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9 Questions to Answer When Choosing a Dog for Your Family

To get the best fit when adding a dog to your family, discuss these nine factors, from age and cost to size and breed.

Abbie Mood, Dip. CBST  |  Apr 25th 2016


So, you’ve decided to add a new family member to your household. The hard decision is made, right? I hate to break it to you, but no. The hardest part is finding that new family member. But don’t worry, we’ve put together a list of factors to consider that will help you find the best fit!

1. Breeder or rescue?

While I’m definitely an advocate for rescuing dogs, I realize this isn’t the option that everyone will choose. If you decide to go with a breeder, PLEASE do your homework. This Dogster article has some great tips for finding a responsible breeder.

That being said, there are plenty of breed-specific rescues out there if you have your heart set on a certain breed. Sometimes you can also find what you are looking for in a regular shelter, though purebred dogs usually get sent to breed-specific organizations. It may take a little longer, but I think it’s worth the wait. And yes, you can find purebred puppies in shelters, too!

Puppies are so cute (and a lot of work)! Photo Credit: Andre Dobrow

Puppies are so cute, but can be a lot of work! (Photo by Andre Dobrow)

2. Puppy or adult?

Some people want a puppy who will grow up with their children, while others prefer an adult dog who is likely to already be house trained and have some manners. If your household is already super busy, an adolescent or adult dog might be a good choice. If you have the time, a puppy can be a great option. If you have older children or a quieter home, giving a senior dog a place to live out his golden years is something you might want to consider.

If you have young children, you may not want to get a smaller dog that they will want to carry around (and possibly drop or accidentally step on). If you do get a bigger dog, the children should still be respectful, but they don’t have to be quite as careful.

3. What’s your lifestyle like?

Do you live in an apartment? A house with a patio? A house with a huge backyard? These are all things to consider, but don’t necessarily have to limit you. For example, a Border Collie in an apartment might not work for some people, but if you work from home and have time to take your dog out to play or jog a couple times a day, it could work.

4. What kind of energy or temperament do you want in your new dog?

Are you looking for a high-energy adventure dog? Then perhaps a dog from a herding or sporting breed might be a good fit.

Are you looking for someone to cuddle with you with you? Again, not necessarily a deal breaker (I have a Chihuahua who loves to run with me!), but some dogs are known more for snuggling than running. Dogs from non-sporting breeds or toy breeds are generally a good choice (although I have a feeling anyone who has experienced the small dog “zoomies” may be disagreeing with me right now).

If you are getting a purebred dog, the AKC website and our breed pages are great resources to find out about traditional temperaments, but if you are getting a mixed-breed dog, ask the shelter or rescue about the dog’s energy level. There are exceptions to every rule, so individual personality can play into a dog’s behavior as well.

Do you want a runner or a smuggler? Photo Credit: Christopher Mitchell

Do you want a runner or a snuggler? (Photo by Christopher Mitchell)

5. What kind of grooming do you want to deal with?

While most dogs shed, a shorthaired dog like a Boxer or Great Dane is going to be much less work than a Poodle or Cocker Spaniel, who will need regular trips to the groomer.

6. Is anyone in your family allergic to pet dander?

This can be tricky if you’ve never had a dog, and while no dog is 100-percent hypoallergenic, there are some who have a non-shedding coat and therefore produce less dander. The ones you are most likely to find with this kind of coat are a Bichon Frise, Poodle, Maltese, Schnauzer, Portuguese Water Dog, and the hairless breeds.

7. What kind of dog can you afford?

Not just the cost of the dog, but think about spaying/neutering (though most rescues include this in their adoption fee), food (bigger dogs eat more), potential medical costs (purebred dogs can be predisposed to certain health issues), grooming, and any pet deposits/rent you might have to pay if you are renting your home.

8. Do you want to take on any issues?

This could be anything from special medical needs to special behavior needs, but is important to consider when meeting potential dogs. Do you want to spend the extra time working with a dog on any problems or do you want a dog who is happy and healthy right from the beginning?

Do all of your family members like the dog? Kids are more likely to help with the responsibilities if they feel they had a say in the decision. Photo Credit: Barney Moss

Kids are more likely to help with the daily care-taking responsibilities if they feel like they had a say in the decision. (Photo by Barney Moss)

9. Do your kids like the dog and vice versa?

Once you decide what you are looking for, make sure you and all of your family members meet the dog, spend some time with the dog if possible, and agree that this dog is the best fit. There is some wiggle room here, of course, but if everyone has a good feeling about a particular dog, and the dog seems to enjoy or is at least friendly with all of the family members, that’s a good sign!