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The Dog Lover’s Guide to Choosing the Right Dog

So, you want to get a dog. With so many different breeds, what dog is the right one for you?

Puppies are really cute but do your research to find the best one for you and your lifestyle.

Thinking About Getting a Dog? Dog breeds are very different from each other and dog personalities can vary even within the same breed. You want to make the best choice because you will share your life with your dog for a long time!

When you go to meet your new dog, take our guide with you. It’s a checklist that helps you identify the characteristics you want in a dog.

cute havanese puppy is leaning on a red heart
Havanese Puppy

Have You Ever Had a Dog Before?

If this is your first one, you might want to get a dog whose breed is easy to train and requires little exercise.

Some breeds that we have found to be easy to train include

  • The Havanese
  • Miniature schnauzer
  • American boxer
  • German shepherd
  • Pembroke Welsh corgi
  • Poodle
  • Golden retriever
  • Labrador retriever

Research the different dog breeds to determine what kind of dog matches your personality, lifestyle, surroundings and time availability. WHAT is that Doggie in the Window? talks about the different breeds.

American kennel club logo
American Kennel Club for dog breed information

The American Kennel Club (AKC) is an excellent resource for dog breed research.

They even have a dog breed selector questionnaire that will aid in your research to find the right breed of dog for you.

The questionnaire asks questions like:

  • What is your experience with dogs?
  • How much time can you put into training your dogs?
  • What is your home like?
  • Do you want to see dogs that are suited to your home size?
  • Do you have kids under 10?
  • What is your tolerance for barking?
  • What is your tolerance for shedding?
  • How large do you want your dog to be?

When you have answered all of their questions, they will recommend a few dog breeds for you and your lifestyle. You can read about the breed choices on their website.

What size dog do you have room for?

12 dogs large to small in size in a row
Size does matter!

Size does matter! A dog needs room to be a dog, move around, explore, chase balls, go potty, and lie in the sun. Your choice of size of dog will be affected by the size of your surroundings. You don’t want the dog to get bored and cause destruction.

For example, do you have a large house and yard? You might have an area that can handle larger dogs who want lots of outdoor spaces to play in.

Is your yard fenced? A fence will help keep your dog inside and safe, and out of trouble. You can always install an invisible fence to keep the dog inside the yard. These are wireless electric fences that sync with a collar the dog wears.

Do you have an apartment with postage-sized patio instead? You probably want to look at smaller dog breeds which will fit into the small surroundings. Sometimes dogs who do not need as much exercise are perfect for apartment dwellers.

What is your lifestyle like?

You want to pick a dog breed that fits into your way of life. Bringing a dog into your life is a big decision and you want to make the best choice for you and for the dog.

Consider these questions:

  • Do you work away from home for long hours?
  • Do you work from home?
  • Are you a single dog-parent?
  • Are there several adults in the home to take responsibility?
  • Do you have a family with small kids?
  • Are your kids older and independent?
  • Do you have elder adults living with you?
  • Do you travel a lot?

What do you want in a dog?

Do you want a dog that will go for long runs with you?

A silhouette of a man running with his dog with the sun setting behind them
Dog and man running in the sunset

Runner’s World worked with dog professionals to find out more about dogs and running. Among the twenty breeds they list, some of the best dogs for running companions include:

  • Weimaraners need large amounts of exercise and mental stimulation
  • German Shorthaired Pointers are hunting dogs and have high energy
  • Vizlas are up for any kind of running as long as it is fast and long
  • Parsons Russell Terriers (used to be known as the Jack Russell) need exercise to keep them out of trouble
  • Greyhounds, known for running the race track, will run with you for short distances
  • English Setters love to play while running for short distances
  • Golden and Labrador Retrievers have similar running styles and love long, slow runs
  • German Shepherds need vigorous exercise and love to run with you

Do you want a dog who just wants to sit on your lap and keep you company?

cute brown havanese puppy dog is lying on its back on a lap
Havanese puppy dog lying on a lap

Some smaller dogs do not require a ton of exercise and just want to be with you. And they fit perfectly on laps. We have three small dogs who think they own the house and all the furniture! ranks the top ten dog breeds to consider for your lap dog. Here are a few choices:

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are happy and affectionate dogs.
  • Havanese are little clowns who want to be with their people.
  • Maltese are mischievous and fun to be around.
  • Shih Tzu is just the right size for a lap.
  • French Bull Dogs (also known as Frenchies) are very easy going pups.

Do you need a dog for protection?

German shepherd dog police dog sitting next to a policeman
I’ll Protect You!

Training a protective canine is very involved and not for the inexperienced dog owner. Consider getting a very large dog as a deterrent instead. You might be getting just a very large and friendly family dog who looks scary!

These are very different types of dog breeds! You definitely want to get the right breed for you and your lifestyle. You can use our Dog Lover’s Guide to Choosing the Right Dog For You to help you decide on the perfect pup.

How much time do you have?

clock with arms and legs is running
Time never stands still

Do you have a lot of time to train the dog? Time to spend with it playing and exercising? And time to just snuggle?

Puppies require a lot of time training and attention, and they want to be near their people as much as they can.

Puppies need to be socialized and taught how to be polite with family and visitors.

The training doesn’t end with puppies growing into dogs. It continues forever!

If you have just a small amount of time after work or school, you might want to consider adopting an older dog who is house trained and can move right in.

Do you have any concerns about dog hair?

an Alaskan Malamute dog is lying beside a pile of his dog hair that has come out
Dog Hair is Everywhere!

Dogs shed and need to be picked up after to keep your house clean. Will your dog have long hair, short hair, somewhere in between or no hair at all? Long haired dogs need to be brushed regularly to prevent mats and tangles.

Do you have allergies and need a dog which doesn’t shed? Non-shedding dogs still need to be groomed. Will you have it groomed or do you want to learn how to groom your own dog? You’ll need dog clippers and a dog grooming brush. Also, YouTube has a ton of dog grooming videos available that can show you how to groom any dog like a pro.

Meeting the Dog in Person

7 cute puppies are in a basket
Pick me! Pick me!

Ok, so you’ve done your research and know what kind of dog you want to get. Now it’s time to meet some dogs in person to see if you like one best.

You can meet dogs at the local animal shelter, a reputable breeder, or even through your vet. Maybe the neighbor’s dog just had puppies.

Here is our Dog Lover’s Checklist of what to look for when you meet the prospective pup. Take it with you to refer to.

Cute female pug with pink glasses holding a chalkboard checklist
Here’s your Dog Lover’s Checklist

Meeting the Dog

  1. Age: is the dog at least 8 – 12 weeks old? Any younger is too young to be away from its mother.
  2. Does the entire litter look healthy and happy?
  3. Are the puppies curious and active?
  4. Size: is the dog the “middle size” of the litter? Neither the runt or the largest? The average puppy is probably the healthiest and easiest to train.
  5. Check out the puppy
    1. Eyes clear and focused?
    2. Nose free of debris?
    3. Ears clean with no wax or buildup?
    4. Mouth and teeth – do the teeth align? are the gums a healthy pink color?
    5. Body should be slightly plump and tummy slightly rounded. The bum should be clean and free of fecal matter.
    6. Legs should be straight and without obvious defects.
  6. Friendly: is the dog friendly toward you and others?
  7. Is the dog curious, or fearful, or threatening when you approach? You want one who is curious.
  8. Is the dog afraid of sudden noise?
  9. How does the dog react to being touched? The pup should love it.
  10. Does the dog lick or playfully bite? Biting can be controlled if properly trained.
  11. Does the dog want to play and chase a toy?
  12. How does the dog interact with kids?
  13. How does the dog act toward other dogs?
  14. Food: is the dog possessive or relaxed around food?
  15. Training questions: Is the dog house trained?
    • Leash trained?
    • Crate trained?
  16. Does the dog bark or whine?
    • What causes it?
      • Excitement?
      • Intruder?
      • Territorial?
      • Separation?
      • Attention?
      • Fear?
  17. Does the pup have the personality you are looking for?
  18. Did you and the dog connect with each other?

Ok, now you have chosen your new dog. Congratulations!

cute white puppy dog being held up by dad and son
We’ll take this one!

Do you have everything you need to bring the puppy home?

dog with shopping cart full of dog dish, dog treats, dog collar, dog toys
Dog shopping for necessities
  • Collar
  • Leash
  • Poop bags
  • Crate
  • Bed
  • Dog food
  • Dishes for dog food and water
  • Chew dog toys
  • Chase dog toys
  • Doggie treats

Choosing the right dog is a big decision and long-term commitment for you and the dog.

Take your time. Don’t rush into anything.

Do your research so you will know what type of dog will be the best fit for you and your circumstances.

Go check out a few dog litters to find the perfect dog for you.

You will thank yourself later when you and your perfect dog are enjoying life together.