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November 11, 2014

Choosing the Right Dog for You

  • Keep an open mind when adopting, and you'll find the dog (or dogs) that will fit your needs and lifestyle. Lynn Fenimore/LynnRae Photography

The best thing about adopting a dog from an animal shelter or rescue group? So many amazing pooches to choose from! Man's best friends come in all shapes, sizes and—of course—personalities.

While almost any shelter dog can make a wonderful, lifelong companion for you and your family, some dogs will need more training, some will need more exercise and some will be happy to just sit on your lap staring into your eyes, trying to hypnotize you into providing more kibble. 

Which kind of dog are you looking for? You may have an image of your perfect dog in mind, but is your heart open to a canine Mr. Right you weren't quite expecting? Browse adoptable dogs near you at The Shelter Pet Project, and consider the following questions: 

What's your lifestyle?

If you live alone in a small, third-floor apartment, for instance, adopting a large, active retriever-mix might not be the best choice ... but then, if you're a runner and want a partner for your jogs, or you have a large family of kids who will play with the dog all the time, it could be fine! A dog's size, exercise requirements, friendliness, assertiveness and compatibility with children should all figure into your decision. Remember, you're not just getting a dog; your new dog is getting a family!

Find the next great love of your life at a local shelter or rescue »

Purebred or magical mix?

How do you find out which dogs have the qualities you're looking for? Information is the key: learn about the personalities of various breeds, visit with animals at the shelter and speak with an adoption counselor for guidance.

Dogs fall into one of two categories: purebreds or mixed breeds. Most animal shelters have plenty of both. The only significant difference between the two is that purebreds, because their parents and other ancestors are all members of the same breed, are similar to a specific "breed standard." This doesn't always tell you much about a dog's good health or how she'll behave, but it will help give you an idea of how big she's likely to get and whether her ears will be adorably droopy or sharp and perky (and other such physical traits). With mixes, you'll get a unique, never-seen-before blend.

More about mixed breeds

Of course, the size, appearance and temperament of most mixed breed dogs can be predicted as well. After all, mixed breeds are simply combinations of different breeds. So if you know the ancestry of a particular mixed-breed puppy or can identify what type of dog he is (e.g., terrier mix), you have a good chance of knowing how he'll turn out, too.

Mixed breeds are also more likely to be free of genetic defects common to certain purebred dogs because of overbreeding

Read more about purebreds vs. mixes »

Visit with shelter animals

While you're at the shelter, keep in mind that the animals there will be stressed out; quite often, a dog's true colors won't show until he's away from other animals and the shelter environment. So even if you walk past a kennel with a dog who isn't vying for your attention, don't count him out. He may just be a little scared or lonely.

An adoption counselor can help you select canines who will match your lifestyle. When you spend time with each animal, consider the following questions:

  • How old is the dog? You may be thinking about getting a puppy, but young dogs usually require much more training and supervision. If you lack the time or patience to housetrain your pup or to correct problems like chewing and jumping, an adult dog may be a better choice.
  • How shy or assertive is the dog? Although an active, bouncy dog might catch your eye, a quieter pooch might be a better match if you just want a TV and hanging-out buddy.
  • Is the animal good with kids? Ask questions of the adoptions counselors, but remember, not all shelter dogs will have a known history. In general, a friendly dog who likes to be touched and is not sensitive to handling and noise is a dog who will probably thrive in a house full of kids. If you get a puppy for your kids, remember that baby animals can be fragile and that, regardless of the dog's age or breed, you'll want to supervise his interactions with kids.

Choose a pal for life

Shelter animals deserve lifelong homes. If you're looking for your perfect pal, check out The Shelter Pet Project's website, which can help you with your search. After all, you're choosing a pal likely to be with you 10 to 15 years—or even longer. There's a dog out there who will love being part of your family!

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