Five tips to track down your canine soulmate

There is a right and a wrong way to pick a puppy. The process is a little like dating. The few who find fulfillment in love are those who use their hearts and their heads. There is a special kind of nirvana when a person connects with their canine soul mate. They weren’t fooling when they called dog “man’s best friend.” But such unions don’t happen randomly. A little careful preparation will go a long way. And to simplify your search, we have five suggestions.

TAKE ONE! That is, take stock.

This is the time to look around you, before you even start thinking of bringing home Buddy. Let’s consider your life from a dog’s eye view. Who lives in your house? Are there members of the household under twelve or over seventy? What about other pets? Analyze the chemistry of your household for a moment.

What words describe your family? Are you fast-paced and active, or low-key and friendly? In case you didn’t know, getting a dog is a little like adopting a child. They have their own personalities. Think about what personality would jibe best with your bunch.

Next evaluate your living space. Dog owners exist as apartment dwellers or cattle ranchers. While the size of your pad shouldn’t ultimately determine whether you’re canine-compatible, it should at least be a consideration.

Take Phoebe for example, a spoiled golden retriever who lives comfortably in a tiny Brooklyn brownstone. The arrangement works because her owner is an active walker and doesn’t mind taking three or four spins around the dog park every day. And don’t think that just because you have a huge backyard means you’re best fitted for a border collie. Even hyper-active dogs will mope around waiting for someone to play with.

Whatever your accommodations, if you rent or belong to an HOA, you may need to check the pet policy before entertaining the notion of getting a dog. (Many renters allow dogs, but limit size or breed.)

While looking at your house, consider your neighborhood. What is the noise level on your street, and how close are your neighbors? Your dog won’t be living in a bubble. Social by nature, dogs react to the environment all about them.Now that you’ve inspected your digs, how much time do you spend there? Is there someone home all the time? In this day and age that’s highly unlikely.

Look at work and school schedules, and don’t forget holidays! How often do you vacate the property? Do you plan on taking the dog with you, or do you need to check out the local kennels?

Before you move on to take two, it would be prudent to anticipate future lifestyle changes. How likely are you to move? To get married? To break up? To have children? Dogs don’t disappear when your life takes a turn. You don’t want to end up leaving Poopsie at the pound just because you didn’t think that far in advance.

Dogs live ten to fifteen years or more. While it’s impossible to know for sure, it’s wise to consider where you think you might be.

TAKE TWO! Take advantage: There has never been a better time to learn about dogs!

The world is at your fingertips. A thousand on-line quizzes can quickly narrow the field and recommend breeds that would fit your particular lifestyle and limitations. Your search just got a thousand times easier. Jot down the top ten, and do some research.

First, look at pictures. What do you think? Is that a face you can love? Physical attraction, after all, does factor into finding a soul mate. Read as much as you can about the breeds you feel drawn to. Don’t stop at the internet.

The library and the pet store have an endless variety of books, magazines, and videos to assist you in your search. Even better, talk to other dog owners. Ask them what they like (and don’t like) about their dogs.

Go to a dog show, sit in on an obedience class, or call a local breeder. Take advantage of every resource you can to learn more about the breed.

TAKE THREE! Take interest: Get involved in the dog community.

Make it a family affair. Volunteer at a local shelter. This gives the kids a chance to experience the responsibility of a dog. You may even consider fostering a dog looking for a home.

Attend adoption days; ask the neighbor if you can play Frisbee with her whippet. All this interaction with dogs will allow you to see quirks that may not have been so apparent in your reading.

Hidden expenses should also begin to be evident. What kind of equipment is needed to keep this kind of dog happy? Make sure to ask about health and grooming-related costs. Different breeds have different needs.

TAKE FOUR! Take your time.

Now is not the time to rush into a relationship, but you are getting closer to a commitment. Start putting out feelers. If you plan to get a pup from a breeder, find out when the next litter is due.

If you have your heart set on a particular breed, but want a mature dog, you may want to look into breed rescue groups. They have some great animals that already have some training, and are a fraction of the price. And don’t forget that sometimes those mixed mutts lead the pack!

Spend some quality time in the kennels. Many shelters allow a few days or a week adjustment period before tying the knot.

TAKE FIVE! Take cover.

You think you’ve found the one? Hurray! Just remember that every relationship takes time and effort. Sign up for obedience classes and arm yourself with a little more patience than normal. Take it easy on yourself, knowing that if you’ve taken our advice, you’ll be just fine!

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