Getting a dog should be a well-planned decision to ensure a lifelong commitment. Dogs are not objects that are returned if you change your mind because they have become too big, too energetic, or too time-consuming to care for properly. For the greatest chance for success, put forth the effort to find the best match for you and your family.
Predictability and Purebred Dogs
Dogs were domesticated from ancestors of wolves to work alongside humans and help with our daily tasks like hunting, guarding, protecting, herding, being exterminators, or just being wonderful companions. Over hundreds or even thousands of years, the selective breeding of dogs with certain traits developed types of dogs that are predictable in their physical characteristics, behavior, and personality.
Predictability is the major advantage of getting a purebred dog over a mixed-breed puppy or older dog. Predictability and dependability are important because there are usually fewer chances of surprises related to their size, physical characteristics, behaviors, and personality traits.
Finding the Right Match
The best chance for a successful match is finding a dog or puppy that will be a fit for your lifestyle, activity level, and living conditions. If the match is not good, expectations can become disappointments and lead to unfortunate circumstances for both dogs and owners. In those scenarios, it’s best if the dog can be returned to the responsible breeder. In the worst case, the dog will be rehomed or moved to a shelter.
For example, if you are looking for a dog to accompany you on hikes, runs, or long walks, a short-legged dog may not be the wisest choice. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you may want a calm dog that doesn’t require as much exercise. And if you live in an apartment, size may be an issue.
How to Be a Responsible Dog Owner
Being a responsible dog owner means being informed and realistic. Make sure you do your research and educate yourself about dogs and proper dog ownership, nutrition, health, and training. Understand how much time, energy, and money you may need to give your relationship with your dog the chance to thrive.
There are 200 recognized AKC dog breeds, each with their own look, behavior, and personality. Research the common and not-so-common breeds by visiting AKC’s website. Let your research take you to a particular breed’s parent club website (a parent club means that breed’s national club) and learn about that breed’s history, purpose, and disposition. There are also lists of recognized breeders and members of that breed that may be eligible for rescue. Once you decide to look for a puppy of your own, AKC Marketplace can connect you with a responsible breeder.
Responsible Purebred Dog Breeders
Responsible purebred dog breeders are committed to that breed and its welfare. Responsible breeders should ideally be members of that breed’s national club and should be educated and accountable on their breed’s health status and adhere to their parent club’s (or national breed club’s) recommended health tests.
A responsible breeder will ask you important questions about your lifestyle, living conditions, and expectations. They may not have a puppy or dog for you at that moment, which can signify that they breed very selectively for quality and not quantity. They may be willing to put you on a waiting list or refer you to another responsible breeder.
Breeders who have shown commitment to their breed and adhere to all the recommended breed-specific health checks by their breed’s parent club are designated as “Breeders of Merit” by the American Kennel Club.
Finding a Rescued Dog
If you prefer to acquire a rescued dog from a shelter, you still need to be honest with the shelter staff about your lifestyle, living conditions, energy levels, and expectations. Responsible shelters should be asking you those questions. A good shelter also wants to get the best possible match for their puppies and dogs.
If they are not asking you questions about your lifestyle, living conditions, and personality expectations or giving you accurate information, be wary. This is especially important when getting a young mixed-breed puppy or an older dog with their own history. It’s important to understand why they ended up in the shelter so that you can make an informed decision as to whether that is a dog for you, and if necessary, take steps to deal with any challenges the dog may have had.
If you have a connection with and love for a particular breed of dog but would still like to rescue a dog, most parent clubs have breed rescue groups that are notified if a dog coming into the shelter is of their breed. With funds donated by that breed’s club, local member volunteers go get that dog from the shelter and place it in a foster home until it can find their forever home.
The Bottom Line
Before getting a dog, do your homework, and be honest and realistic with yourself and whomever you’re getting the dog from. That way you’ll have the greatest chance of getting the best match and a true loving companion for you and your family for life.