Picking the right dog for you and your family can be a challenging task, but there are a few simple steps to follow that will greatly increase the chance of the perfect match.

Surprising a loved one or the family with a dog is a wonderful gesture but a really bad idea. To succeed at dog ownership there must be unity in the pack. If you want a dog but your wife doesn’t the dog will be stuck in the middle and trust me, he will know he is not totally wanted in the home.

Once the family has agreed to get a dog and you want to sit down and make sure everyone knows what it means to be a responsible pet owner. Giving him daily exercise, cleaning up after him and making sure he gets good training and vet care are essential. Love is not going to take him out at 3:00 in the morning; you are, so really make sure your family knows the details.

Now that you are ready to pick a match, here are some things to help:

Step 1 – Asses your families overall energy level and be honest. Do you spend weekends camping and hiking or is movie night on the couch more your speed.? Dogs come in very high, high, medium and low energy levels. Do your research on the dogs you think you want first to understand what breeds have what levels of energy. The trick is to pick a dog whose energy is equal to or lower than yours.

Step 2 – Rescues and shelters have every type and age of dog there is. Enter the breed you want along with “rescue” in google and several should pop up. Rescues usually have a description and if the dog is in a foster home there may be a detailed behavioral description about kids, cats, and other dogs. Mutts rule!

Step 3 -When you meet the dogs you have picked there are several things to look for. Don’t confuse excited with happy. Too much of anything is never good so you want to look for middle of the road types of vibes from the dog you want to take home. How the dog moves tells you how he feels. Quick movement is a quick mind that needs lots of stimulation.

Step 4 – Take your time and meet lots of dogs. Once you have found “the one” the best thing is to set up a foster to adopt situation to see how the fit works out.

Step 5 – This is the most important step in bringing home a new dog. Go for a very long walk and give him limited attention. This will burn the nervous energy he will have the first night, and it will create an instant trust in you. Don’t make a fuss and bring him inside, put him in a crate or small room, give him food and water and ignore him the rest of the night until he needs to go to the bathroom.

The reason for this step is to let the dog unwind and decompress. Think about it from his point of view: He is put in a car with a new group of excited people who are oohhing and aahhhing in his face. Now he is taken into a home he has never smelled and more people show up and grab at him for some more oohhing and aahhing. What an overwhelming message to send a dog who you just met, and who has yet to learn he can trust you.

Keep it mellow for the first few days and he will tell you how he feels about his new home. If he is relaxed and enjoys interacting with the family great, you can go right to life as normal. If he seems uncertain or unsure thats okay too, he just needs more time to adjust. Its the same with foster kids, some are resilient and some are quite fragile. Take your time and be patient, this is a life long commitment.