Choosing the Best Dog for You and Your Life

By Robert Cabral
Professional Dog Trainer and Behavior Expert
Wag! Advisory Board Member

I’m always fascinated when I talk to people about their dogs and why they picked a particular breed. More often than not, the answer is they were attracted to the way the dog looks — and that may not be the best reason.

Looks aren’t everything!

Just like picking a life partner, choosing someone based on only their looks could lead to a less-than-perfect relationship. Instead, when helping friends or clients choose a dog, I always stress the needs of the dog and the expectations of the human. Consider these questions: 

  • Are you active or laid back?  

  • Do you love to exercise or prefer lying on the couch watching Netflix? 

  • Are you at work all day, do you work from home, or do you travel for business?

  • Do you live in a small apartment, on a farm, or someplace in-between?

These are important points to consider. Remember, the dog you adopt now will likely be with you the next 10 to 15 years.

Traits to consider when considering a dog

We can break dogs down into three categories that every potential dog parent should evaluate before choosing a certain dog to ensure the pup aligns with the family’s wants and lifestyle. 

1. Drive – The amount of energy dogs have

2. Size – How big they are and how much room they need

3. Personality – How they get along with other dogs and other animals

These three traits can help you determine which dog breed is best for you and your family. For example: 

  • If you’re a person who lives on open land and doesn’t have many other animals around, you’re lucky. You can choose almost any dog and have a good life. The rest of us have to make some choices. 

  • If you live in an apartment in the city this usually limits the choice of dogs to ones that can live well in a smaller space with intermittent walks and have a moderately easy-going personality around other dogs and people.

  • People who want a hiking partner and can dedicate time to frequent walks, training and stimulation like training classes and such are better served by high drive dogs like Aussies, Border Collies, and Shepherds. 

  • If you’re just looking for a good pal that will hang out with you, but still be up for a casual stroll, I like Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Dachshunds, and Miniature Poodles.

  • Some people just want a couch potato to serve as a confidant and best bud, who is happy with a few short walks, and a car ride to the coffee shop every once in a while. If that’s the case, you’re probably best served by an English Bull Dog, Frenchie, Bichon, Maltese and such.

Remember, too, that while a dog’s breed can, as a general rule, be an indicator of a dog’s overall personality, there are always exceptions. There are dogs in every breed that are outliers. These dogs are the exceptions, but they exist. 

Mutts are also paw-some options

Another great option is visiting a local shelter to meet some fabulous mutts. These dogs often have unique, loving personalities and can make amazing pets. Shelter employees and volunteers can also help lead you to the right pet for your family. And giving a dog a second chance at life is pretty special!

Are you ready — really ready?

Finally, and most importantly, be ready for the commitment. Getting a dog should not be a spur of the moment decision. Take your time, do your research and commit when you’re ready and have the time to devote to your new family member. After all, you don’t want to break a dog’s heart!