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How to choose the right dog

This week marks Ace’s fifth “adoptaversary” and also his approximate sixth birthday.

Ace was the first dog I adopted on my own, and I did it right.

I was very disciplined and took the time to find the right dog for my lifestyle. I had strict criteria and turned away several dogs.

Although I was emotionally attached to the idea of a light-colored, long-haired dog (my family had recently lost our golden retriever), I did not choose a dog based on looks. If I had, I would not have chosen a “boring” black lab mix (my exact words at the time).

I knew what my criteria was, and I would not bend.

The dog had to be housebroken and kennel trained. I worked 10-hour shifts and would be gone for 11 hours per day. I knew I did not have the time or energy for housebreaking or kennel training or dealing with any amount of a dog’s separation anxiety.

The dog had to be good with other pets. My cat’s safety would come first.

The dog had to be one I could take running. At the time I was training for a marathon without a dog and was desperate for a running buddy.

I looked at many, many dogs. Ace was the first to meet my criteria.

These days I am more emotionally involved in dog rescue and will have a harder time waiting for the “perfect” dog. And these days, I have to also consider the needs of my future husband as well as our two cats and of course Ace.

That being said … I will be adopting my second dog this fall 🙂

We will be a two-dog family!

How to choose a dog

We all know there is no such thing as a perfect dog or a perfect match or perfect timing. Still, I hope you will find these suggestions helpful when you decide to add another dog to your family.

Give yourself a designated amount of time to look for a dog.

Pick an appropriate time in the future and tell yourself that no matter what, you will not adopt a second dog until this specific date or after. I suggest giving yourself at least a month.

This erases the urgency, and it gives you the time to find the right dog.

As soon as people know you are looking for a dog, suddenly everyone will have a dog for you to consider – your neighbor will know someone with border collie pups, your best friend will say her foster dog is perfect for you, your aunt will know of a lab who needs to be re-homed. And if you are anything like me, you will be searching through hundreds of dog profiles on Petfinder.

There are dogs needing homes everywhere, but guess what? When you are ready to get another dog there will still be tons of dogs in need of homes. There will always be more dogs.

This spring or summer is not the best time for us to get another dog. We have a lot going on in our personal lives – a wedding, several trips, business opportunities. There is never a perfect time, but late fall is definitely better.

Think about where you will or will not get a dog.

I will not tell anyone else where to get a dog. This is a personal decision.

Personally, I do have some standards on how I will obtain a dog:

1. I strongly believe in helping homeless dogs or preventing dogs from entering shelters and pounds in the first place. Therefore, I want to get a dog from a rescue group, shelter, pound or an individual who believes he or she must re-home the dog. There is nothing wrong with going to a breeder to get a dog. It’s just not for me, at least not this time around.

2. I will not pay a rescue group or shelter more than a $150 adoption fee. I might choose to donate more on my own, but if the required fee is more than $150, forget it. I can get a neutered, fully vaccinated dog from an individual for free. This is how I got Ace, and I will consider this option again. Certain rescue groups think they can charge more than $400 for a dog, and that is beyond ridiculous.

3. I will not jump through hoops to get a rescue dog. A standard adoption application is fine, along with references. I will even tolerate an informal home visit. But some groups go way over the top, and I won’t go there. I would rather use that energy to find the perfect dog elsewhere.

4. I will not buy a dog from a breeder or from someone whose dog had an “accidental” litter. I am willing to pay a re-homing fee to someone giving up his dog, although I didn’t always feel this way.

Don’t expect the dog to be another family member’s responsibility.

I have this fantasy that our second dog will be Josh’s dog, and I think a lot of people make a similar mistake.

Dog people love dogs, and they think everyone else wants a dog. But I have come to a realization – Josh just isn’t a dog person.

If we get a second dog, it will basically be my dog. I will be doing all the work – training, exercising, cleaning up.

Although Josh loves Ace and helps out to a minimum with dog care if I ask, he is just not going to be up at 6 a.m. to take the dogs on a long walk. He is not going to invest the time to take the dogs to training classes. He’s not going to work on leash manners or pick up poop. He is not going to wipe drool off the walls or stop by the store on his way home to pick up dog food or cat litter.

Do not choose a dog based on appearance.

Sure, you can be attracted to a certain breed, but every dog is an individual. Not all pitbulls are the same. Not all collies are the same. Not all golden retrievers are the same.

For me, it’s a challenge to set aside what the dog looks like, but it’s also exciting to consider just about any breed or mixed breed.

I am going to choose my second dog strictly by his or her temperament, personality and energy level. I don’t care if the dog is 1 year old or 10 years old. I don’t care if the dog is 25 pounds and fluffy. I don’t care if the dog is 90 pounds and drools more than Ace. All I want is a dog that fits my lifestyle – laid back and friendly with all animals and people. Willing to go for runs and hikes but perfectly content if we miss a day or two.

My expectations are high. I can’t wait to see what the universe sends my way.

Do not get a dog based on an emotional decision.

Getting a dog based on an emotional decision is a set-up for failure.

Once you’ve acknowledged you are looking for a second dog, it will be that much harder to walk away from the “free” puppies advertised on grocery store fliers or the litter of rescued pound pups at an adoption event or even the puppies at the pet store.

Likewise, it will be extremely hard to look away from the dogs scheduled to be euthanized in the pounds and shelters.

If you decide to rescue a dog from death row, you are doing a beautiful thing, but remember the risks involved. You likely won’t know anything about the dog. What if he has severe separation anxiety? What if he is aggressive to strangers?

If you are able to rescue a dog from the pound, I suggest you do so by volunteering with an established shelter or rescue group and offering to be a foster home. That way, if it doesn’t work out, the dog will be safe from death and the rescue will find a more appropriate foster home.

You deserve to find the dog that is truly a good fit for your family and lifestyle. Finding that dog does not happen by chance.

Don’t take a dog home right after meeting him.

Most rescue organizations require adopters to wait at least 24 hours before taking a dog. This gives the adopter time to make the right decision. I recommend you discipline yourself to do so even if this is not a requirement.

I drove about an hour out of my way to a little town in Minnesota to meet Ace. Even though I was pretty sure I wanted him, I decided to think it over. I waited until the next day to make my final decision. Even then, I still had to wait a whole week before I could pick him up. I told myself if it was meant to be, he would still be available. He was 🙂

Ask yourself what sacrifices you are willing to make.

Personally, I have made the difficult decision to temporarily put a hold on dog fostering. This will be a challenge for me, but it will give us a nice break while we prepare for adding a second dog. Notice, I specifically said dog fostering 🙂

Josh and I are learning to accept things about one another. He accepts I will always want more animals. I accept that constant fostering is stressful for him and my current pets. There will be a time in the future when I will foster dogs again, when we have more space and freedom.

And of course, the main sacrifice will be my time. Spending time with each of my pets is very important to me. Even if I have multiple dogs, I want to spend individual time with each one. Time for training every day. Time for a long walk every day. Time for dog and kitty cuddles every day.

All in all, I have a lot to look forward to, and I can’t wait to add a second dog to our home. It’s amazing I have gone this long without adding a second dog! This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I am excited about taking the time to do so in the way that is right for me.

What advice do you have for choosing a second dog?

Ace the cute black lab mix standing in a field wearing camo


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