This column by Green Leaf owner Shelly Leibowitz originally appeared in The Messenger-Press.
Welcoming a dog into your home is one of the most rewarding things you can ever do. You’re giving yourself and your loved ones the gift of a loyal, wet-nosed companion for years to come. But you’re also taking on a big responsibility – and you owe it to yourself, and your future pet, to make sure you find the dog that’s the best fit for you. Here are a few tips for making the right decision:
Do your research
It’s very important that your puppy’s temperament suits your lifestyle. Be honest with yourself about how active you are. If relaxing on the couch and watching Netflix sounds like the perfect weekend to you, you won’t be happy with a highly energetic dog. And if you’re more on-the-go, you don’t want a dog that’s content sitting around. Don’t just go by how your friends’ dogs act, do some serious research on prospective breeds– not every puppy of that breed will have the same temperament.
Test your breeder
Once you’ve decided on the right breed, it’s time to find a breeder. Look for one who specializes in the breed you’re interested in. Avoid “puppy mills” (and pet shops, which usually get their animals from puppy mills). A lot of these places indiscriminately mate animals to turn a profit, neglecting their animals and piling them into cramped living conditions that often lead to health and social problems. Ask a breeder lots of questions—how long they’ve been breeding, what the bloodlines and vet records are for the pup you’re interested in, and if you can meet one or both of the pup’s parents.
Get to know the pup
If possible, bring the whole family to meet potential pets. You never want to choose a puppy that gets along really well with you but is aggressive toward your spouse or child. Get the puppy away from the litter to best evaluate their temperament. You want your dog to have an approachable but not overly exuberant demeanor – tail-wagging confidence is good.
Shelter dogs can be just as loyal and loving as dogs that come from reputable breeders, and many are purebreds. Adoption saves money, and could be saving a dog’s life.
Once you’ve done the research and invested the time into finding your perfect match, selecting a canine companion should be an enjoyable and rewarding process. Remember that there is no one right breed for everyone, the most important thing is to be committed to finding the dog who will best enrich your life so you can return the favor.