*Updated 3/26/2020* Due to the current coronavirus pandemic shelters are in need of foster homes and forever homes. Shelter staffs have been significantly reduced and pets have had to be surrendered because of loss of income. See below for the steps to consider when adopting a dog and help find these pups a forever home!


6 Things to Consider When Choosing a Dog


Now that we’ve entered 2020 some people may be thinking, “THIS is the year I’m finally going to get a dog!” It can be tempting to impulsively choose the cutest, trendiest or most interesting breeds, so it’s important to consider a number of factors before choosing a dog. Just like choosing a date, compatibility is much more important than looks or preconceptions!

1. Your Current Lifestyle

The most important question to ask yourself before choosing a dog is if you have the time and money to own one. The cost of a dog (veterinary care, food, supplies) is roughly $1000-1500 per year, and even more if the dog needs a walker/daycare, training, grooming or extra medical care. Dogs also require a lot of time and attention from their families.

choosing a dog
Mixed breed littermates Annie, Sergeant Pepper, & Zora photo courtesy of See Spot Rescued

2. Ages

When adopting a puppy (under six months), you know the dog from a young age, and can shape them into the kind of pet you want. However, puppies require a lot of work, and their personalities may slightly change as they mature. Adolescent dogs (6-18 months) have more of their adult personalities, but are still young, frisky and prime for learning. Adult dogs (2-6 years) know who they are and are typically housebroken, calmer, and easier to care for. Senior dogs (7+ years) are usually low energy, housebroken, and have a lifetime of pet experience, though they may have more health concerns than younger dogs.

3. Energy Level

Energy level has a big impact on how well a dog will fit into a person’s life. High energy dogs such as Australian Shepherds and Huskies may be beautiful and impressive, but if you don’t plan to spend many hours a week training, entertaining and exercising your dog, they may busy themselves by tearing up the couch and barking all day. Lower energy dogs such as Bulldogs or Basset Hounds are happier with a few short strolls (which they may decide require a nap mid-walk!) and are otherwise content to sit on the couch. Appearance and size is not always equivalent to how much exercise a dog needs either. Jack Russell Terriers may be small, but are very high energy, and despite their love of short sprints, Greyhounds are quite lazy.

choosing a dog
Lola the Basset Hound

4. Health & Grooming

While many think health is only a worry when dogs are older, many purebred dogs have genetic conditions that are costly and make the dog’s life more difficult. French Bulldogs and Cavalier King Charlies Spaniels are fun and make great city dogs, but they are prone to many health problems. When seeking out a breed predisposed to medical conditions, it is imperative to ensure the dog is healthy and has healthy parents, or that you are prepared to care for a special needs dog.

The intensity of a dog’s grooming needs must be taken into account when choosing a dog too, as grooming is not only about keeping the dog pretty, but healthy. Dogs with long hair such as Pomeranians and Shetland Sheepdogs shed frequently and require regular brushing. Non-shedding breeds such as Poodles and Yorkies, as well as many hybrid or “designer” mixes require not only regular brushing, but trips to the groomer for haircuts every 6-8 weeks. It’s important to note that any “doodles” must be majority Poodle to not shed, and also require said regular brushing and haircuts. Thankfully, groomers and veterinarians are in no short supply in Jersey City, check out your options on everythingjerseycity.com!

choosing a dog
Harry and Brutus the Standard Poodles photo courtesy of Connor James Barry

5. Training & Personality

Training your new dog is a necessity, and a dog’s breed type and personality may dictate how they match with their new family. Labradors and Bichon Frises are eager to please and make a good choice for novice dog owners. Independent minded breeds like Shiba Inus and Akitas are challenging, and best adopted by more experienced families. A dog’s tolerance and comfort with other current or future members of the household such as children and other pets must be taken into account as well.

Kryos the Shiba Inu, Kaya and Kaytto the Akitas courtesy of Devir Zivan

6. Where to Choose Your Dog

Dogs of all ages, sizes, and temperaments are available for rescue in Jersey City, including mixed breeds, purebreds and designer dogs. Liberty Humane Society and See Spot Rescued are JC based, but there are hundreds of other rescues in the area with foster dogs and alumni living locally. Shelters like Liberty Humane, Animal Care Centers of New York, and Best Friends Animal Society enable a potential adopter to see a large variety of breeds when choosing a dog along with affordable adoption fees. Private rescues such as See Spot Rescued, Muddy Paws, The Sato Project, Rescue Dogs Rock and Pupstarz may give a better idea of how the dogs function in a home environment, though they can be choosier about adopters. People hoping for a purebred dog can find specific breed rescues through websites like Petfinder.com. For those who are considering rescue, I encourage you consider dogs who may be otherwise overlooked—seniors, bully-breed types, and those with special medical or behavior needs.

Laurel from Liberty Humane Society photo courtesy of Arati Patel

However, rescue isn’t for everyone, and breeders are another option. It’s important to remember that NO reputable breeder ever sells their puppies to stores, and many farms in Lancaster, PA are commercial breeders commonly known as “puppy mills”. ALWAYS visit your breeder and never order the puppy from a website, as Internet pet sales have no legal regulations. Purchasing puppies from stores, unscrupulous breeders and the Internet not only contributes to animal cruelty, but can result in medically or psychologically compromised dogs. A good breeder will ask the potential family many questions about themselves and their home, provide health records (genetic and vaccinations) for the pup and parents, be willing to introduce you to the mama dog, and prove they keep the dogs in a sanitary environment.

You & Your New Dog

Aegi the Maltese and EverythingJerseyCity.com mascot owned by our editor Leslie Victori was a “hard to get adopted” dog. Leslie discussed her own experience as a new dog owner, “Aegi is 13 years old and we adopted him 8 months ago, He is mostly blind and deaf, has severe arthritis, a spinal cord issue, diabetes insipidus and separation anxiety. It sounds like a lot, and sometimes it is a lot, but for us it just works. He is the sweetest boy. I take him to work everyday and he sleeps under my desk, he is super chill. He gets along with our cat, other dogs, other adult humans and kids. He’s never aggressive and in 8 months I’ve only heard him bark one time. Aside from him needing to take a few pills in his food everyday he is the perfect companion for our lifestyle.” Leslie goes on to say, “I think a lot of people would have thought my husband and I would have adopted a more active, high energy dog since that is what our lifestyle is like. But I love showing people that Aegi comes hiking and biking with us all the time. Even the grandpup loves to feel the wind in his hair!”

The first step when choosing a dog is the research, and after reading some articles or books, and consulting pet experts you are on your way to becoming a responsible dog parent. I wish everyone the best of luck in expanding their family with a new furry friend and hope you enjoy all Jersey City has to offer for dogs and their humans!

Photo courtesy of Leslie Victori
Tracie Koehnlein
Author: Tracie Koehnlein

Tracie is an animal shelter worker who loves books. When she's not working for or talking about animals she may be writing or binge watching fantasy shows and movies.