This article was originally posted in September of 2011. In honor of Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, we’re reviving it and hope it will help in your search for a new canine companion.


by Julia Levitt

Fifteen years ago I tried to adopt a Pomeranian—you know, the little fuzzy 5 pound dogs that look like little foxes?

Julia walking dogsI began calling reputable breeders—again and again. After 1 year of trying I finally gave up. I lost count of the breeders I spoke to but their response was a variation on this theme: “I can’t sell you a dog. You have big dogs and they might hurt the little dog.” At the time I wrote it off to over-protectiveness on the breeder’s part, but have since discovered there is a wisdom in suggesting that several questions come into play when choosing the right breed, and it’s right to ask them.

When you are considering adopting or purchasing a dog it is very important to match your energy level and life style with the breed you choose. Both you and the dog will be happier for it!

Time to ask yourself some questions and be honest with the answers:

  • Are you a high energy or low energy person?
  • Are you a strong person (physically)?
  • Are you an older or younger person?
  • Do you have kids?
  • Do you have cats or other pets?
  • Do you entertain (have company over) frequently?
  • Do you live alone?

Let’s address each point with some specific examples:

  • Don’t get a Newfoundland if you are a runner. These dogs were not bred to run but swim. They love cold weather and as they were bred to live in cold weather have a very thick oily coat that sheds water. They also shed enough to make a blanket and are known to drool by the bucketload.
  • If you are not a physically strong person a boxer is not the dog for you. You say you are high energy? Great! This is a breed that can go all day. Can you?
  • I find that as I get older a strong, high energy dog is not for me.
  • If you have kids you want to make sure  the dog you choose is compatible with children.
  • Keep allergies in mind. Many dogs shed and this is NOT the kind of dog you can have living with an allergic person. Please avoid the heartache that comes when a parent gets a dog that causes a child’s allergies to worsen.
  • When we adopted a retired racing greyhound, the dog was checked for compatibility to cats. “Be warned,” the adoption group said. Kitty is fine in the house but outside all bets are off. If the cat runs in front of this swift breed the dog will always be the quicker one. Remember they were bred for speed—greyhounds can run up to 45 miles an hour.
  • A happy, laid-back older dog is good in the presence of others.
  • A hyper dog, a nervous dog, an aggressive dog—these characteristics  require training. Are you willing to make that commitment?
  • People who live alone are a big challenge when it comes to choosing a breed. They must get their dogs out to be socialized. It is essential. Dogs that are not used to people coming and going can develop all sorts of unwanted behaviors.

Please don’t take the adoption of a dog lightly!
To be a responsible pet owner, don’t be afraid to ask yourself some hard questions. You’ll be happy you did before you bring in a new four-legged family member.

Julia the Dog Behavioralist

Julia Levitt is the founder of In Harmony Dog Training and Ann Arbor Animal Hospital’s “Miss Harmony” for dogs! She is available to help your dog be a better canine citizen, and answers questions about Canine Behavior here on our blog from time to time.

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Ann Arbor Animal Hospital is a locally-owned animal hospital operating for over 90 years in Ann Arbor, MI.