How to Choose the Right Dog for Your Family
January 2010

When thinking about getting a new dog, it is very important that you learn a little bit about the breed or breeds that you are interested in. Too many times people get a puppy because they think it is cute only to realize later that the dog does not fit their lifestyle. Unfortunately, dogs brought into inappropriate homes often end up being re-homed or placed in shelters. In order to avoid this scenario, we strongly urge you to do some research BEFORE looking at puppies. Perhaps the two most important issues to pay attention to are temperament and energy level. Temperament refers to the dog’s natural predisposition. Does the breed tend to be outgoing or reserved? Is it eager to please or independent? If you have a very robust social life, frequently entertaining visitors, then a breed that is aloof with strangers, such as an Akita or Chow Chow, may not be the one for you. Breeds that are very independent, like most terriers, might require a little more coaxing to convince them that sitting on command is a good idea. Energy level is often directly associated with exercise needs. If you like to hike or run, then an active, athletic breed such as many herding and hunting dogs would make a good partner. However, if you are more sedentary, then a pug or another toy breed would be appropriate.
In addition to learning about a breed’s temperament and energy level, understanding what the breed was originally created for can give you a good indication of how a dog might behave. Coon hounds and beagles, bred to hunt small game like raccoons and rabbits, often have their noses to the ground and regularly bay loudly. Border Collies and Australian Shepherds will sometimes nip at people’s heels in an effort to herd them together. Finally, some breeds get along better with cats and small animals than others. Therefore, if you have small pets make sure that you get a breed that is not naturally aggressive to them. Certain types of hunting dogs, like pointers and spaniels, might not be safe around your pet birds and various types of terriers might be aggressive to rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs.
Now we realize that breed background only gives you part of the picture. There are always exceptions to the general characteristics of every breed. Thus, certainly there are terriers that are willingly to please and spaniels that will let your parakeet ride on its back. In any case, doing some research with your lifestyle in mind will go a long way in assuring that the dog you bring home will be the perfect companion for the whole family.

The following websites should get you started:

American Kennel Club website: The AKC website has basic breed information on all the dog breeds they recognize (certain rare breeds and new breeds will not be included).

United Kennel Club website: The UKC also has basic breed information. Though not as detailed as the AKC site, it will include information on various rare breeds.

Breeder Retriever: . This site not only has written descriptions, but also has suggestions for books to read on each breed and a quick-reference breed information chart.

Once you're ready to adopt a dog, please adopt from your local shelter.  Visit our local pets in need at