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How to Select the Best Dog Possible for Your Home



Many years ago I read a book about selecting the perfect canine companion. The concepts in that book altered my life forever, because it changed the way I made pet choices.

Instead of selecting a puppy simply because it was cute, I “tested” each puppy considered for adoption. I was able to choose just the right puppy, one compatible with my family and home needs.

The tests helped to reveal certain aspects of the puppy’s temperament and personality. Selecting a new puppy based upon test results instead of how adorable it was helped ensure that the adoption would be a happy and successful experience, both for me and the puppy. We would fit together like a glove!

The first things to consider before choosing a new family dog are the basics: where they will live, home and yard size, ages and temperament of family members, family lifestyle, and characteristics common in certain breeds of dogs.

For instance, a Great Dane might not make the best companion for someone on the o, living in a one room kitchenette on the fifth floor of a high-rise apartment building.

A family with small, active children might not provide the best environment in which to introduce a new pit bull.  Larger, active dogs like Labrador Retrievers appreciate lots of yard space to exercise, while small breeds such as toy poodles and Yorkies would make pathetic guard dogs, restricted to a dog house in the back yard.

In addition to family, home, and location considerations some breeds of dogs, such as Irish Setters and Shelties, are generally speaking “higher strung” than a Golden Retriever or Basset Hound – both breeds renowned for their “low key” easy going temperament. And, breeds such as German Shepherds and Malamutes usually have a natural protective instinct that makes them more suspicious of strangers.

Another thing to consider before acquiring a new dog is “why” one is being sought. As companionship for adults, or as a playmate for children that will help teach responsibility?  Will the new family pet be trained as a hunting dog, or to provide protection as a guard dog?

Once these questions have been considered, and certain sizes or breeds that do not fit the criteria omitted as possibilities, you are ready to start looking for your new dog.

When it comes to selecting an adult canine, making the right choice is much simpler than it is for a puppy.  What you see is basically what you get; size, appearance, temperament and personality. By spending a little time together, you get a general idea as to whether or not that particular dog would fit into your family, or adequately meet your needs.  

Puppies are an entirely different matter.  A puppy changes as it grows.  But whether you purchase a puppy from a pet store, adopt one from an animal shelter, or respond to an ad in the newspaper, you can still pretty much determine which pup is best suited for your home by implementing one or more of the following tests:

  • Kneel down in front of the puppy.  Calmly and gently stroke his chest with one hand while lifting his head to make eye contact. Once the puppy has relaxed, stand and walk away. Does the puppy lunge after you, jumping up on your leg and nipping at you, demanding more attention?  This type response suggests a dominant personality.  Or does he merely sit and watch you walk away?  This usually indicates a more passive personality.  A puppy that happily prances along side of you might be middle of the road, neither too dominant nor too passive.
  • Kneel down in front of the puppy.  Pet and play with the puppy until he responds, then turn him over on his back.  With one hand on his tummy, hold him down.  What does he do?  Does he frantically thrash about, resisting and nipping at you?  Again, this would suggest an aggressive personality.  Does he fail to resist at all? He most probably is very passive.  Or does he struggle somewhat, then lay still once he realizes he can not free himself? This type puppy will probably grow to be “middle of the road;” neither too aggressive nor too passive, but submissive to his care giver.
  • Kneel down facing the puppy. Calmly stroke the puppy’s head and chest while lifting his head to make eye contact.  Talk to him in low, friendly tones. While he is in the sitting position, have someone hold him in place while you walk 8-10 feet away from him.  Turn to face him and kneel down again.  Repeatedly call to the puppy at the same time the other person releases their grip on him.  What does he do?  Does he immediately lung toward you, jumping and nipping? Does he playfully run to you, without jumping? Does he approach slowly or hesitantly, with his head down and his tail between his legs?  Or, does he fail to come to you at all? Each response reveals something about the puppy’s degree of aggression or submission.
  • If you seek a well rounded family pet, one that will be both a good companion for adults and a playmate for children, as well as provide protection around the home, a “middle of the road” response is what you should be looking for.
  • An all adult household looking for a canine family member for the main purpose of providing protection might want a puppy that responds somewhat more aggressive.
  • While more passive responses might be good in a puppy obtained solely as a playmate for small children, totally passive, hesitant responses usually indicates that the pup won’t train as easily as one with more confidence.  He will also be more easily intimidated by people and other dogs.
  • Taking the time to consider “why” you want a new dog, your house and yard size, family lifestyle, and canine breed temperament will keep you from barking up the wrong tree when selecting a new family dog. And performing these simple tests will help you select the puppy with the best qualities and temperament for your home and family. 
  • By choosing wisely you are sure to enjoy your new canine family member for many years to come

Copyright © 2005, Ian White

Author Ian White is founder of This extensive online directory includes listings by private breeders, kennel clubs, and occasional hobby or family breeders.  Those seeking dogs can locate and match with appropriate breeders. automates the matching of dogs for sale with puppy wanted entries, with daily email notifications to all parties.

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