Picking the right dog for yourself can be quite a maze of what if’s, how’s, why’s, and more. There is no perfect dog or perfect breed for a generalized group. Finding a dog that fits you and your lifestyle is not always easy, and asking for advice can often lead to more questions. In this case, more questions may be good. It is very important to find a dog that is going to fit in with your lifestyle – one that you will enjoy your time with and one that will enjoy his time with you. Let’s go ahead and say that you’ve thought out the big questions like, “Do I have time for a/another dog?” and “Can I reasonably afford to care for this pet?” and you’ve made a responsible decision in adding a new member to your furry family. Maybe you’ve even read a previous blog from Paws Like Me about picking a puppy based on personality. Once you’ve made the important decisions, the next step is deciding where to go and what dog to bring home. I am here to attempt to lay out the main options, what to look for, and more in the hopes of helping you pick your next family member wisely.
There are numerous ways to bring a new dog into your family now – shelter adoption, rescue adoption, and breeder are the most common ways people get a new dog. Not only is this blog here to help you decide on where to get your next family member, but also to show that it is possible to support all choices of getting a puppy. You absolutely can have your cake, and eat it, too.
Let’s talk option number one: shelter dogs! Going to your local animal shelter is a great way to bring home your new best friend. When you adopt a shelter pet, you are saving lives – at least 2 of them – the one of the pet you adopt, and the next one who can take its space at the shelter. If you do not want to bring a young puppy into your home, you have a great opportunity to adopt an adult dog who will already be past the puppy stage. Your new pup will come to you vaccinated and spayed/neutered, which will drastically cut back on initial vet costs. These are all great benefits of bringing home a shelter dog. You can search online and get an idea of what kind of dogs and puppies your local shelter might have available for adoption, you can just go straight to the shelter and look, or even do a combination of the two. Picking a shelter pup comes with plenty of considerations. If you already have an idea of what type of dog you are looking for, you can narrow down the dogs you want to meet when you visit. When you meet your potential dogs, consider the animal’s age, ask questions about known health, how the animal came into the shelter, and about any personality traits the shelter staff may know about the dog. However, keep in mind when you are asking these questions, that the answers are typically based solely on the shelter staff’s experience with the dog, and they may not reveal everything you would like to know. Many dogs do not show their true personalities when in a shelter since they are not typically 100% comfortable in the environment. Therefore, what you see at the shelter may not be the entire package once the dog comes home with you and settles – that calm and sweet 2 year old lab mix may actually be a firecracker who loves to chew on furniture and use the inside of the house as an outhouse. You also will not know much about your new friend’s genetic health and behavioral history, which could lead to some expensive vet or training bills. If you are looking for a very specific personality type in your next dog, you may not be able to find it in a shelter. All in all, try to remember that when you adopt a shelter dog, he may require just as much, if not more time and patience than a new puppy will. You may very well be adopting someone else’s problems that they could not resolve, so be prepared to dedicate yourself to your new best friend, no matter what.
What to look for: Kind and knowledgeable shelter staff, clean kennels, dogs appear well cared for (have fresh water all, look clean, etc.), programs the shelter may be involved in (animal transport to save lives, training programs, etc.)
Having covered the shelter, let’s dive right in to option number two: rescue dogs! This option will have many of the same pros and cons as adopting a shelter dog, with some minor changes. You, again, will be saving lives by adopting a rescue dog – by adopting a dog from a rescue, you open up space in a foster home for another dog to be taken in by the rescue. Rescues dogs will also come home having been vaccinated, health checked, and spayed/neutered, again cutting back on initial veterinary costs. One benefit you may find with a rescue that you may not find in a shelter is that you can often learn more about the dog’s history before adopting it. Rescue dogs are often housed with people who foster them and care for them as if they were their own dogs. So, many times, a foster will be able to tell you more about the dog’s personality in a home. They also often know more about whether the dog can be placed with kids, other dogs, cats, etc. Some foster homes even begin a training program with their foster pups so that they go into their new homes with a little basic obedience training already in place. If you are set on your next dog being a specific breed, you can look at breed specific rescues and adopt a purebred pooch. Again, much like a shelter dog, keep in mind that your potential pooch may not be perfect and you may still have your hands full, even though you will likely know more about the dog.
What to look for: Kind and knowledgeable staff and volunteers, how are the dogs cared for through the rescue?, programs the rescue may be involved in (animal transport to save lives, training programs, etc.), Is it a valid rescue? Do they have a 501(c)(3)?
Finally, last, certainly not least, and the one to likely cause an uproar – the breeder. This is where I am going to throw it all out the window and hopefully change some viewpoints. Don’t shop – for the dog. Please DO shop for your breeder. If you have decided that you want a purebred dog, then skip shopping for the dog, and look for the right breeder. If you are unsure of where to start, reach out to breed clubs, trainers, show and sport enthusiasts – the internet has given us a great tool to research anything with. Once you have narrowed the list down to a few breeders, reach out to them and just talk to them. Start by asking be important questions – How long have you had experience with this breed? What can you tell me about the breed you like? Dislike? What health issues is this breed prone to? Do you perform the necessary health tests on the parents before breeding them? Do you consider joints and temperament, as well, as health? Do you do any enrichment exercises or training with the puppies before they go home? If you get anything other than a yes out of the last three questions, you may want to look elsewhere. At what age do the puppies go home? If the breeder says anything less than 6 weeks, thank them for their time, and move on. Tell the breeder what you want in a dog, and why you want to consider a dog from their kennel. Tell them about yourself, your hobbies – after all, they just told you a lot of personal information, share a little. Get to know your breeder, and let your breeder get to know you. It’s important to build that relationship. Here’s why – a reputable breeder will not only set you up with a puppy most fitting for you and your lifestyle, but they will also be there for you and your puppy for the remainder of that dog’s life. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll even make a new human friend in the process of picking out your new furry friend. Still remember that a new puppy will not be perfect and it will require a lot of time and dedication to grow into the best friend you were hoping for. A great benefit to getting a puppy from a reputable breeder is that the breeder can, and likely will, help you to set the puppy up for success so that it does grow into that perfect best friend.
What to look for: Experience and knowledge of the breed and the breed standard, health testing, knowledge of pedigrees, dogs that live in the home with the breeder.
All in all, I’m here to say this: Don’t just adopt, shop! Shop until your heart is content. If you want to adopt a shelter dog – Shop! Research the shelter, talk to the staff and volunteers about the dog you are looking at. If you want to go through a rescue – Shop! Research the rescues you are considering, again, talk to the staff and volunteers. If you want to go to a breeder – Shop! Research the breeders thoroughly, talk to them. Don’t just adopt to dog from a shelter or rescue to save a life; adopt a dog from a shelter to give that dog a true 2nd chance and be you best bud into old age. Don’t just pick a breeder because their dogs are AKC registered, a registry is only a title. If we would all just spend a little more time shopping for our next companion, we may could change the world. Simply consider this – if you shop for your dog and are truly prepared to be there for the rest of the dog’s life, will you ever have to turn the dog into a shelter? It’s likely that you won’t because you’ll have done your research, and you’ll be ready to help your dog, no matter his background. So, let’s change the world – let’s shop, and be better companions for our canine compadres!
I wrote this blog surrounded by my 4 dogs – one from a shelter, one from a rescue, and 2 from breeders. They are all healthy, spoiled, and very much loved.