Published: May 10, 2017  

Last updated: July 18, 2024  

What Dog Should I Get? There are so many choices, so many dogs ready to be rescued. You may have been searching online with or getting ready to head over to your local humane society. 

But how do you choose your perfect dog? What type of dog or breed is the best for you? We all want that perfect dog, right? 

How to Adopt the Perfect Dog for You

How to Choose and Adopt Your Perfect Dog for Your Family

First things first, there are no perfect dogs. No perfect humans for that matter. But there is a perfect dog for YOU.

Finding the best dog for your family is crucial for a happy ending.

As a foster home for dogs, I’ve seen too many sad stories of dogs being returned because they had too much energy, or they didn’t get along with the other family dog, or worse case… the dog bite someone! And trust me, not one of those people adopted a dog with any intention on returning the dog.

If you have kids, make sure to read: Best Dog Breeds for Families with Children

Why I Don’t Recommend Taking a Dog Breed Selector Quiz

Some websites have an online dog breed selector quiz. The quiz will step you through some questions, then give you a dog breed that matches your answers.

In my opinion, these tests can be fun but don’t give accurate results. Especially if you plan on adopting a mixed-breed dog. These breed specific quizzes do not give the entire picture.

When adopting a rescue dog, the dog’s breed is usually a guess and almost always a mix of several breeds. Fun fact: our adopted dog, Ginger is actually a mix of five breeds! Click here to find out what those breeds are.

So let’s start by asking some questions to see what your perfect dog would be.

1. Why Do You Want to Adopt a Dog?

Really think hard about this question: Why do you want a dog? Do you just want a companion to hang out at home with you, or are you looking for someone to go hiking with or take long walks with? Are you looking for a playmate for an existing dog? Are you looking for protection? Or do you plan on doing agility with your dog?

Your answers to these questions will help decide the energy level of the dog that will be the right fit. A high energy dog is not going to want to sleep on the couch all day.

2. Have You Owned a Dog Before?

Having a dog as a child is way different than being the adult taking care of a dog. If this will be your very first dog as an adult, then adopting an easy-going type dog is recommended.

There are of course exceptions to every rule. If you work at a doggy-daycare, or you grew up with a dog trainer as a dad… then I’m sure you can handle any type of dog!

My daughter has learned so much in our time as a foster family and having her own dog as a pre-teen. I’m confident that when she is an adult, she’ll be able to adopt any dog personality she wishes.

3. What is Your Personality Type?

Think about how you would describe yourself. Do you consider yourself a strong leader or do you have a softer personality?

Match your personality with the dog’s personality. You don’t want a strong stubborn dog if you aren’t willing to stand your ground.

If you find it hard to say no to your human kids, how will you train and discipline a dog?

4. How Much Time Do You Have to Commit to Your Dog?

If you work 10 hours a day, then choosing a working dog such as a German Shepherd or Husky can be a recipe for disaster.

It’s not to say that you can’t own a dog if you work long hours, but a high-energy level dog needs a lot of mental and physical stimulation.

You need to be honest with yourself, and ask: after working all day, are you prepared to take your dog for a 2-mile walk?

Or would you prefer a dog that is willing to plop down on the couch with you when you get home from work?

If you are considering a puppy, do you have time to work on potty training him? Do you have the patience to work with your dog through the puppy stage, which can last up to a year? Then are you ready for the adolescence stage (1-3 years old), when the dog is going to test and push the limits of his boundaries?

Consider the time it takes to exercise, groom, and train any dog you adopt.

5. How Much Space Will the Dog Have to Play?

One question a lot of rescues will ask is about your backyard. Is your yard fenced? Some rescues won’t even adopt to a family that does not have a fence.

I personally do not agree with that rule. While it is nice to have a fenced yard to let the dog run around and go potty without worrying if he’ll run away, it’s not necessary.

Any dog can live in an apartment or house with little to no yard. If this is the case, then you will need to be prepared to exercise that dog to whatever his individual needs are.

Labrador retrievers are so popular, even lab mixes are the number one breed adopted at shelters. They are such an easy-going breed, but they are also very high energy. They need a lot of physical and mental exercise.

Even if you have a huge backyard, you should still plan on walking your dog every day. Learn why walking your dog is so important.

Two dogs sleeping together

6. Do You Have Other Dogs or Pets?

If you have another dog or cat at home, then you want to make sure they are compatible with each other.

When we adopted our second dog, Bear, I wanted to find a dog to complement Ginger’s personality. So Bear’s happy go lucky attitude balanced the energy in our home.

Learn how to introduce a second dog into your home.

7. What Are the Dogs Needs?

Narrow the search for your new rescue dog by considering the size, age, coat, and energy.

Size of the Dog

Consider the size of the dog that would be compatible with you, do you live in a house or apartment? Do you have a yard for the dog to run in? Do you have kids or other dogs or cats that the new dog will need to get along with?

Decide what size of dog fits your lifestyle. Do you have space for a large dog, or do you prefer a dog that you can pick up and carry around with you?

A larger dog equals more food to buy and higher cost of preventative medications.

Age of the Dog

Do you want a puppy, an adult dog or a senior dog? Each has their benefits and disadvantages. Consider what will fit in your lifestyle today, in 5 years, and in 10 years.

A puppy is cute and it can be a great experience raising your own dog, but puppies come with a lot of work… potty training, chewing, and obedience training.

The Dog’s Coat

This may seem like simply a cosmetic preference, but you need to consider the maintenance your dog’s coat will require.

Short hair dogs may simply need a bath once a month or so. But long hair dogs need to be brushed and trimmed regularly.

Certain coats shed more than others, even though labs have shorter hair, they shed like crazy! Trust me, I know this one for a fact

The Dog’s Energy Level

Consider the dog’s temperament, exercise needs, and working drive. What is the energy level of the dog you are wanting to adopt? Does it match your energy level?

If you plan on coming home from working all day, sitting on the couch and watching TV, don’t adopt a high-energy dog like a German Shepherd or Labrador Retriever.

Maybe adopting an older dog, one that is past that high-energy part of his life will better fit your lifestyle.

If you have a soft energy, then find a dog that matches that energy. If you are assertive and not afraid to say no, then you can choose a stronger dog.

Most working dogs need a strong leader, and if you aren’t okay with saying no to your dog, you should keep looking. Even many small dogs need a strong leader… just because their small doesn’t mean they can’t have a strong personality!

First Things I Need to Teach My New Puppy Basic Commands

A Note About Breed and Size

The Humane society or rescue groups don’t usually know what breed the dogs are. They make an educated guess by the look of the dog, assessing the body, ears, etc.

This is especially difficult if the dog is still a puppy. Puppies are very difficult to guess breeds unless they know the parents.

I’ve heard stories of people adopting a puppy, thinking it would only get to be about 30 pounds, and that puppy needed up being 80 pounds!

Are you prepared to accept that possibility? I’ve also noticed many rescues may classify a dog as a lab mix because that is what most people are searching for when in reality it is really not a Labrador at all.

Don’t put on blinders, do your research and be realistic with yourself.

8. Ask a Lot of Questions About the Dog Before Adopting!

Whether you are adopting from the humane society or a local rescue group, find out as much as possible about the dog you want to adopt.

The amount of information that you can get will vary. A dog that is in a shelter situation may not be able to be fully assessed since it is not in a home environment.

It can take several weeks for a dog to feel comfortable in its environment (read about the 3-3-3 rule), and really in a shelter, never really feel fully comfortable.

What I love about being a foster home for dogs, is that we get the opportunity to really get to know the dog before he gets adopted, allowing us to inform the adopters of all of the dog’s personality traits.

Make sure to read 53 Questions You MUST Ask a Rescue BEFORE Adopting a Dog. To help you remember what to ask, we have put together a worksheet with more than 50 important questions to ask before adopting your new dog or puppy.

A Decision of a Lifetime, Your Dog’s Lifetime!

You’ve made it this far, so I am confident you are on the right path of adopting your perfect dog!

Don’t ever feel pressured into adopting a particular dog, you have the right to say no and find the perfect match. Remember, this dog will be part of your family for the next 10-15+ years.

Do NOT make this decision lightly…. a dog’s life is on the line.

Adopting a dog should never be an impulse decision. Don’t ever adopt a dog because you feel sorry for him. If you aren’t the right fit, then he deserves to find a family that is.

About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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  1. To tell the truth, I have always wanted to get a dog because dogs are such wonderful creations which can provide you with warmth and care. Of course, it is really important to choose a dog according to your lifestyle and needs because you should feel a special connection with this pet. It is so cool that there are so many dogs in our world and every person can choose a dog according to his personality. Honestly, I have a very active lifestyle and I think that poodles are the best option for me because they are so cute. I really like small dogs and It is so comfortable for me to have a small dog who will be able to adapt to my rhythm of life, being my loyal friend. I can say that this breed of dogs has a great deal of advantages and it is so cool that they have a very high life expectancy. Poodles take 2nd place in the list of the smartest dogs and they are easy to educate.

  2. Thank you so much for providing this information; I had an adopted Yorkie for 8 years and he recently died (only 3 months ago). I have been struggling and having a lot of difficulty deciding about adopting another dog. I feel sorry for all the dogs that need homes but I really need to evaluate my readiness — emotionally and financially — to adopt a dog again. Thank you for letting me know it’s ok to say “no”.

  3. Before we raised guide and service dog puppies we fostered for one of our local rescues. It was a great experience and we always talked about doing it again, but we’ve been very busy with other volunteer activities.

    By the way, the training coordinators at our local Guide Dog school keep asking us to raise and train a German Shepherd puppy for their program, but like you we know the high energy level of GSD’s and stick with the Labs and Goldens.

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