Originally published on ArlNow.com 

There are several avenues you can use to get a dog. Dogs are available through breeders, rescue groups and animal shelters. All of these options have good dogs available. But before you go to get a dog, you will need to have an idea of what you are looking for.

The first thing to consider is whether your lifestyle is better suited to a puppy or an adult dog.

Puppies usually require a much bigger commitment in the beginning to teach them all of the important lessons they need to know in the first two to three years of their lives.  The upside of getting a puppy is that it will grow up alongside you and naturally mold to your lifestyle. The down side is the time commitment and the unknown nature of its personality. Even a lovely puppy can develop behavioral problems through no fault of the owners.

An adult dog requires a lot less time right from the start, since they are already socially and physically mature. This means they are (usually) house trained and crate trained, do not require midnight bathroom breaks or detailed socialization plans. It also means that the are a bit more set in their ways and may not adapt as easily to every type of household. The upside is that you have a much better chance of knowing what you are getting right from the beginning. A three year old dog who loves kids and other dogs will probably remain relatively friendly.

The next thing to consider is that type of dog do you want? Large or small? High energy or couch potato? Highly social or super independent? These are all serious considerations and breed characteristics can help answer some of these questions.

Once you know what you are looking for the most important thing you need to consider is the temperament of the dog. When you meet a dog or a puppy, they should willingly and happily approach you and show evidence that they enjoy your company. Shy dogs may be very reserved and will work better in a quiet home with no young children. Any signs of aggression are an indication of major trouble.

Unfortunately, the thing that drives people most strongly, is the last thing that matters.

The last thing you should consider is what the dog looks like. I know, I know, that’s almost impossible. But it is true. The temperament and behavior of the dog is so much more important. Only once you are sure the pup has the characteristics and temperament you want should you even consider the cuteness factor.

WOOFS! offers free pre-adoption counseling services to help you find the best dog for your lifestyle and family.  There is nothing we love better than making a great match between a dog and its new family.