How do you pick a dog for your family?

Updated: Nov 21, 2020


One of the things I've learned over the years is people don't seem to do enough honest research into the breed of dog they end up with thereby creating future conflict. So how do you pick a dog? What questions should you ask? Do you pick out a rescue dog from a shelter or go to a breeder? I hope this article sheds a little light on some of these questions!


If you need more information or want to talk to me over the phone about a dog or puppy you're looking at please don't hesitate to send me an email or call. I'd love to help you pick out just the right family member or sport prospect so you both have a long happy life together!


So how do you pick a dog?

The first few questions you need to ask yourself are what do you want from a dog and what do you not want in a dog? To be frank the question of what you don't want in a dog is often much more important than what you do want. Be really honest with yourself and your family. Do you like grooming, how active are you, how much training do you want to have to do and do you want a working partner or a social buddy to hang out with? Every breed, big or small, has been bred purposefully for up to a couple hundred years for specific genetic traits. You CANNOT change your dog's genetic makeup and natural tendencies. If you aren't active and don't like grooming, a husky isn't the breed for you even though they're gorgeous. If you're an active busy family who loves biking and hiking, don't get an English Bulldog just because you're a University of Georgia Bulldogs fan.

Take the time to really think about what you want and don't want and write it out with your family. Make lists of activities you want to do with your dog and work backwards from there. Think about your living situation and the size and scope of your yard and house. Once you've made a list that the whole family can agree on, only then should you start looking for a dog. Be aware of all the options out there and ask around.


Then there's the breeder or rescue question...


(Cue the Sarah McLachlan sad tv add)


This one seems to generate strong feelings in people but since it's your life and the dog's life go forward thoughtfully and with purpose. Just because your neighbor has adopted 12 dogs and is super pro shelter dog DOES NOT mean you have to get a rescue dog too.

I've gotten tons of dogs from rescue or shelters and have had a couple from breeders. Each dog was wonderful and dearly loved for who it was. That being said rescue and shelter dogs come with their own unique set of issues. It's very rare for shelter dogs to be there because they're very well bred and trained. Expect to put in the work socializing, training and possibly rehabbing the dog physically and mentally. You never know what happened before they showed up to the rescue even if they're an owner surrender. I can't tell you how many times I've heard stories of cute dogs being rescued from a shelter and biting their owners because the prior owner who surrender their dog didn't want to disclose known issues in fear their dog wouldn't get adopted. There are tons of fantastic, balanced and amazing dogs desperately needing good, stable homes. But be smart and don't make an emotional pick. Often mixed breeds are considered healthier in general because of the combination of breeds can dilute the genetic abnormalities of purebred dogs.


Often when a person has really decided what they want (and don't want) out of a dog, considered their family's needs, age of children and their plans for a dog a purebred dog can be their best bet. You know what you're getting, you understand the breed and it's traits and there won't be any behavioral surprises along the way. This is really important too if you have little kids around. You never want to put them in any danger and the children always come first. A good breeder will give you a written contract detailing what is expected from them and you in the care and maintenance of the dog, almost always there is a section that states the dog must go back to the breeder or the breeder must be contacted if you cannot care for the dog at any point in it's life. Look for breed specific association memberships, sport or activities the breeder is involved in and how their prior puppies/dogs are doing in their current homes. Make sure both parents are on site and available to see and interact with when you go to see the prospective litter. If they're not make darn sure you feel 100% comfortable with why.


Ok so that's a lot and I'll tell you why.

The shelters and rescues are literally over run with dogs. The rescue I work with, Montana Malinois & Dutch Shepherd Rescue used to be the German Shepherd & Malinois Rescue. There were rarely Malinois (and never Dutchies) that actually came through the rescue. Maybe a couple times a month 10 years ago we'd get a Malinois that needed to be rehomed. Now it's literally a constant stream from all over the country and so many GSDs the rescue had to be split to accommodate the amount of dogs. I bet there are a 1000 right now that need good homes. Why? Because they're bad ass looking dogs that do cool shit and people want a "cool" dog. Forgetting the fact that they take a ridiculous amount of work and training (daily!) and while I love them be prepared to have your world rocked, not even kidding. I've reached out to many breed specific rescues and other rescues and shelters and it's the same story for almost all breeds and organizations. There simply aren't enough qualified homes.


I really hope you find exactly the dog you are looking for and this is helpful!

Please ask questions, comment or shoot me an email. I'd be more than happy to talk you through this process whether or not you're a training client or even live in the same state because having the right dog is absolutely amazing but having the wrong fit can be a wreck emotionally and physically for you, the dog and your home. There is NO such thing as a dumb question and it's always better to check first before putting yourself and your family in a tough place.

The very best of luck!


This is our dog Jake. One of the best dogs I've ever had!

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