Select your dog carefully to set up for success

Every dog deserves a chance to have a comfortable life with humans or other dogs. or both. Are you the best person to give this individual dog its chance?

Look for evidence about the dog’s emotional, behavioral and physical condition.
Ask questions about the dog’s history.

What do you expect to get out of the relationship?

  • Companion to go everywhere with me
  • New dog to fit into family life
  • Partner for competitions
  • Satisfaction of saving a dog’s life

How much are you willing to put into the relationship?

  • Time
  • Effort
  • Money

The hard part is entering a long term relationship without a chance to date first and get to know each other.  Consider the following options.

Fostering until you find the one for you

  • Hone your skills in observing dog body language and communicating with a clicker.
  • Help others make a good match.


  • Going through the emotional trauma of letting go later.
  • Putting in lots of effort for a dog that moves on.

Going through a rescue group (often breed-specific) that will let you try out the dog for several weeks before making that long-term commitment

  • Have a better idea of whether you can hold up your end of the bargain (be honest – there may be a deal breaker).
  • Ongoing support from the rescue group
  • Know the dog has another chance at a good home through the rescue group.


  • Emotional trauma for you if it does not work out.
  • Monetary expense in addition to time and effort for a dog that moves on.

Getting a puppy to raise and train yourself

  • Ensure that your dog has a smooth upbringing.
  • Ensure that the dog has early experiences appropriate for your lifestyle.
  • Bond at an early age.


  • Many hours of time during first 6 months.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Need to plan schedule around puppy.
  • Expenses for management equipment.
  • Expenses for multiple vaccines and veterinary visits.

Falling in love with the looks or needs of a dog in distress


  • Know that you have given all you can to make life better for another being
  • Provide a forever home for a needy dog that might otherwise be miserable or lose its life


  • Put the dog’s needs before your own
  • Put the dog’s needs before those of your family and friends

Pros & cons (to all!)

Some behaviors are based in associations and others are based in consequences. Those based in associations are often harder to change because the dog does not believe it has any control. It just knows that every time it notices A then B follows.

To find out more about a dog, try establishing a new association. How quickly can the dog do this? If not fairly quickly, the dog may have deep-seated beliefs that will take a lot of effort to change.

Dogs can learn quickly that an action from them is likely to have certain consequences. They can also learn quickly that the consequences may change and that different behaviors produce the consequences they like.

To find out more about a dog, try showing the dog some consequences of its behavior that are different from the ones it expects. If the dog readily changes its strategy to get what it wants, then the behavior is consequences-based and the dog will easily learn new behaviors.