Choosing the Right Dog

A Dog is a Friend for Life; Choose Accordingly!

We don’t get to pick our family members. You are born into a family unit with all the history, traditions, warts and all. Even our life partners are selected, carefully (hopefully). We watch for red flags, such as abuse or alcoholism, (being dramatic to make a point.) We hope to find a partner that we feel connected with, are attracted to, that we have things in common with, one whom we can spend the rest of our lives with, raise children with, vacation with, and grow old together.

Selecting a family dog needs to be as careful a selection as finding our life partner, after all they will live with us for 10 – 16 years. We will raise our children with them, vacation with them, be sick with them, nurse them back to health and they will grow old with us. We need to watch for the doggie red flags, such as intense shyness or aggression. Most doggie issues don’t go away with time or love, nor do they magically get better.

The red flags in dog selection are much different than when we are selecting a partner for life, but the consequences can be equally as dramatic.

If you already have children you want to find a dog or puppy that wants to be with the children, one who chooses to be with the children. Years ago I helped a woman select a dog for her young family. She had three active little boys, 6 years, 3 years and 6 months. I was bringing out young dogs from the shelter for her and her 3 year old to meet.

The first three dogs raced around the large training center, checking out all the smells, not paying any attention to Adam, her 3-year-old son. They were environmentally stimulated. The fourth young dog, about 5 months old, was a typical, non descript black dog. As she entered the training room, she looked around and spotted Adam sitting on the floor. He was a bit bored and tired with this whole process.

This little black dog slowly walked right up to Adam, sniffed him, wagged her tail, gently licked his face then she became very soft and inviting and curled up right next to him. Even I was a bit shocked. Adam had love written all over his face. I asked him to get up and move away and sit down again. Sally, the black dog, got up too, followed Adam and curled up next to him again. She continued to follow him around. It was a match made in heaven.

Sally is now 14 and has been a trusted and loving companion to Adam and his two brothers her entire life.

Be sure you do your research on breeds and what the dog is hard wired to do. Jack Russell Terriers are cute, small dogs, but remember they were breed to get vermin; chase rats down holes and bring them out, dead. They are high energy, intense, tenacious dogs who require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. They are not the proverbial couch potato.

Greyhounds, however, tend to be serious couch potatoes. They are sight hounds, breed to sprint while chasing down rabbits. Ex-racers can make great family pets. They require a good walk each day, a fenced in yard and a large comfortable couch to sleep on!

Dogs bring unconditional love to our entire family. They lower blood pressure, heal wounds and keep us warm on cold days. Carefully research breeds, make sure you are a good match and have the capacity to meet your dog’s instinctual needs.

For more on adopting the right dog for your family, read It Takes More Than Love.

Certified Professional Dog Trainer Denise Mazzola is the owner of Denise Mazzola’s Everything Dog. She has been training dogs and people for over 25 years. Everything Dog provides services to clients throughout the Monadnock Region of NH by offering private lessons, group classes, board and train, and day training services.

Denise has been published in the trade journal, Chronicle of the Dog, writes a monthly column for the Monadnock Ledger Transcript and hosts a monthly “Ask the Trainer” radio show on WKBK. Denise lives in Keene with her life and business partner, Amy Willey, CPDT-KA, and they share their home with three dogs and three daughters. For more information, visit

Denise Mazzola

Denise Mazzola


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