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Finding Fido: The Keys to Selecting a Dog

Whether it’s your first dog or your third (or fourth, or fifth …), selecting a dog is a big deal for you and your family.

The options are nearly endless — dogs come in several shapes, sizes, colors, personalities, and breeds — and no matter what pup you end up with, your life will be forever changed. Therefore, you must be prepared before, during, and, of course, after you bring home your new best friend.

Make sure you know what you want from the dog, and that the dog is prepared for the environmental change they’re about to enter. The process of selecting a dog can be easy and fun, just make sure you’re aware of what you’re getting yourself — and your canine companion — into.

Make the Right Choice

There are around 340 dog breeds in the world, so how do you know which one is right for you? Choosing the right dog — the breed, the size, the temperament, the cost — is the key first step to building a loving, healthy, and happy relationship with a dog. Get it right and you’re likely to have a deeply rewarding experience. Get it wrong and you’re facing a potential nightmare.

So what should you do? First, recognize that there are two parties to this relationship — you (and the fellow humans in your household) and the dog. Both sides of the equation have to be compatible, which means that you have to understand as much about yourself as you do about the dog you’re adopting.

Your lifestyle, habits, and personality will guide the type of dog that’s right for you. So before taking a dog in, it’s crucial that you take a personal inventory. Do you live in a small apartment in a city, in a suburban home with a backyard, or in the wide-open spaces? Are you an active person or are you a couch potato? Are you looking for a dog for security, as a companion for children, or as an exercise partner? Are you a Type-A workaholic with little attention to spare, or do you have more leisure time? Are you away from home a great deal or is the house your base of operation? Are you prepared for the expense? Honestly answering these questions will help ensure you and your pup will be compatible.

Working With Breeders

Many dog lovers will choose to get their new friend from a breeder. After the new puppy is chosen, a good breeder will have you sign a contract before the puppy is purchased. The contract that you sign when you buy your dog from a breeder is much more than a simple bill of sale. It guarantees your rights and the seller’s rights in the transaction, sometimes for the life of your pet. It is also a meaningful document in the history of generations in your dog’s family line.

A written breeder’s contract can take many forms, and its stipulations can be negotiated between you and the breeder. Many factors come into play — whether you intend to show your dog, for example, or past experiences either of you has had in owning a purebred dog.

A responsible breeder is more than happy to discuss every aspect of your dog’s future with you, to ensure that he’s putting the dog into a good home. But even if the two parties are best of friends, a comprehensive contract helps guarantee they will remain so.

Know What to Ask

Choosing a breeder can be difficult. When you’re trying to decide on a breeder to purchase a puppy from, it’s important to make sure that they’re making good and ethical choices in the way that they’re raising their dogs. A dog is a big responsibility, and you don’t want your dog to have any issues because the breeder didn’t perform their job to the best of their abilities. Know what the red flags are and be sure to follow your gut when you’re talking with breeders.

To help you get the best possible dog from the best possible breeder, be prepared to ask some questions. The answers you receive will help you select the best and healthiest puppy.

Mixed With Love

If you’re not looking for a specific breed, mixed breed dogs could be the right option for you. The mutt is the all-American dog. Call him a random-breed, a mixed-breed or a mongrel, at his best he’s loyal, healthy, smart, and friendly — a virtual melting pot of positive canine characteristics.

For many animal lovers, owning a mutt is a badge of honor. Many come into the world as “surprises,” born of a homeless stray or a roaming house pet, then sent off to an animal shelter. Others are simply abandoned in parks or at highway rest stops. Adopting one of these unwanted dogs means you are literally saving a life — and the odds are he will make a great companion.

The terms “random breed” and “mixed breed” usually refer to a dog of unknown gene pool. A “cross breed” is a dog whose parents were purebreds. If two cross breeds mate, their offspring are also mixed breeds. By the time four different breeds combine in one dog, there’s little chance to predict what breed traits, if any, will dominate in the dog.

The common belief that mutts are superior has some truth to it. Over generations, unscrupulous breeders have perpetuated and magnified genetic flaws in many of the most popular purebreds.

Rescuing a Friend

There are plenty of dogs that are awaiting adoption or rescue, but how do you know which one is right for you? Choosing a dog for adoption is exciting. You’re growing your family, and whether you’re rescuing a dog from a shelter or adopting a puppy, there is a lot to consider.

Don’t feel overwhelmed. Before you do anything, think through your personal motivations for rescuing or adopting a dog. Do you want a dog to play with your young children? Do you simply want some quiet company, perhaps a lap dog, or a companion for your daily strolls? Is the dog going to have a job: therapy, herding, hunting, protecting, etc.? Are you looking for a running partner? As you consider adopting a dog, answering these questions will help you select the correct size and breed of dog. Consider your expectations of your dog when selecting the right canine companion. Do NOT select a dog purely on looks.

Adopting a dog is a big responsibility. Ask yourself questions, and answer them honestly. Evaluate your current life situation, and determine if you can appropriately provide for a dog.

Resources for Selecting a Dog

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