Choosing the Right Breed for You

This weekend, we’ll be at Meet the Breeds in New York. At this wonderful annual event, people come to the Javits Center to learn about different breeds. Here are some of the questions we ask if they are considering adding a dog to their family:

Do you want a puppy or an adult dog? There is no other joy in the world like a puppy will bring you, but the trade-off is housetraining, chewing your expensive leather shoes if you leave them laying around, and the need for training, training, training. Rescuing an older adult dog is one of the most noble things anyone can do, but you may be in for some vet bills if the dog has medical issues and you may find yourself having to un-do bad habits that were reinforced by a previous owner.

How about size?  If you live in a high-rise, small apartment with no outdoor space, a Mastiff is not be the dog for you.  If you have young, active children, a Maltese or Yorkie might not be the best breeds for your family. (There are exceptions to every rule of course.  Well mannered, gentle children who are providing with instruction and adult supervision may do just fine around Toy Breeds).

Coat type—If you’re the girl who is married to someone who hates dog hair on his socks, and you don’t especially like to vacuum, even though you love those blue eyes, a Siberian Husky or other furry dog with an undercoat that sheds, is not the breed for you. You would do better to choose a flat-coated or non-shed breed such as a Poodle. Some dog lovers think that a furry soft coat and curly Spaniel ears are the best part of having a dog and they would choose to not have a flat-coated breed.  There are some breeds that look their best when they are well-groomed. If you’re not prepared to learn how to groom a dog, then you need to consider if you can afford regular hair care for both you and the dog.

Lifestyle—are you active or quiet?  Do you like being indoors or outdoors? What kind of time can you give to a dog?  Do you have any physical/mobility problems?

If you are a jogger who wants a pal to run with, as cute as they are, a Basset is not for you. If you are in your senior years, don’t care for the outdoors, and just want a furry friend to enjoy your evening television shows with, a herding or sporting dog is not your best choice.

Is the time right to get a dog?  Holidays seem like the natural time because families have time off from work. With the hustle, bustle, and irregular schedule, this can be a traumatizing time for a new pup.

Temperament– there are some breeds that are generally more active (think of what they were bred to do…as in, Border Collies can run ALL DAY herding sheep) and some breeds that are more quiet.   Know also that within an individual litter, there are puppies who are more active and puppies who are quiet and more submissive. A responsible breeder who knows dogs will help you select the puppy that is the right match for you.

No matter what breed you choose, all dogs deserve training. The AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program for puppies up to 1 year and the Canine Good Citizen Program are training programs that focus on responsible dog ownership and well-mannered dogs. (

Do you have any other questions or advice for potential new puppy/dog owners?

About Canine Good Citizen

AKC Canine Good Citizen Director, Author of the AKC's official CGC book, "CITIZEN CANINE"
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2 Responses to Choosing the Right Breed for You

  1. These are excellent suggestions Mary and at an appropriate time as many families are planning to purchase puppies during the holidays. As you noted, this is not the best time to make such a long term purchase and investment in their new family addition. It can be quite a traumatic time for a little puppy.

    In addition to the above tips, here are 10 more suggestions that people should consider before purchasing/adopting a puppy or dog:

    1. Consider doing a consultation with a trainer prior to picking up the puppy or dog to ensure the home environment is ready for your new family addition. It will make the transition easier for both you and your pup.

    2. Decide which adult in the family is going to be responsible for the major care of the dog and don’t place this expectation on a child or teenager. It’s great for them to be involved but the parent must realize that the responsibility must lie with the adult.

    3. Where will you take your dog for continued training as training is a life long need for the dog. A puppy that has learned it’s basic commands will face more challenges as it becomes a teenager and will need ongoing training even for things it once knew 100%.

    4. Who will your pup or dog’s veterinarian be?

    5. Where are 24 hour emergency veterinarians located in case your pup becomes sick outside of your veterinarian’s normal working hours.

    6. Develop a list of places to take your dog to for appropriate socialization with other puppies, dogs, people, locations and floor surfaces.

    7. Would your dog benefit from attending doggie day care during your absence?

    8. Where will you get your pup or dog from; a respected humane society or animal shelter that does temperament testing of its’ dogs or a professional breeder? Do not buy your puppy from a pet store as most puppies there came from a puppy mill where the cost of the business comes before the health of the dam and her litters. If purchasing from a breeder ask to see both the sire and the dam.

    9. Pick up the puppy between 8-9 weeks of age so that your puppy has had adequate socializing time with it’s mother and littermates. This is when the puppy learns bite inhabitation.

    10. Investigate your dog’s nutritional needs and select a high quality dog food.

  2. I agree with your comments and I wish everyone who contemplates getting a dog will take notice.
    We all, offer sound reasoning to people about taking their time and getting professional advice before buying a new dog, but not many would be dog owners take any notice. Many do not think further than their noses and cannot see the problems of rushing into buying a puppy.
    And now round about Christmas time, that is when the puppy mills off load a lot of their stock onto unsuspecting pet owners who should know better.
    We need to get the message out there among the general public. There is only one solution and that is licensing and microchipping of all dogs. This would make everyone responsible for their pet.
    The governments have to legislate to stop the suffering of abandoned dogs.

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