Which dog is right for meYou love playing with your friend’s puppy. You’ve even let your neighbor’s dog spend the weekend with you when his owners are out of town. And now, you have your own place; ane able t support a dog; and are ready to commit to the housebreaking, training, and cleaning that bringing home a dog of your own requires.

Now, where to look? What kind of dog to get? Male or female? Young or old, or somewhere in between?

First, consider what your ideal dog would b you might? ho’s happy to laze away on the couch day after day, or someone you can go for a daily jog with? Are you looking for a future agility champion, or the next four-legged social butterfly of the neighborhood? These traits aren’t necessarily exclusive to each other, but some dogs are more fit for an active lifestyle than the couch-potato life, for example.

Also consider what size dog you’re comfortable handling-large or small, each has their specific needs. Small dogs may need stairs to get onto the bed or into the car, and coats in a cold winter. Large dogs need larger (and more expensive) crates, more food, and can more easily reach the kitchen counter.

If you have a particular breed in mind-ask yourself why? Do you like how it looks, or do you want a dog that was bred for a particular job? Do you want a young puppy with a good idea of what to expect in terms of looks and size once your pup is full-grown? If you’re only criteria (and this is good criteria when looking to adopt a dog) is that it fits the bill of companion, most any dog do-mutt or purebred. With a committed owner, any dog can grow into man’s best friend.

And last, but certainly not least, what age of pup are you most comfortably able and ready to handle? A puppy is, of course, adorable, but they need to go out every few hours while housetraining, will need a potty break during the eight-hour work day, will need their set of puppy vaccinations, and will need to be socialized with other animals and people, and be trained. An adult dog would also do well with training (and old dog can indeed learn new tricks!), and with an adult dog, you can get a pretty good idea of their personality before you bring them home. An adult dog will often already be housebroken, and may already have learned how to walk well on leash and some tricks, too!

The best place to find all of what you’re looking for? Your local humane society. Your local animal shelter gets every age, size and temperament of animal in you can possibly imagine-mutts, purebred-they get it all. Tell the adoption center staff what you’re looking for in a dog, and they’ll be able to steer you in the right direction.

Once you’ve found a potential good fit for your lifestyle, take the dog for a walk around the shelter grounds. Get to know him, and let him get to know you, to see if it’s a good fit for both of you. If you think it’ll work out, let everyone in the family, pets included, meet the new dog to make sure this match will be a good fit for everyone involved. And it doesn’t hurt to check your homeowner’s insurance or renter’s policy before you bring home a new furry friend, either.

Not every cute, furry face is a good match for your family, and that’s okay. Your local animal shelter wants the pup to be as happy in his new home and you are to welcome him into the family. And once you’ve found the perfect furry friend, congratulations, you’ve adopted a friend for life!

By Rachel Leisemann Immel