Blind Dating in the Dog World:
It seems like fate. One day, while at a
kennel or an adoption, you see him. He’s everything you ever wanted in a dog:
the perfect breed, size, age and appearance. He’s your own personal Brad Pitt of
the canine world. You look into his eyes and realize that you are in love.
Maybe Brad will want to race around when you need to relax, or maybe he’ll be busy exercising his canine couch potato skills when you want to go running. Worse yet, maybe you’ll start thinking that Brad isn’t quite the dreamboat you thought and wondering if he’s wishing he was with another owner, looking into her eyes. Maybe Brad will start to feel like an old roommate you once had: a nice enough person, but not always the best match for living together.
And maybe you’ll remember another dog you saw the day you met Brad, not quite so young, not quite so pretty and maybe even a breed you never thought you’d like. And maybe you’ll think about how that dog might have been a better choice in many respects than Brad.
How to Determine the Right Dog for You
Applying a condition like “love at first sight” when adopting a dog is dangerous unless you are a professional dog trainer or handler. Just like with people, appearance is not the entirety of what a dog can offer and romanticizing things like temperament and breed characteristics based on appearance or inaccurate information is a common mistake.
To locate the right dog for you, first you need to determine what sort of dog you want. Not breed, or size or age, but temperament and personality. Do you want a quiet dog or a boisterous one? If you want a quiet dog and choose a boisterous one, you may be setting yourself up for a disappointment when you come home and want to relax, not play. If you choose the quiet one, and want to work out the day’s stress with some wild doggie games, you may find it is not as much fun as you had expected.
Do you want a dog who enjoys a challenge, or
one who prefers to have a routine? If you choose a dog who enjoys a challenge,
you may find they require more mental stimulation than you had realized. If you
want to teach your pet tricks but choose the dog who prefers routine, you may
find that he is not as excited about learning as you had hoped.
Adopting the right dog is often about looking at your life with a broad eye and considering the reactions of everyone who will interact with the dog regularly. Are there other pets in the house? Children? Adults? What kind of dog do you think they want? Don’t discount what they tell you. Even if you consider it “your dog,” things will go more smoothly with a dog who pleases everyone instead of just you.
But I Only Want a Specific Breed, So I “Know” the Dog
Being realistic about what personality traits and interests you are looking for in a dog is the first step to selecting a dog. The second step is letting go of your preconceived notions. If you met a lovely person over email or phone with all the attributes you would want in a close friend, would you stop talking to them when you discovered that they were a different race, color or culture than you? No? Then don’t rule out dogs based on broad criteria like age, breed or gender if they have all the other attributes you had hoped to find.
Broadly based assumptions that deem a dog “unsuitable” based on age, breed, size or gender foster the same kind of generalized “them or us” attitude that allows for social unrest and hate crimes among people. If nothing else, that should make you question it as a reliable source of guidance for determining what type of dog you should adopt. When in doubt, seek out reliable resources (your vet is a wonderful place to start) for breed information and compare what you learn with the dog you are considering. Remember also that not all dogs resemble their breed standards, just like not all people resemble the culture from which they originated.
Once you know what you are looking for, speak up! Don’t hesitate to contact your local rescues and describe your household and interests to see if they have a dog they might recommend to you as a possible match. Rescue workers have a chance to see past appearances, and they can be an extremely valuable resource when it comes to finding the right dog for your home.
Adopting a rescue dog is a wonderful thing, for both the dog and the family. To make sure it is a positive experience for everyone involved, be honest about what you expect from a dog and what you can deliver in return. If you choose wisely, you’ll have a devoted friend for life and the satisfaction of knowing that for him, you made all the difference in the world. And trust me; it won’t take long before you’ll realize that you DID adopt the Brad Pitt of the canine world…he just looks a little different than you expected.