7 key steps to adopting the perfect dog

A dog can be one of the most rewarding of pets, but also one of the most demanding. Selecting the right animal for you is an all-important aspect of the adoption process. One must consider a multitude of factors – ranging from living quarters to time commitments.

We all love to visualize a cute puppy playing innocently in the park. But is this the ideal pet for you? Do you have the time and patience to potty train and watch over the mischievous pup? Would an older dog better suit your lifestyle?

These questions, and many more, need to be answered before making such a critical decision. This is one time that you will be rewarded handsomely for considering all of the factors surrounding pet adoption. Remember, you owe it not only to yourself, but to your new best “friend”.

Follow these seven key steps and finding the right dog for you will be “doggone” easy.

Determine the right size dog for your living arrangements and lifestyle
Your living arrangements, whether sprawling house or urban apartment, can put limitations on what breed of dog will best suit you. A large breed dog, or hyperactive breed, may not be the best choice for anpartment dweller. Even in a larger home, these types of breeds generally demand lots of exercise and play time. Are you willing to make that kind of time commitment?

Consider the right temperament for your family situation
Like people, dogs have different temperaments. Some breeds are very laid-back and don’t require a lot of maintenance, while other breeds can be very high-strung and demand lots of your attention. Certain breeds, by reputation, are not suitable for households with small children. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but as a general statement, avoiding these breeds is probably prudent.

Breeds that are considered playful and child-friendly include: Golden Retrievers, Beagles, Labrador Retrievers, Bearded Collies and Miniature Schnauzers, just to name a few.

Think about the climate where your dog will live
Arctic breeds, like Samoyeds and Huskies, have relatively thick coats and will be uncomfortable in hot, humid climates. Conversely, Greyhounds and other short-haired breeds can become very cold and chilled in more frigid climates. The point is to choose a breed that is compatible with your climate. Many breeds can adapt easily with proper protection, like a dog sweater, and limited exposure to extreme conditions.

Determine the amount of time you will have available for your new dog
Dogs are normally active pets and can, in seconds, go from lounging in their favorite spot to running laps with you around the track. One thing for certain, dogs need plenty of time for exercise and play. Of course, they expect you to be right there with them, joining in the fun.

You will also need to plan time for training, feeding, walking, and grooming your dog. Be certain that you can allocate this time, because all of these items are a must to ensure the well-being of your pet.

Consider whether a male or female dog is a better fit for your family
Though both males and females make great companion pets, males can sometimes have more behavioral problems and tend to be more rambunctious than females. Females are usually easier to house train, but may be more demanding of your attention. If size is a consideration, females are generally smaller in size than their male counterparts.

Strongly consider adopting a mixed-breed dog
Mixed-breed dogs often pick up the best traits of the combined breeds and are much less prone to inherited diseases and breed-specific behavioral problems. But as puppies, they can be a bit more difficult to predict their adult look and size.

However, mixed-breed “mutts” tend to have unique personalities and are very charming. An even better reason to consider a mixed breed is that many are in need of loving homes. If adopted, they tend to show their appreciation by becoming outstanding companions and faithful friends.

Spend as much time as possible with your prospective new family “member” before adopting
There is nothing like observing a pet firsthand to get a real feel for its personality. Watch the behavior of the dog or puppy and how he responds to children or other animals.

Ask these questions: What is his background? Is he friendly to people? Does he like to be petted? Does he look healthy? Does he act friendly with other animals? Does he obey any commands? Is he house-trained? The more answers you have to questions like these, the easier your decision will be.

And lastly, pets should never be an “impulse” purchase. The consequences of these decisions stay with you anywhere from 10 to 15 years. So be sure to take the time to match the right dog with your personal situation – it will make the experience one that you will cherish for a lifetime.

William Wilcox is a long-time dog lover, animal rescue volunteer, and trainer. He writes articles for a number of dog-related websites. For more information visit: