Regan and Teddy

I am always interested in how people wind up with a certain dog or type of dog. Some pet owners find their perfect dog as the result of a carefully planned search; others discover their canine soul mate in more serendipitous ways. In each of these situations, the desire for a specific dog is often a direct call from the heart.

The most seamless transitions I’ve seen occur when pet owners have thought carefully about what kind of dog will be a good fit for their life. It is important to have an understanding of what to expect from a certain breed (or mix of breeds) and what type of home that breed might be best suited for. Factors like energy level, sociability and grooming and shedding are particularly important. Of course, dogs of the same breed will have variations in temperament and personality, but having a basic idea of the breed’s characteristics can help potential pet owners determine if a specific breed or type of dog could be a good fit for their household and lifestyle.

The Perfect Mismatch

There are no obvious right choices when it comes to selecting a pet — a dog who seems like the wrong choice to an outside observer may be perfect for the pet owner. This was exactly my experience.

Several years ago, I signed up for a training school. I was looking to adopt a dog, and I needed a small canine who could easily fly cross-country with me for my certification. I toured rescues, searching for a highly trainable dog, ideally one who was young, driven and energetic. In the end, I adopted a toothless, 12-year-old Pomeranian named Teddy, who had never had a day of training in his entire life.

From the outside, Teddy didn’t appear to be a particularly good choice for an aspiring dog trainer whose certification hinged largely on her dog’s performance — or, for that matter, for a single mother with limited resources. Defying conventional wisdom, though, I listened to my heart and chose Teddy as my training partner and as a companion for my young daughter. He was a success in both of these roles. Teddy may have been the smallest and oldest dog in the training program, but he excelled at training, and our connection was close. More importantly, Teddy provided the stability my daughter needed during a transitional time in her life. He was the perfect dog for my family.

Though it is important to think about lifestyle when selecting a dog, other influences will often guide our selections. In particular, childhood memories of a certain type of dog can be very powerful. An elderly couple I know absolutely shocked me when they adopted a Vizsla puppy. Vizslas are known for having high exercise and training requirements; an older couple with physical limitations would not normally be an ideal fit for such a tightly wound young pup. But when I talked with them about their choice, I learned that they chose this dog because the man had a fond remembrance of a Vizsla he had growing up. Despite their limitations, the love the couple had for their dog was truly touching — particularly because that love helped them find creative ways to meet their active dog’s needs.

When the Dog Chooses You

Sometimes, despite all the research and planning, the right dog chooses us. I met a couple who told me that when they started looking for a dog, they had a very specific type of dog in mind. Their search was thwarted, though, when they fell for a 14-year-old Labrador they met at the shelter. Though he wasn’t the dog they were looking for, they found that they couldn’t stop thinking about him. The next afternoon, a thunderstorm hit, and the husband rushed immediately to the shelter to fill out the adoption paperwork. He didn’t want “his dog” to have to endure the storm alone. Clearly, the dog needed to be at home with his new family. Despite all of their planning and research, they just knew that this was their dog.

What if you’ve done the research, and you’re waiting with an open heart, but you’re still not finding that perfect pet? It might be time to change your perspective a little. In some cases, the right dog may have less to do with what the pet owner wants and more to do with what’s best for the dog. A volunteer at Homeward Pet Animal Adoption Center told me that he found his dog simply by looking for the dog who needed him most. When he visited the shelter, he asked for the dog who had been there the longest and was likely to be the most difficult to adopt out. This led him to a boisterous, three-legged Malamute mix. Now, months after that first meeting, the duo are near inseparable.

It’s good to know what you’re getting into when you adopt a dog, and it is important to choose a pet who will fit into your family and your lifestyle. But that may not be the dog you are imagining when you start your search. Have faith — when you find the right dog, you’ll know. And so will he.

More on Vetstreet: