, or have a more practical energy level for your lifestyle. Don't let the cuteness factor be your guide when deciding what age your new dog should be. Millions of puppies are in shelters because people couldn't resist the little fuzz-balls, until the novelty wore off and the reality of puppy parenting set in.
Purebred or Mixed Breed?
Your next step is to decide whether you want a purebred dog or a mixed breed. With purebred dogs, there is a written breed standard describing the physical attributes of the breed, like size, color, and coat type; so you can assume that most dogs of that breed will (at least roughly) look like the breed they are. Additionally, you can get some idea of the normal personality traits and activity level that breed is likely to have. However, not every dog reads as the breed's standard, and an individual may deviate from the norm slightly or greatly. If you're thinking about a purebred dog, it's a good idea to go to a couple of dog shows so you can get an idea of what the breed you're considering is really like, and what their maintenance needs are.
Be patient. Finding the right dog can take time. Researching several breeds, visiting several breeders, shelters, or both — maybe multiple times — can be a little frustrating, but, again, getting a puppy or dog on impulse is never a good idea. You're going to be living with this dog for hopefully fifteen years or more, so take a little time to find a great prospect.
Some of the best dogs in the world are mixed or random bred dogs. Mixed-breed dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and coat types. Sometimes the breeds in the mix are obvious — or you know who the parents are — and sometimes it's a mystery. If you're searching for a puppy, this can be a bit of a gamble if you have specific size or personality traits you're looking for.
Adopting the Special-needs or Geriatric Dog
There are angels among us. They are the ones who have the time, patience, and fortitude to adopt a special-needs dog. These dogs may have behavioral or medical issues that make them less-than-ideal candidates for most people. Maybe they're just old and need more in the way of care than their previous owners were able to provide. If you're looking for a long-term project and have the emotional, physical, and financial means, by all means consider adopting one of these dogs. Shelter Alliance and Resources for Animals with Handicaps, (SARAH, Inc, see Appendix A for more info) is one of several organizations that specializes in rescuing, rehabilitating, and placing special-needs dogs.