Tips on Choosing a Dog

1. Consider the Breed or Mixed-Breed

Each dog breed comes with its flare and somewhat predictable set of responsibilities. There are over 400 different dog breeds worldwide, originally fine-tuned by people to perform a specific function in society. Before our grand technological age, long before the industrial revolution, all around the globe we tailored a dog’s instincts to aid in a variety of tasks including hunting, retrieving game, herding, and protection. Northern regions bred dogs to pull sleds; southern shorelines utilized dogs to retrieve fishing nets. Fast-forward to the present. While enthusiasts preserve most dog breeds, dogs have their unemployment woes. The best we can do is to recognize their passions and satisfy their impulses with some creative alternatives.
Before getting a dog, consider how its intended purpose will play out in your household. Hunting and retrieving dogs are high-energy breeds that strive for a purpose. Protection dogs are intent and serious and grow disquieted when life becomes chaotic or unpredictable. Companion dogs are drawn to the comfort of a warm lap.
When you buy a purebred dog, you’re buying into a generational lineage. Being a purebred dog is like belonging to an exclusive club: Only dogs with similar looks and interests get in. Even though it’s a big club, few genetic variations are available to the next generation.
Mixed-breed Dogs? “Mixed-breed” simply means that the parents of the dog were not of the same breed. I’ve loved both — they offer the same loyalty, love, and devotion. Many argue that a mixed-breed dog is healthier due to their expanded gene pool. The fun comes in trying to deduce the breed combinations. While there is a DNA test that claims to pinpoint a dog’s mixed heritage, you can venture an educated guess based on a dog or puppy’s looks and passions.

2. Age

I’m often asked, “Is there a perfect age to get a dog or puppy?” The short answer is no — no magical age, though all puppies should be at eight weeks old before leaving their birth family. No matter the age you adopt, you’ll need to invest time to train and condition your new family member to be a great dog. A young puppy (2 to 5 months) is needy. The world is overwhelming when you’ve only just arrived. Young pups have little ability to self-regulate, need a routine house training schedule and reassurance. Older puppies have more confidence and bladder control, but require training and socialization to understand how to fit in. A more mature dog may possess better impulse control and have learned good manners in their last household. Whether you find your dog at a local shelter, from an individual or breeder, or on the Internet, find out as much as you can before you adopt your dog or puppy. If possible, try to speak with the caregiver and meet the dog in person before committing your heart. Do your homework and be cautious of any online promises; don’t be misled by a pretty face!

3. Picking One from Many

When you go to choose a dog or puppy, brace yourself. Whether you’re choosing a puppy from the litter, a dog from the shelter or you’re looking for love on the Internet; you’ll be hard-pressed to choose just one. While I’m hardly the poster child for a single-dog household (we share our lives with four), I recommend choosing one new dog or puppy at a time. A single dog or puppy will bond to you rather than to each other, and pick up human routines faster — from housebreaking to basic commands.
As you make your selection, envision how a dog or puppy’s reactions will play out in your home. Do you love the wild one who’s throwing himself on the side of the enclosure and straining to break free? How will you feel when he’s scaling your screen door? Does your heart go out to the pitiful puppy cowering behind his littermates? I feel for these timid puppies too, but they suffer in chaotic or unpredictable households. If you’ve got kids, choose a more mellow temperament. How a puppy acts when you meet him, or she will be a measure of how they will act when you bring them home. Take your time to think through what will work best for your lifestyle.