Deciding to add a dog to your home is an exciting step, but taking some time to really examine your situation can help you find the right pet match. You likely have an idea of what kind of dog you'd like, maybe a smaller dog or a long haired dog, perhaps even a particular breed or mix. A great place to begin is Petfinder. This website allows you to search for available animals in your area by specific criteria (animal, age, size, and gender). The site presents results that include a photo and introduction for each animal, as well as contact information for the shelter offering the dog for adoption.
Prefer to start off in foot? You can also locate shelters and vets within a specified distance from your zip code by using this site.
As fun as browsing these adorable faces can be, adopting a pet is a commitment that shouldn't be taken lightly. Consider the costs of owning a pet--are you financially prepared to take on the expense of food, toys, regular vet check ups and shots as well as the often unexpected costs of treating illnesses or injuries?
Next, consider your lifestyle. For example, if you work away from home all day, it probably isn't the right time to adopt a puppy who needs plenty of supervision and potty breaks every 3 hours or so. Be realistic about your situation and find a dog that is a good fit. While you might think, "If I get an active dog, I'll finally get around to taking up jogging!" that approach might be as realistic as starting a diet in order to start liking vegetables.
Be sure the new dog would get along well with all your family members. It's a good idea to have the dog meet every member of your family, including current dogs, whenever possible.
If you are interested in a specific breed, try contacting breed rescues. It is important to learn about breed traits for either a purebred or a mixed breed, but also keep in mind that every dog is an individual. For that reason, you should meet the dog in person. While you can fall in love with a face online, it is the whole dog who will be moving in. Be wary of groups wanting you to agree to a dog without having the opportunity to take her for a walk.
Finally, while the floppy ears or yellow eyes may be a draw, remember that the most important thing will be the dog's personality. While you likely can't help being drawn to a particular look, be sure to learn as much as you can about the dog's temperament, characteristics, preferences, and habits. Shelter workers and volunteers are great resources, as they get to know the dog as an individual during his stay there.
Be patient--the right match could take a little time, but true love is always worth the wait.