Imagine you have this beautiful dog, the ideal look when you think of a dog. The nice soft eyes, the smile, the tail wag. Also imagine this dog is your best friend. It loves spending time with you, and it's just an all around nice dog.
When people, adopt, or purchase a dog, these are the images that run through their mind. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of people get that ideal dog. The reason? In general, many people aren't very good at selecting the right dog for them. It's more than just looking at a few pictures online. It's more than seeing which dog comes running to you first. It's more than looking at the breed on wikipedia, and cherry picking only the traits you find desirable.
So how do you actually select the right dog for you?
You can drastically cut down on the improper selection if you already have an idea of what type of dog would suite you best BEFORE you go to the shelter or contact the breeder. Here are a few tips:
1) Forget about the looks!
If you start focusing on the looks, you're very likely to get the wrong dog. This is a very relative concept because what you may consider a good looking dog, someone else might consider an ugly dog. You might love dogs with short snouts, some people are more into dogs with pointy ears, etc. etc. But looks should not be a priority when it comes to making a commitment that could last over 10 years. I know several people and dogs that are not happy because the selection of their dog was based solely on looks/breed rather than personality and proper match-making.
2)Take inventory of your current lifestyle.
Nothing hurts a dog and dog owner relationship more than improper matchmaking due to lifestyle requirements. Here are couple of examples:
A couple of clients I had bought a poodle when they were in their 7o's or 80's. The husband himself was barely able to move. The wife was able to walk the dog once a day (On a good week) but the dog was too young, strong and adventurous for her. Through training, I was able to help them but if you're unable to provide a dog with proper mental and physical exercise, it's best for everyone involved that you reconsider.
A guy I knew, who was bound to a wheelchair, had a working dog. This was a very strong working dog with a genetic history of sports and police work. The guy tried his best, he was a very good trainer considering his limitations, and he still had to rehome the dog.
Both of these cases would have been better off with a more mellow type of dog.
3) Contact a dog trainer.
If you are able to get in touch with a knowledgeable and responsible dog trainer, it can be easier to choose the right dog. What can a knowledgeable dog trainer do for you? A well rounded dog trainer knows temperament, they understand matchmaking and they have plenty of previous experiences in which they had to help address improper matchmaking. This dog trainer can interview you, see what you're looking for and determine which type of dog would be your ideal companion. It may seem like hiring a dog trainer to do this with you would be very expensive, but the consultation alone many times is free of charge or very affordable, a couple of lessons to pay for the trainer's time to help you get the right dog and now you are more likely to get a dog that best matches your needs.
Remember, there's no rush to get a dog. You can always wait, or get a pet that requires less time and commitment.