Getting a dog? Consider these factors to make sure you're a match


There are plenty of cliché things that people say about dogs: that they're man's best friend, that they love you unconditionally, and that behind those cold noses, there are warm hearts. But while dog owners might feel a bit silly about repeating those old chestnuts, they'll also admit they're absolutely true. Before you get a dog, doing a bit of background research is important, but keep in mind that you also have a valuable resource right in your community - the local animal shelter. Shelter dogs are often the ones that are "invisible" - out of the public eye and therefore, out of mind as well.

Whether your household has one person or 10, a dog can fit right in; but not every dog fits with every home. At shelters across the country, the pet experts on the staff can help match you with an adoptable dog, based on your lifestyle and the dog's personality and traits. Because you can meet shelter dogs before bringing them home, it's easier to make the perfect puppy love connection. When you're ready to start looking for the right dog for you, consider these tips: * Be honest about your lifestyle. Everyone has a different schedule, and dogs have schedules of their own. If you're away from home a lot, consider dogs that have lower energy levels and minimal exercise demands. However, if you love to go for a run in the morning and a long stroll every evening, you might be a good match for a dog that has a bit more of a get-up-and-go demeanor. * How much maintenance? Some dogs have wash-and-wear coats that don't require grooming, while others need a nice bath every so often. Some will need to be combed and still others will need haircuts to keep their coat in check, or to be more comfortable in the summer heat. Opt for a dog with a coat that matches the level of dedication you're ready to put into grooming, keeping in mind that it's not too much of a hassle for any dog. Also, remember that you'll need to care for his toenails and teeth to keep him feeling his best. * Find a personality match. Some dog owners like their pups to be right on their lap as much as possible, while others prefer a companion who is a little more independent. While breed can have some effect on this, it also largely depends on the individual dog. Meeting a dog at a shelter will let you spend a little time together to see if you're a good combination. Big or small, shaggy or sleek, the dog that's right for you is out there waiting. With a bit of forethought and a few one-on-one meetings with available dogs, you'll be well prepared to find the dog that will be the companion of a lifetime. And when you do, it won't be long before you're telling everyone that your dog really is your best friend.

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