Why is THAT the Puppy I WANT!?

What does my Dog Choice Mean for my Life?

Cattle Dog

Why do we choose the dogs we do? Whether you’re a dog owner, a trainer, or a rescue worker, it’s valuable to understand this. There IS one moment when you choose the dog you will spend years with. What made YOU pick out the dog that you have now? Was it the black splotch over his eye? Was it the fact that she looked just like the last dog you had? How about that it had to be a boy, and this was the last boy in the litter? Or was it that you’ve always had Golden Retrievers and wanted another, and it had to be cream colored, too?

It’s no secret that most of us pick our dogs based on looks.

As humans, we are highly visual, and we base a lot of decisions on the way things look. Sometimes it works out for us, and sometimes it doesn’t. Just because a dog is gorgeous doesn’t mean he will be well behaved. Just ask show dog owners. Their confident, energetic dogs are notorious for naughtiness.

What about breed bias?

Most of us have a breed preference, or at least a size preference. Maybe we only want “real” dogs and that means they have to be over 50, or 60, or 100 pounds! Or maybe your version of a “real” dog is one you can pick up, snuggle into your cheek, and share your pillow with.

There are practical limitations. Many of us are limited by the rules of our landlord or community. Perhaps your choices are restricted by your allergies (hypoallergenic doodle, anyone?).

Looks and limitations aside, we have to be careful to judge every dog as an individual.

PugChoosing a dog based on her personality (behavioral tendencies) is a rare thing, even among knowledgeable, educated dog professionals. Putting personality over looks takes a certain wisdom (usually acquired after owning a dog or two) and those who do it reap the rewards. If you want to find a personality that will compliment your life (instead of complicate it), be honest about your lifestyle and the kind of dog that fits into it. If you’re an athlete who likes to spend lots of time exercising with your dog, or you want to teach her tons of tricks, a sporting or herding breed will probably be great for you. But, will she still be a great choice in a few years, if you get married, have children, or get promoted at work? Only if you still carve out the time for her.

You can always find a few sporting or herding dog individuals that have minimal exercise needs.

But, that doesn’t fit with the average for these breeds. A rare, calm example of an active breed can still be great for you if you get married, have a few children, and get promoted. But, it’s unlikely that you’ll find her if you choose based on looks alone!

Whether you are getting a puppy from a breeder or adopting an adult from a shelter, no one ignores looks completely. After all, we live with dogs to enjoy having a beautiful animal brighten up our living rooms, bedrooms, and yards every day. Our advice is to keep looks near the top of your list, but make sure you prioritize behavioral tendencies, and the dog’s likelihood to fit into your lifestyle. Your long-term relationship will succeed when you choose the dog whose behavior suits you most.  Besides, after a while, no matter which dog you have, you’ll think she’s the cutest thing on four legs!

For more on How to Choose a Great Dog for You, read the article by the same name found here.

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