Choosing a dog breed

The American Kennel Club, the oldest and largest registry in the United States for purebred dogs, recognizes over 150 different dog breeds. In addition, there are over 400 other breeds in existence, including rare and cross breeds. This can make picking a breed a daunting task!

In order to choose a dog breed that’s right for you, set aside any preference you have for a particular breed. First-time dog owners tend to decide based on appearance, which can be a mistake. You may like the looks of a breed, but the activity level, upkeep, and temperament may not be right for you.

The following questions cover some basic issues you should consider. The answers you come up with will give you an outline of what you want from a dog. Then you can compare your preferred traits to the breeds available and narrow the field of choices.

Remember: Don’t choose a dog breed on looks alone! Be honest with yourself and you’ll find the perfect companion.

How big do you want the dog to be?

Toy and small dog breeds can be less than 12 inches in height while giant breeds can grow to nearly 4 feet tall. The bigger the dog, the more it costs to care for him. Also, big dogs may not be comfortable in a cramped environment like a studio apartment.

How long do you want the dog’s coat to be?

The general variations are smooth, which is extremely short and close to the body, short, medium and long coats. The longer the coat, the more upkeep and grooming the breed typically requires. Also, dogs with longer coats shed more noticeably. Of course, the bigger the dog, the more hair it sheds as well.

How energetic do you want the dog to be?

Every dog requires regular exercise, but some may need a lot more than others. Look at how active you are and choose a dog breed that matches your general activity level. Working, sporting and herding dog breeds generally have the most energy.

How sociable do you want the dog to be?

Some breeds are very sociable and would do well with large families, children, or in homes where there’s a lot of people traffic. Other breeds are independent and aloof around strangers. Again, think about your lifestyle and expectations.

What traits do you want in a dog and what don’t you want?

Some things to consider include shedding, drooling, barking and howling (particularly true of Basset Hounds for instance), and doggy odor, which is more pronounced in dogs bred for water activities due to their oily coats.

Do you want a dog that requires more or less work to train?

All dogs are trainable, but some require more persistence on your part as the handler. This isn’t a gauge of intelligence, but of how willing a dog is to follow commands. Some dog breeds are ready to do your bidding, while others are independent and require more effort to train. If you enjoy a challenge, this can make the training experience more rewarding.

Once you’ve answered these simple questions you should have a basic grasp of how to choose a dog breed that’s right for you. You can use the characteristics you want in a dog to find and research breeds that are a match. Then you can begin to develop the necessary questions to ask a dog breeder in your search for the perfect puppy.

If you think you’ve found a breed that fits you, but you’re not entirely sure, you can contact a purebred dog rescue group associated with that breed to learn more about it. You may be able to temporarily care for one of their dogs while they try to find him a permanent home. It’s a great way to get hands-on experience with a particular breed.