In the Sales profession it's understood that buying decisions are typically based on emotional factors rather than on logic and reasoning. In other words, people tend to let their 'heart' make the decision for them rather than their 'brain'.
While pointing this out isn't intended to be judgmental, it is good food-for-thought when you consider the number of companion dogs being given up on, abandoned or surrendered in our communities. Unfortunately it happens all the time, because "cute" can wear off pretty quickly after people realize there's much more to a dog than just it's looks.
So with countless breeds to choose from, how will you choose which breed is the right one for you?
The Type Of Breed
Most people pay little attention to the purpose behind a dog's breeding, and that has been know to cause problems. For countless generations, breeds have been purposely developed to fulfill working roles for their humans, with the majority of these roles involved hunting, guarding or herding.
Just because most dogs are now viewed as house-pets rather than working dogs, it doesn't mean that their breed traits and instincts have been wiped away.
Due to this it's important that you research your breeds of choice to determine if you have what it takes to fulfill the breed's physical and psychological needs. Failure to do so is the big reason for so many behaviour problems in recent years.
The Size Of The Breed
The size of the breed should be suitable for your ability to handle, as well as to live comfortably in your living space. I've experienced quite a few people who have dogs that outweigh them, so it can be difficult (or impossible) for them to handle their dogs in certain situations.
Do you have children? Think about the dynamics that the size and energy level of the breed will have within your family. A large enthusiastic dog could turn young children into bowling pins and, of course, a delicate small dog could be accidentally injured by children.
Exercising The Dog
I believe that, ideally, the energy level of your chosen breed should match (or be slightly lower than) your own energy level because a sufficient amount of exercise is very important for the physical and mental well-being of your dog. If you're not sure about the level of exercise required for a particular breed don't simply guess - ask owners, breeders and breed-clubs, your veterinarian, or other people who would be able to offer an educated and knowledgeable opinion.
Tip: Don't be fooled into thinking the amount of exercise is determined by the size of the breed. Just one example is the Jack Russell Terrier breed which has a much larger energy level than its physical size might suggest.
Tip: Having a good sized (and fenced) yard is not a substitute for structured exercise - especially for higher-energy breeds which need more intensive daily exercise. This can include playing ball in the yard with your dog, taking a long walk, a trip to the dog park or going swimming, etc.
Grooming and Maintaining The Dog
Do you have the time, energy and patience to properly groom your dog? Depending on the breed you choose you might need to spend time every week to properly groom and maintain your dog - it's health can depend on it.
When you think of 'grooming' what's the first thing that comes to mind? Most people would probably say "brushing" and that's a good place to start - but grooming doesn't necessarily end there. The basics include brushing the coat, checking for fleas and ticks, clipping nails, checking the paws/pads, cleaning eyes, cleaning ears (the inside of the ears), cleaning teeth and bathing.
If you don't feel that you have the time, energy or ability to take care of your dog's grooming and maintenance needs you can choose to take your dog to a professional groomer, but make sure you determine the frequency and costs involved in advance.
Tip: If you are considering a breed with a lot of folds or 'wrinkles' in their skin such as a Bulldog or Shar-Pei, it's important to regularly inspect and maintain the fur and skin in those hidden areas.
Tip: If you are considering a 'hairless' breed such as the Chinese Crested or American Hairless Terrier you will need to maintain their skin to prevent damage by heat, sun and cold.
The Age of The Dog
Once you have determined the breed of dog that is best suited for you, you should consider the age of the dog. If you choose a puppy you get the benefit of not inheriting any existing bad habits or behaviour problems, but you will need to provide proper housebreaking and obedience training to ensure you begin your new relationship in the right direction.
If your choice is to adopt an adult or senior dog you may not have to worry about housebreaking or obedience training, but the largely unknown history of the dog is something to keep in mind. Ask lots of questions about the dog you're interested in - including how long the dog has been with the owner, where the owner got the dog, any medical issues, name of its veterinarian, how well socialized it is, etc.
Get To Know The Dog
You need get to know the dog as much as possible before committing to adoption - spending 10 or 15 minutes isn't enough to get a proper sense of whether the dog is going to suitable for you and your family. The last thing anybody wants or needs (especially the dog) is for things to go badly and then have the dog sent back after only a couple of weeks or months.
For a start, everyone who will be living in the house with the dog must be introduced and given a chance to interact with the dog on their own. Whenever possible, after a successful first meeting try to book a follow-up meeting in your home and, again, give everyone in the house a chance to interact with the dog in the home environment and neighborhood.