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Choosing A Dog – What Dog is Right for You?

When you’re choosing a dog, try not to focus on breed or appearance.

Instead, think about your ideal dog’s personality and energy and what dog is truly right for you.

Make a specific list of what matters most to you in a dog.

Start with a list of requirements. Then, make a list of things that would be nice but aren’t necessarily required.

Everyone’s lists will be different, I would hope!

My lists are below, as an example.

I hope you’ll share some of your requirements or “deal breakers” in the comments. Hearing from others can be really helpful, especially for new dog owners.

Choosing a Dog: What I’m Looking for in my Second Dog

Lucy the Cairn terrier mix


1. Dog must be calm and comfortable out in public, around my apartment complex and while visiting outdoor restaurants, etc.

2. Must be dog, cat and kid friendly and approved by my husband, my dog and my cats.

3. Must be kennel trained or OK to be left loose without destroying my apartment.

4. Dog does not have separation anxiety.

5. Must be fit enough to go for long walks with hills, up to 5 miles or so.

Would be nice, but not required:

1. Easy to train and bond with, either highly motivated by treats, toys or praise. Willing to make eye contact.

2. Able to go running at an easy pace for up to an hour.

3. Age 1 to 4 years old.

4. A medium to large dog, 40 to 75 pounds or so. Large enough for some “protection” but small enough for me to lift.

5. Short or medium coat length for easier cleaning and grooming.

6. Dog is from a rescue group, shelter or previous owner. Ideally Labs & More Rescue since I volunteer with the group and am already approved to adopt.

7. Dog is a mixed breed or a Lab, shepherd, pitbull, Doberman or pointer.

Why my foster dog was not the right dog for me

If I am honest with myself and look over my list of requirements, my foster dog Lana did not make “the cut.”

Lana was not calm and comfortable when out in public. She was anxious and excited and would whine and bark at other dogs, which was stressful for me.

She did meet all my other “requirements,” but the ability to be calm in public is the most important on the list for what I want in a dog. Lana helped me to realize that.

So … now I want to hear from you, even if you’re not getting another dog any time soon.

What dog is right for you? What would be on your list of requirements for choosing a dog?

Also see my list of questions to ask before adopting a dog and sign up for That Mutt’s newsletter here.


Sunday 8th of March 2015

I love this list and it's such great information for those looking to adopt in the future. Choosing your next housemate/four legged family member is a huge commitment, it's nothing to take lightly. It's encouraging to see all of these wonderful articles that let people know "Yes, you can have requirements & you CAN find a dog that meets them." It helps give all the older dogs with great personalities a chance.


Wednesday 4th of March 2015

It sounds like we're looking for the same dog, lol! Off-leash ability is important too. I think sometimes people give in on some of their requirements thinking they can fix or train away the undesirable qualities and I have to admit, there's a great satisfaction in helping a dog overcome problem behaviors or fear issues, but too often they end up back in the shelter or rescue, worse off than before. I think it's better to know what you want so you can set yourself (and your dogs) up for success. Great article!

Rachel @ My Two Pitties

Tuesday 3rd of March 2015

We definitely share the same top 5! Beyond that I will always want a pit bull or pit mix since I am too obsessed with them to get anything else. And a dog who likes to cuddle. I love that my dogs aren't needy but they love to curl up with me on the couch & bed. Also a dog from any sort of rescue or in need of a new home situation. I could never get a dog from a breeder. I agree with Sean too, I need a dog who can at least be trained to be safe off leash. :)


Tuesday 3rd of March 2015

Sorry, but the number one thing for Mom is a dog has to be furry and cute and fit colorwise with the other pets. Secondly, she wants a dog that is no smaller than I am, so medium large to large, has to have lots of energy to be able to run and walk a lot and slightly independent. She can't see herself with any dog smaller than Bailie and I, nothing bigger than 100lbs as they aren't usually agile enough unless they are breeds she doesn't care for the look of, and she likes that all three of us are independent thinkers, it's frustrating, but not boring. Weird selection criteria, but it works for our household.

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 3rd of March 2015

She knows what she wants, and that's the main thing! :) Your mom also has a lot of experience with dogs, so she generally knows what she's getting herself into.


Tuesday 3rd of March 2015

I generally have similar requirements for adopting an adult dog, like being calm & comfortable in public, dog-friendly and kid-friendly, and being ok to be left loose in the house or an easily sectioned off portion of it.

I've always had the requirement of the dog not being an escape artist as an individual or even a member of a breed from which nearly all dogs (e.g., Husky) will seek to escape fenced or gated areas, crates, etc.

One big requirement for me is the dog must have the ability to be reliable off-leash in different environments. There are a whole bunch of components that go into this because it goes beyond whether you can train an adult dog to have a great recall. You can. However - training that rock solid recall in an adopted adult/rescue dog often takes a lot time and access to certain kinds of spaces to do the training right and for some dogs, it will NEVER be reliable in the way I would want. Some dogs will never be capable of this after the experiences they've had earlier in life or just due to their personality.

Some rescue dogs come with a wonderful recall. Some don't but already have the foundational characteristics that make them good candidates, though it can be hard to tell this from a foster/shelter situation (dogs in insecurity latch onto people and it doesn't tell you much about how they will deal with real life).

I never realized this would be a deal breaker for me until: (1) I had a dog for whom no amount of training would make me trust in many novel environments; and (2) I fostered/handled dogs who can never be off leash in an unfenced area ever. It just turns into a serious limitation of where I can take the dog, and how much I enjoy spending time together with them on adventures.

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 3rd of March 2015

The off-leash thing is important to me too. I take that for granted with Ace as he is one of those dogs who naturally wants to stick around. I never really had to train him to be off leash. He has a good recall, but it comes naturally to him and since he's obsessed with tennis balls I can always have one on hand for emergencies. I don't think it would be a deal-breaker, but I would prefer a dog that can be off leash for the same reasons you mentioned. It's much more limiting what you can do with a dog if the dog can't be off leash. I like to go backpacking with my dog, etc., and it's nice he can just be free.