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- Are there any deal breakers for your new or next dog? (allergies in the family, family members that are fragile from a permanent condition or age, behavioral problems that are not likely to work with your family, do you need a dog not to bark much, any other pets in the family, are you prepared for shedding, how much dirt and/or destruction is okay )
- What are the activities that you want to do with and for your dog?
- Do you have the time to train a dog or puppy, and if so how much time can you see devoting to it?
- Are you hoping for a human social or dog social dog?
- Are you looking for a dog to work as a service dog (or other type of working dog)?
- How active are you during the day? Do you want to be more or less active?
- Are you disabled and if so, is there someone appropriate to help you with this?
- How long do you need to be at work each day?
No matter what, remember there are things you need to do with a dog each day. They will always need to be fed, exercised, trained, housed, and receive medical attention. I talk a bit about rescues and breeders below. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you can not use a breeder. The most important thing is that you are able to find a puppy or dog that is able to be a part of your family and everyday life. Whether the dog comes from a rescue or a breeder, the most important thing is to be sure the dog stays with your family, and not where the dog comes from.
A well researched breeder can offer you things like health tests, know the temperament of their lines and puppies, and perhaps have the right adult dog ready to find a home. This way you can try to stack the odds against your dog dying young from genetic diseases, and have an idea of the activity level. The con is the price to purchase any well bred puppy or dog will be high, due to the fact that the reputable breeder does all this work before hand.
A well researched rescue, can offer you a low price and a great dog. You just need to be careful of the rescue that you choose. The rescue should be very invested in working with you to identify what works in your family, and not pushing a dog onto you. The con is, the history of the dog or where they came from in terms of lines is generally not known (sometimes and very rarely it is known). The con can be more of a chance that your dog may have genetic disease that have not been caught or attempted to be bred out of the lines, thus more money in medical costs. Also, you chance having a temperament problem you nor the rescue was aware of. Even if they foster dogs, dogs real temperament can show several months after they have become comfortable in your home. Never rescue a dog just to "rescue a dog". That is not fair to the dog if they do not work out in your home. Rescues (or well bred dogs) do not need to be bounced around from home to home.
If you have some deal breakers that you can not have with your dog, that is valid. There is no shame in knowing what you need. Please be honest with yourself about what you can take on. You are going to want to research rescues and breeders. You will want rescues and breeders that will work with you. Most reputable rescues and breeders will take the dog back and have a contract. This is one way you can weed out those that you can not depend on. Rehoming or other decisions are not ones you will want to do. Even returning the dog to the rescue or breeder can be a grief stricken traumatizing decision and experience for you and the dog. Trainers like me want to be sure you are successful for the rest of that dog or puppy's life. You want breeders who understand health and temperament, and those sort of reputable breeders will be hard to find and have a waiting list. Rescues will likely have many dogs available, but you want a rescue that knows their puppies or dogs (rescues that foster out their dog have a better chance). Also you want a rescue or breeder that you can trust. There are many out there that are not trustworthy, and won't be fully honest about the dog they have. If you have "deal breakers" that would not work with your family, avoiding these to the best of your ability will make everyone happier in the long term. No matter who you decide to use to find your next or first canine companion, waiting for the right puppy or dog to come along is totally worth it. Some breeders or rescue will have dogs that are returned, which may be due to their owner dying or becoming ill. If a puppy is one of your "deal breakers", it may be possible to pick up a really great dog without the puppy training hassle.
As a new or more knowledgeable dog owner, there may be activities you want to do with your dog. These may dictate the qualities you ideally want in the dog you search for. Temperament, physical health, health, and size may be factors you want to really think about in order to stack the odds in your favor. If you want a cuddle buddy and lazy dog, then you probably do not want the dog that can do many miles of hiking, because that want will not decrease in a driven and healthy dog (of course we all want as good of health as we can get). An elderly or mellow smaller dog may be the better choice. If you want that dog that can hike many miles a day with you, a dog that trains well for off leash adventures and has excellent temperament and drive, may be the best choice for you. If you are dreaming of activities to do with your dog, be honest on what YOUR follow through will be also.
If you have limited time to train, you may be looking for a young or adult dog that already has skills. It does happen that rescues get in dogs who do have some skills at the same price as a dog without skills. A breeder may have a dog that was returned, though no fault of their home, waiting for an owner to provide them with their (hopefully) rest of their lives home. Ideally, you will maintain the training that the dog comes with, and perhaps advance it. The time spent on this can be less, if you wait for the right dog to arrive at a well researched rescue or breeder. If you are not interested in spending any time training your dog, honestly, a dog is probably not a good fit for you. Before you select a dog is the time you need to think about this.
Many people searching for a dog assume that most dogs are social to humans and dogs. Potential dog owners with beginning or novice training skills should look for an easy dog for their first time. Beyond that, you need the rescue or breeder to know the temperament of their lines or candidates for adoption. It is also possible that the social aspect is not a big part of what you want. This opens the field up quite a bit, but remember that you will be responsible for that dog and their needs. This includes keeping the dog and others safe. When I train dogs, I do meet a lot of dogs that did not fall into the human or dog social box. This is something you can not assume you can train your dog into. You can always improve a dog's behavior (unless there is something very seriously wrong with the dog), but some dogs are just not going to like all humans and dogs no matter how much you work them. The training work then goes into making sure they are controllable and manageable in as many situations and environments as possible.
Real working or service dogs are a very unique category. If you need one that is ready to work, you are probably looking for an organization or someone that raises and trains working dogs. Jobs that require durability, concentration, focus, and stamina are not for every dog out there. For service dogs, their temperament and working ability needs to be impeccable. This is not simply a dog that can do tricks or even obey commands like a pet dog. These dogs are best when genetically disposed and driven to do their jobs. These dogs can cost a lot of money. Some organizations will help you fundraise in order to acquire the right dog. There will be many rules for you to care for and maintain the training of such a dog. There are many other paths for a working dog such as herding, hunting, tracking the missing human or animal, protection, or alerting to noises or to disease symptoms. Selecting one of these dogs can not be taken lightly if you actually need them to do the work.