Consider your general personality
Are you a strong leader that can handle a breed that may challenge your
authority, on occasion, but that will power through physical and mental
challenges to mitigate your disability?
Are you likely to lose focus when experiencing an emotional or
psychiatric episode and need a dog that will not take advantage of your
perceived weakness in leadership at those times?
Are you dedicated to maintaining a dog’s discipline in training or do
you need a dog that will not take advantage of you, even if you are
somewhat of a marshmallow regarding upholding high standards?
Consider your disability or your needs.
Does the dog need to be a certain size to help steady you when you are
walking, or to get under your desk at work, or to pull open a heavy
Does the dog need to be a good retriever?
Does she need to have a very calm and stable temperament to mitigate
your anxiety or panic disorder?
Does he need to be highly alert in order to inform you that the phone is
ringing or there is someone at the door?
Consider your ability to care for the dog.
Do you have the resources to pay for professional grooming on a breed
with a high maintenance coat (like a poodle, labradoodle, cocker
spaniel)? While the no-shedding quality of some breeds seems enticing,
they are also very expensive to maintain.
Will coat type and length have an impact on your ability to care for the
dog? Some breeds have low-maintenance coats that only require
bathing, and minor brushing. Other breeds have thick coats that
can matt and require frequent grooming.
Choosing a breed that has fewer general health issues means lower
veterinary costs as well as increased longevity in service to you.
Once your specific needs are defined for the dog’s behavior and
temperament as well as some basic physical attributes that you may
require for your SD, it is time to consult with a professional about
selecting the right breed or breeds. A professional can help define a
subset of breeds that meet your specific needs.
Finally, it is time to decide the source for your SD
Remember that the upfront cost of a dog or puppy is usually a small
fraction of the long-term financial investment required
High quality breeders are the best place to secure a SD because
They routinely screen their breeding stock for heritable conditions
They typically socialize their puppies properly
They provide excellent routine care, including high quality vaccines and
worming at appropriate intervals
They may offer young adults for sale that have been properly raised
Rescues & Shelters may have an acceptable dog
Do not expect to know the background of the dog’s health or environment
Many dogs in rescue have some behavioral issues that must be addressed
prior to beginning formal SD training
Typically, this is a very high risk investment
Low quality breeders / “backyard” breeders are an option
They often do not screen their dogs for heritable defects
They may not properly socialize the puppies, but sometimes they do a
good job at this
They may purchase inferior quality vaccines and wormers
This is a medium risk investment