Dog Care 101

How To Ask The Right Questions When Choosing A Dog

Photo of author

By Suzy


You have decided to get a dog, now the question is:

“What kind of dog am I looking for?

There are so many choices:

  • A puppy from a breeder
  • A puppy from a private person, the Internet, a newspaper ad
  • A shelter dog
  • An older dog
  • A mutt
  • A tiny, small, medium or large dog?
  • A wire haired, short haired, medium or long haired dog?

The list goes on and on… so how do you decide? What is the best choice for your situation?

Here are my best tips for determining the “right” dog for you…

Important Questions

My first advice: Don’t just look at a breed or the looks of a dog to make your choice.

Instead, ask “What kind of dog will match my energy? Which dog will be energetically compatible to me?”

A lot of times people get drawn to the “cute” puppy, or whatever it is that draws them in. I would like to challenge you to ask yourself and your potential dog some questions before you make the match:

  • What is my motivation to have a dog?
  • Am I looking for companionship?
  • Am I looking for protection?
  • Am I looking for a working dog?
  • Am I looking to give my child an animal?
  • Am I looking to rescue a dog with behavior issues?
  • Am I looking for a trained dog?
  • Am I looking to have a dog that lays at my feet while I’m on the computer?
  • Am I adding another dog to my existing pack?

Only you know what the answers are to all of those questions.

To me, the  next most important questions to ask are:

  • What do you expect to be doing with your dog?
  • Are you an outdoor person that likes to move a lot?
  • Are you an indoor person that likes to be at home and have quiet time?
  • Will you be joining some dog sport?
  • Do you like to walk?
  • Do you like to run?
  • Which activities will you have your dog be joining you in?
  • Do you travel a lot?
  • Does the dog you already have desire a companion and did you ask the dog, or are you using logical reasons to assess why your dog might desire to have a companion?
  • How old is your child and what kind of dog would suit that situation?

The answers to these questions are going to make it easier for you to narrow your search for the “perfect” dog.

Please allow yourself some space to find the dog that matches the energy of all the considerations you have.

Choosing A Dog To Fit Your Activity Level

dog-agility-by-danizamora.jpg If you like to train your dog for an outdoor activity dog sport, then you might want to get a younger dog that can handle the activity level and will benefit from your training efforts for quite some time to come.

You will also want to look for a dog that has the specific traits you are looking for. For example, if you like water sports and would like to include your dog, make sure you pick a dog that likes the water. A Labrador and any mix like that will most likely be attracted to the water, but you need to ask the dog: “Will you be a water dog? Will you enjoy the water with me? Are you willing to ride on a surfboard, in a kayak, on a sailboat?”

If you would like to do agility with your dog, then look for a medium-sized dog that has a light frame build and high energy. Pick a breed or mutt that is less likely to have joint problems, like hip dysplasia. This sport can be very demanding on the body, so again ask your dog: “Do you love to run over and through obstacles? Do you like to climb? Will you balance over things? Would that be fun for you?”

There are so many dog sports and they all have different requirements, if you have your eye on a specific activity you would like to do with your dog, please ask your potential dog if they would like to do that with you! Don’t assume that a Border Collie loves to do agility, or fly ball. Don’t assume that a Jack Russell will be the best dog for Earth-dog activities. Please ask the dog!

Choosing A Dog Based On Age

old-dog-by-neilw44.jpg A very important point in getting a dog is whether you would like to start with a puppy, or get a young dog beyond puppy age, or even an older dog.

The beauty about puppies is that you can spend your time training them well. You will be socializing them properly — making sure they do well with other dogs and people of all ages and temperaments. You will be able to correct any behavior trends early, and you will know your dog really well. If you get a puppy, you will have the maximum amount of time together.

There are a few downsides associated with puppies however, like: 

  • having to go through the stages of house training
  • having to deal with the chewing stages
  • having to go through the high energy stages of growing up

Again, this is something for you to be aware of in terms of: Are you ready for this? If you are a person that likes for things to be slow and easy, a puppy might not work for you.

Choosing A Dog Based On Size Or Hair

Aksel-public-domain.JPG On the topic of size and hair, I would say it’s a personal preference.

Shedding can be an issue for some, and allergies can be a hindrance to others. There are some dogs that are less problematic for people with potential allergies, like dogs with real hair.

The size of the dog can make a difference if you plan on taking your dog for air travel a lot, or if you are worried about the longevity of your dog. Smaller breeds usually live longer.

Don’t conclude that a small dog is better for an apartment. The dog’s temperament is much more important than its size. I have met many Yorkshire Terriers that were totally crazed by lack of exercise and the assumption that they were docile lap dogs. Some very large dogs can be quiet and have less exercise requirements than a Terrier.

Also, the size of your home should not be the only factor for picking the size of your dog. Do you like a dog you can pick up? Do you like to be
able to pet your dog without bending down? Think of all the other ways that a dog’s size plays a role in how you will interact with him.

Where To Go To Get Your Dog

Finally, ask yourself these questions: “Do I desire to go through the puppy stages? Is it important to me to have papers and know the history of my dog?”

These types of questions will help you with the next step when you’re choosing a dog: Where To Go To Get Your Dog.

Need some advice or training tips regarding your own dog? I would be happy to help you solve dog training and behavior issues right over the phone — just like I was able to help Jim and Lynnette with their dog who used to be anxious and nervous around people.