Thinking about adding a new furry member to your family? Well, there's not time like the present. There are multiple thousands of dogs across the country who are just waiting for a loving home and the chance to be your new best friend. Let's do it! 1. Do Your Homework This is the most essential activity you can take to guarantee a successful match between you and your new companion. If you've never owned a dog, you'll need to do lots of research to understand which breeds are best suited for your activity level and lifestyle. Make sure to factor in the dog's age– puppies and young dogs generally require more effort than older dogs. 2. Find an Expert Talk first with knowledgeable shelter employees about what kind of pup best suits you, especially in terms of temperament. Allow them to point you in a direction. If you're an animal lover, every set of eyes looking at you through bars will tug at your heart. Keep your brain engaged as well so that you make the best choice for both you and the dog you adopt. 3. Remember, Things Aren't Always What They Seem Not all small breeds are lap dogs. Some small dogs are very high energy and require lots of daily exercise. Some large breed dogs have low exercise requirements and can be content living in relatively small quarters. That's why research is so important -- especially since dogs found in animal shelters will have characteristics and temperaments that cross a variety of different breeds. 4. Choose Wisely Once your research is done and you're at the animal shelter or rescue facility, choose wisely, not impulsively. Of course, it's difficult it is to enter a shelter and let your brain, not your heart, lead the way. And it's true some adoptive parents know the minute they lay eyes on a certain dog that she belongs with them. 5. Know What You're In For Be aware that well over half the dogs at any shelter have behavior problems that caused their previous owners to give them up. This isn't the fault of the dogs. They depended on humans for their socialization and training, and someone along the way let them down. Some perfectly behaved dogs do wind up in shelters, but don't count on finding one. 6. Be Willing to Spend the Time Because your prospective canine companion will likely come to you with issues, you should be prepared to put in the time and effort required to help him overcome them. Behavior modification using a positive reward system is the key to encouraging good behavior and extinguishing undesirable behavior. You may be able to accomplish this on your own, or you may need the help of your vet or an animal behavior specialist (American College of Veterinary Behaviorists; Animal Behavior Society). Just please commit to do it. Be the one human in your dog's life who doesn't let him down.