Adopting a dog is one the most exciting steps in pet parenthood, but it can also be a bit nerve-wracking. Most animal shelters have both purebred and mixed breed dogs of all shapes and sizes. Here are some tips that can help you determine which dog is the right one for you:
Evaluate your lifestyle
According to the Humane Society of the United States, it's important to identify the type of dog that best matches your lifestyle. Take the time to truly consider all aspects of your lifestyle, including your daily schedule, your family, your type of home, and your responsibilities. Your answers can help shape your decision:
Do I spend most of my time at home, or am I usually at work or on the go?
Do I have time for the daily exercise that an active dog requires, or am I looking for a dog that wants to nap on the sofa with me?
Am I interested in a grooming challenge, or would a shorthaired dog be more suitable?
Is my home large or small? Do I have a fenced-in yard?
Do I share my home with young children or an elderly person?
The Humane Society of the United States suggests visiting a shelter, learning about the breeds, and seeking the advice of an adoption counselor before making a decision.
Evaluate the dog breeds
Every dog is an individual, but basic dog breed characteristics provide a general guideline for evaluating the suitability of specific mixed breeds for certain lifestyles.
Looking for a high-energy dog? Consider an active breed, like a Border Collie or Border Collie mix. Don't have the time to devote to extensive grooming? Then cross off a longhaired breed—such as a Yorkshire Terrier, Lhasa Apso or Collie from your list. Breeds with a penchant for barking—such as the Beagle or a Beagle mix—might not be the best option for apartment-dwellers.
Personality is always an important factor when choosing a dog, but it's paramount if you have children at home. While any individual dog may have the potential to be a good family dog, there are certain breeds that are noted for being particularly kind, gentle, and loving around children. The Labrador Retriever is a notable choice—it has been the most popular breed in America (based on American Kennel Club registrations) for 22 consecutive years. A number of Labrador mixes can be found in shelters and rescues throughout the country and are just waiting for their forever homes. Another perennial family favorite is the mild-mannered Golden Retriever. Be sure to check out the various retriever mixes available for adoption, and don't overlook the myriad of other mixed-breed dogs that are available—they are also very popular as family pets.
If you're still unsure of the right breed for your family, don't rush. Spend time around dogs of varying breeds. Get to know their personalities, and then talk with other pet parents about their experiences. Narrow your search down to a smaller number of breeds, and then read and research as much as you can. But try to keep an open mind when visiting a shelter. Try not to limit your focus to only the breeds on your list—you might inadvertently overlook the perfect dog for your family just because it isn't the type of dog that you initially had in mind.
By carefully evaluating your lifestyle and the various breeds and mixed-breeds, you'll be able to find a dog that will be the perfect addition to your family.
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