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The essentials

  • Consider your lifestyle — The perfect dog breed for you will be heavily dependent on your habits and routines.
  • Understand what you want in a dog — Some dogs require a great deal of grooming and activity while others are lower maintenance.
  • Breeder versus adopting — Both rescues and responsible breeders can offer you the best options for your furry best friend.

You’ve come to the decision that you want a dog. Congratulations! 

Whether you’re a first-time dog owner or are adding to your pack, choosing the best dog breed for you and your family can be a daunting choice. But, don’t fret because we’ve got everything you need to know about the process and steps for picking a dog to bring home.

1. Make a list

Owning a dog is a big responsibility, and it’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. A great way to determine if you and your lifestyle are conducive to pet ownership is to make a list of questions about the life you’d lead with your pup. 

  • Do I have the financial resources to take care of a pet (routine vet appointments, grooming, etc.), including any emergencies that may come?
  • Do I have ample time to dedicate to walking, playing, and grooming? 
  • Do I have the resources and time to help train my pet or seek out professional help?
  • Would the pet I want fit into my lifestyle and home?
  • Do I have a plan for my pet when I need to be away from the house? On vacation or business travel?

If you answer no to a majority of the questions, then perhaps it’s worth it to reevaluate your decision or consider a different type of pet.

2. Big dog or small: that is the question

When choosing a dog, one of the first considerations is what size of dog you want. Oftentimes people have personal preferences, but outside considerations are important, too.

For example, while a large dog like a Great Dane or Newfoundland could feasibly have a fulfilling, healthy life living in a studio apartment, it isn’t ideal. Bigger dogs tend to be a little more laid back than small dogs, but they still require ample exercise and space.

So, when considering what size dog, run through some of these questions and scenarios to determine which might fit best with your life: 

  • Do you live in an apartment? What size? Do they have size restrictions for dogs?
  • Do you have a fenced-in yard to make going out easy?
  • Are you very active and want a dog to work out with you?
  • Do you travel a lot and want a smaller dog that can join you?

3. Defining your expectations for a dog

The more you can verbalize exactly why you want a dog, the better. For some, a dog is a friendly face to wake up to and a companion to spend time with. For others, their dog is a work and activity partner. 

Take some time to think about what you’re looking for in a dog beyond looks. Dive deep into the type of personality, behaviors, and activities that you want from a dog — that’ll help you narrow down the breeds that will fit. 

For a family-friendly dog that is relatively low maintenance, you might consider a Labrador retriever. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a running partner, you’d want a dog that is higher energy like a Doberman pinscher or German shorthaired pointer.

4. Consider the cost

While you can plan for many things, sometimes the sheer cost of owning a dog over its lifetime can come as a shock. 

According to a study by Synchrony, the 15-year cost of a lifetime of care for dogs comes in at around $20,000 to $55,000. This number can vary depending on the unexpected like emergency veterinary needs and health conditions, but the little things add up, too. 

Things like pet insurance, flea medication, leashes, dog beds, toys, food and treats can all add up and that isn’t including any doggy daycare, pet sitting, or dog walking you may outsource.

If you find that the cost of a purebred dog is too much of an upfront financial strain, consider looking into adopting a dog from a shelter.

5. Choosing purebred or mixed-breed

Now, we’re at the stage you’ve been waiting for. When it comes to choosing between a purebred or mixed breed dog, there are more considerations than just cost. Let’s explore various types of dog breeds and what they’re best suited for:

Mixed-breed dogs can be the best of both worlds by combining traits from multiple breeds to create a dog that is as unique as you are!

It’s also important to note that some breeds are more likely to suffer from certain health conditions than others. Siberian huskies can be predisposed to autoimmune disorders while German shepherds can easily get hip dysplasia (much like other large breeds). 

That leads us to our next step.

6. Learn about the breed

You’ve narrowed down the breed(s) you’re interested in. Now, it’s time to research. 

If you purchase your puppy from a responsible breeder, you’ll have some idea of their temperament, size, and looks before ever bringing them home. Let’s explore some means of gathering information on the breed you’re interested in:

  • Understand their group. Working group dogs have different skill sets than sporting dogs while herding group dogs act much differently than hound dogs. 
  • Watch a dog show. This can be a great opportunity to see the breed in action.
  • Go on the AKC website. The American Kennel Club is a wealth of information on dog breeds from people who know and work with them most. 
  • Ask an owner. It never hurts to ask someone who currently owns the breed you’re interested in about the pros and cons of the breed.
  • Breed health. Some breeds face certain health conditions more than others. It isn’t a guarantee that your Beagle will get epilepsy, but it’s best to be prepared for that possibility.

Is it better to adopt or buy your next furry friend?

Deciding between adopting or buying your dog from a breeder is an extremely personal choice and is typically influenced by many factors like cost, lifestyle, energy level, etc. While we always recommend looking into adoption, we understand that some people want a purebred. Let’s break down how to do both ethically. 

Whether adopting or buying a dog, know what you want: age, energy level, and size. 

When it comes to adopting a dog, scout out reputable rescues to see what pups they have that are ready to go home. Plus, there are breed-specific rescues that may have a purebred pup waiting for adoption! 

When buying a dog, you want to find a responsible breeder that is AKC-certified. These can be found through online research or a referral from your veterinarian or trusted friends. 

Reputable breeders won’t sell their dogs through pet stores or in any way that takes personal meetings out of the equation. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

No matter what dog you decide on, bringing home a new best friend can be an extremely rewarding experience and we’re happy to be here every step of the way with you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the #1 selling dog?

In 2024, the most popular dog breed is that of the French bulldog. But don’t fret, some of America’s favorite pooches like the Labrador retriever and Golden retriever are still on the list.

What is the most recommended dog to get?

It depends on who you ask! Many pet owners will recommend their dog breed to others simply because of how much they love their furry friend. It’s best to do your proper research on breeds when deciding what kind to bring home. 

The best dog breed for a family?

The best family dog is one that has an even temperament, energy level, and appropriate size. While there are plenty of dogs that would make great family pets , many consider the Labrador retriever to be one of the best. Beagles, golden retrievers, pugs, Irish setters, and Newfoundlands are also great options.

Best dog breed for a first-time pet owner?

The best breed for a first-time dog owner is the one that matches your energy and attention level. Essentially, which breed will fit in best with the lifestyle you have or will have soon. Mixed breed dogs can be fantastic companions for first-time owners, but if you’re interested in purebreds, the Bernese mountain dog, Bichon frisé, or Golden retriever can be great options.

What’s the best dog breed for me?

Determining what breed will be the best fit for you comes down to a few things like your lifestyle, what you want from a dog, and how much time you have to give to pet ownership. All dogs require lots of attention but some are more low maintenance in both their grooming and energy needs. From there, research breeds you’re interested in and know that a mixed breed from a rescue is always a great choice.