The Right Dog

1 / 2
2 / 2

Sam relaxes in the sun by the creek.

I volunteer at a local animal shelter. We have dogs and cats, pigs and chickens, horses and sheep. I think we even had an emu once! Every day people come in to look for their next pet, which is a wonderful thing. Unless you have a specific need for a special kind of working dog or show dog, there really is no need to get a purebred dog. There are very nice dogs literally crying out for good homes at every shelter across the nation in every county.

So you’ve decided to go to the shelter and adopt a dog. How do you know which dog to adopt? The quick answer is “it depends.”

It depends on your lifestyle, your home environment, and your personality. For example, if you live in an apartment you have to know that not all apartments will let dogs in. If you are a person who moves a lot, you must take into consideration that while your current place might allow a dog, it’s not 100 percent that your next apartment will allow a dog. My daughter wanted a dog so badly for years but I told her that she shouldn’t because #1 they are an expense and she didn’t have much money, and #2 she moved around a lot.

At the shelter yesterday we had a really nice young dog surrendered to the shelter because the family had to leave their home to move to another town and an apartment because the dad got another job there. Having to surrender the dog broke everybody’s heart. It might be better to just say no until you have a solid situation and know that you can always accommodate your pet.

So if you have your financial picture and your living situation settled it’s time to think about what dog you want.

If you live in an apartment you need a toy, small or medium size dog. It’s just not nice to keep a big dog cooped up in an apartment. You might just love the idea of a Malamute or a Mastiff, but those dogs would be miserable without room to run. You might think you can deal with it but then it turns out you can’t. I know of a person who declared he would run with his new Dalmatian but when the dog stopped at every tree to lift his leg the idea of running for exercise became unattractive. So now he had a nervous dog cooped up in a house and it was a disaster.

At the shelter we get reports for lost huskies all the time. It’s their nature to run. Do your research on what a dog was bred for. In the case of huskies, we know they were bred for running the Iditarod so what makes anyone think they would like to be cooped up. If you’re already a dedicated runner maybe you can do it. Don’t get all romantic. After all, you are responsible for the well-being of another creature and you need to take that responsibility seriously. Go into it with your eyes wide open.

If you live where you have a large yard then you can consider a large dog. Ask yourself this question: why do I want this dog? There are so many breeds of dog with so many temperaments it should be easy to find a dog that fits you to a “T”, but that old adage “know thyself” has never been truer.

When you go to the shelter the staff will help match you up with a dog that fits you. Brace yourself for seeing dogs begging for love because dogs just have that instinct. However, they don’t know how to pick people so you need to pick for them. That American Staffordshire terrier bounding against the kennel door will look so sweet that you will want to take it home. You just have to say ” I love you but I’m not the right person for you. Someone will come along who is the right person and you’ll find them soon I promise!” (Unless you know you can handle the idiosyncrasies of having a pit bull then go for it! They can be wonderful dogs.)

It’s hard on you and hard on the dog to have to take them back after they’ve ripped up your furniture and peed on all the plants. You chose with your heart and not your mind and that’s bad for you both. The shelter will possibly have a yard so you and the dog can interact freely. When we got our Teddy I should have paid attention to the fact that while he was not aggressive, he also showed clearly that he was not that into people by running all around the yard and ignoring us until we coaxed him with a treat.

That independence is good for some people but not most. We still have Teddy six years later and he is what he is. We’ve accepted him warts and all and he mostly likes us!

Generally speaking: Hounds like to run. Terriers like to dig. Toys like to bark. Mastiffs eat and poop and pee a lot. Border collies need a job to do. Again, read up on your dog breed. Even if you are going to the shelter where invariably you will not find a purebred and they’re all Heinz 57s, knowing the mix of your dog will help you a lot. Teddy, for example, is a chow mix. I found out the hard way that an insurance company would not insure us because we had a chow mix. They lumped the chow in with pit bulls. That was a big surprise so I’m letting you know now.

Also your options for outdoor activity will narrow with a dog. Not all national parks and preserves allow dogs. You might be confined to a neighborhood walk or the dog park

Lastly, always get your dog fixed! At the shelter we have so many people come in and say my dog is lost. We ask if it’s fixed and they say no. Many people don’t realize that their unneutered dog will have the urge to go look for girlfriends. If you have them fixed you’re giving them a longer and better life. It breaks my heart to see a lost Chihuahua standing confused in the middle of the street with big trucks whizzing around it because he wasn’t neutered and he’s looking for love in all the wrong places.

If you do your homework and choose wisely, dog ownership is a great adventure. We love our two dogs and they love us. Life would be less if we didn’t have them.