Most people select a dog by going to a store, the pound, or a private breeder and finding the one that appeals to them on a visual and emotional level. You might find this breed or that one cute, or you may prefer large dogs to small ones (or vice versa). Perhaps you’re shying away from certain breeds because of known issues like barking, joint problems, and so on. But when it comes to selecting a pet that will be your live-in companion for the next decade or more, you need to treat it like the relationship it is and base your choice on the personality of the dog and how well it blends with yours. Here are just a few questions to ask yourself that should help to narrow down the possibilities.
1. Are you active? Dogs large and small need to be exercised, so if you’re not keen on the idea of walking, jogging, or throwing a ball, and you don’t particularly enjoy spending time outdoors, perhaps what you really want is a cat. Dog ownership will require some amount of physical activity in order to keep your pet healthy and happy, so being active is a definite plus, unless you want to give a home to an older or disabled pet.
2. Do you have a lot of free time? Dog owners that leave their pals locked up in the house, or worse, chained up outdoors for extended periods of time while they’re at work are kind of missing the point of having a pet. This is especially significant if you get a puppy. What are you going to do, leave it in a crate all day? If you don’t have the time to devote to a pet you shouldn’t have one. How would you feel if your parents locked you in the house all day with nothing to do, came home and patted your head, then went to bed for the night? This is like torture for a dog, who craves the socialization that would normally be provided by a pack. Don’t be selfish. If you want a dog, make sure you have enough time to devote to him.
3. Are you seeking companionship? This is an important point, because once you’ve got a dog you’re stuck with him for a while. Dogs will not understand if you lock them outside or keep them in the garage. They just want to be with you. So if you’re looking for a pet that will jog with you, sit with you while you watch TV, and sleep at the foot of your bed at night, a dog is just the ticket.
4. Do you want a family? Certain breeds of dog are better suited to an environment with children, so even if you happen to be single at the moment, you should probably consider whether a family is a possibility within the lifespan of your pet. If so you might want to think about selecting a breed that is suited to kids, not to mention a dog with the right temperament to deal with having his ears and tail pulled by tiny fingers.
5. Can you care for a pet? Before you start asking yourself, “What breed of dog do I want?” it’s probably not a bad idea to first consider whether or not you’re willing to shoulder the responsibility required to care for man’s best friend. While different breeds will present you with different joys and challenges, all dogs need to be cared for. You must be prepared to spend the next 10-15 years feeding, grooming, and playing with your dog. You’ll have to train him, take him for walks, and clean up his messes. And you’ll have to pay for shots and visits to the vet. If you feel like you’re ready for the many responsibilities that come with pet ownership, then perhaps it’s time to begin considering what type of dog will best suit your personality.