Congratulations on your decision to buy a puppy. Now it's time to choose which puppy is the best fit for your lifestyle. This guide on how to choose a puppy has everything you need to pick the perfect puppy for your family.
The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Puppy for Your Family
How To Pick The Right Dog Breed
Few days in life are as exciting or meaningful as the day you bring home a new puppy to meet your family. That being said, choosing which puppy to buy is a big decision that comes with a lot of responsibility. Unfortunately, far too many puppies end up in shelters because their owners did not consider their new dog's specific needs before they brought them home. That's why you need to ask the right questions before you choose a puppy.
Ask the Right Questions
Choosing the right puppy is an introspective process - you have to know what you want AND what you can responsibly care for, before you can choose a breed that fits your family and your lifestyle. Browse through the following questions and do your best to answer them honestly. As you do, keep in mind that the ultimate question you need to answer is not "Is this dog right for me?", but "Am I right for this dog?".
Why Do You Want a Dog?
Of all the questions that prospective dog owners should ask themselves, the most important is "Why do I want a dog?" If your answer sounds anything like, "Because I saw a cute puppy in the pet store window." then you should NOT get a puppy. Puppies are not a fashion statement; a way to grow a following on social media, or meant to intimidate strangers. They are living, breathing creatures who feel and love as deeply as any human. Therefore, any decision to buy a puppy must be made for the following reasons.
- Companionship - Puppies are remarkably social animals who thrive on human companionship. If you're lifestyle takes you away from home most days, then you might not have enough time to commit to a new companion. That is, unless you buy a small breed to take with you everywhere, like a Yorkie, or a Chihuahua.
- Socialization - Puppies are a wonderful way to connect with other people. For people living alone, a puppy can increase the contact with the outside world while providing meaning and structure to one's life. Boston Terriers and French Bulldogs are remarkably sociable and a great choice for anyone looking for a sweet and friendly puppy to get them out of the house.
- Exercise - Since every dog needs at least some degree of exercise, a puppy is a great way to ensure you also get the exercise you need to stay fit. Breeds like the Siberian Husky and the Greyhound are great for runners and bikers. But if you like to swim, then a Labrador Retriever or a Newfoundland is the right choice for you.
- Children - Children learn life skills like compassion, responsibility, and patience by helping to care for a puppy. It's important that parents set realistic expectations and supervise all interactions between the puppy and children until both are of adequate age to be left alone together.
- Companion for Existing Dog - Puppies are incredibly social creatures and often appreciate the company of other dogs. Sometimes two dogs can be easier and more fun than one. But, every dog is an individual, and some breeds do not like other dogs. If you're not sure if your existing dog will like a new dog in the house, then you should consult a professional before you get a new puppy.
- Empty Home/Heart - One of the best (and saddest) reasons to get a new puppy is because your last dog passed away. A home can feel awfully empty without a dog to fill it with life and love. If your last dog passed away and you're looking for a new puppy, the English Sheep Dog and the Bichon Frise are known to brighten every room they walk into.
Do You Have Children?
Puppies are great for kids: Both as a source of unconditional love and way of teaching responsibility, compassion, cooperation and patience. When choosing a puppy for your children, consider your lifestyle, their ages and especially their allergies. Some of the sweetest, most kid-friendly breeds in the world shed profusely, making it difficult to manage allergy symptoms in the home. Other breeds are entirely hypoallergenic, but much prefer the company of adults than children. Though most dogs thrive with regular training, you may have to train your kids in basic dog safety, and the best ways to interact with their new puppy. That said, you shouldn't have any trouble with these kid-friendly dog breeds:
Does Your Job Take You Away From Home?
Sadly, one of the leading reasons puppies end up in shelters is because their owners underestimated the amount of time it takes to care for a dog's daily needs. If you work at home with little to do outside of work, then a puppy might be the right way to shake things up. On the other hand, those who travel for work or work infrequent hours might not have the time to provide the personal, emotional connection that your puppy needs and craves. But a hectic career does not preclude you from owning a dog, you just have to find a low maintenance breed, like:
Where Do You Live (City, Suburbs, or Country)?
Though many breeds are capable of living just about anywhere, there are certain breed characteristics that preclude some dogs from living in certain places. A Great Dane, for example, will find it difficult to navigate a small apartment without bumping into things.
That's why it's important to not only consider your dog's size, but also its exercise requirements, and whether you can meet them in your current living situation. If you live in the country, you're more likely to have the space needed to exercise high energy breeds like the Border Collie or the Australian Shepherd. Those in city and suburbs, on the other hand, might have to drive some distance to a dog park to make it work. The trick to choosing the best dog for where you live is to choose a breed that can adapt to the climate and the environment.
Can You Keep Up With Its Exercise Needs?
Meeting your puppies exercise needs is a necessary requirement of dog ownership, and one that is often overlooked by prospective buyers. Some dogs, like the Dalmatian were bred to keep pace with galloping horses and thus need frequent, vigorous bouts of exercise to stay fit, happy and mentally healthy. Other breeds, Shih Tzu were developed specifically for sitting in laps and lounging around all day long. As an owner, it's up to you to decide what kind of activity you can reasonably accommodate and choose a puppy accordingly.
Can You Accommodate the Dog's Size?
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a puppy is its adult size. Though many puppies start out very small, they grow quickly and become too big for their owners to accommodate in their current living space. Ironically, very large breeds, like the Irish Wolfhound, end up in shelters less often than medium-sized breeds, like the German Shepherd because large breed owners more often know what they are getting into before they buy. That's why it's best to consult with a professional if you are unsure how large a dog will be as a fully-grown adult.
Can You Afford to Care For a Dog?
Now that you understand the reasons why you want a to buy a puppy, and what your lifestyle can reasonably accommodate, it's time to move on to what you can reasonably afford. Though caring for some dog breeds is more expensive than others, there is a minimum cost of ownership that you must be able to afford if you are to care for a dog throughout its life. The minimum cost of dog ownership includes all of its veterinary, nutritional and grooming expenses, as well as all of the supplies, toys and puppy-proofing equipment you need to ensure a safe, happy and healthy life for your dog. That said, the AKC estimates the minimum cost of dog ownership to be between $14,480 and $15,051 depending on the size and life expectancy of the dog.
Do Your Research
With your reasons for getting a dog firmly in mind, you can move on to the next part of the puppy choosing process, selecting a breed. Though it requires a fair bit of research, determining which dog breed best fits your lifestyle is one of the funnest parts of the puppy choosing process.
Dog Breeds By Group
Dog breeds are categorized into one of eight breed groups based on their characteristics and the role they were originally developed to fulfill, like herding, hunting or guarding. The more you know about these breed groups, the more likely you will be to find a breed the fits your lifestyle.
Energetic, athletic and alert, sporting dog breeds are likeable, well-rounded companions. First developed to assist hunters in the field, sporting breeds are keen, athletic dogs with superior instincts in the water and in the woods. There are four basic types of sporting dog breeds; pointers, spaniels, retrievers and setters, most of which have well - insulated water repellant coats and high exercise requirements. As active, energetic dogs, sporting breeds need an owner with the time and energy to exercise their body and mind with long outdoor excursions and frequent activity. Of all the sporting breeds, the following are the most popular with families:
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Cocker Spaniel
- English Springer Spaniel
- German Shorthaired Pointer
Characterized by their acute scenting powers, phenomenal stamina and their common ancestral association with hunting, hound dog breeds are hard to generalize. The group encompasses more than 80 types of hounds and a wide variety of shapes, colors, sizes, personalities and temperaments. That's why it's very important that you do your research to find out which hound breed is the right dog for you. Some of the most popular hound breeds are the:
Developed for their strength, intelligence and ability to assist their owners in a wide range of tasks, working dog breeds excel in roles like pulling sleds, guarding property and herding livestock. Working dogs, make wonderful companions but they are large and naturally protective, which means prospective owners must commit to train and socialize their dogs and teach them how to be model canine citizens. Therefore, some breeds in the working group may not be the best choice for first-time dog owners. Some of the most popular working breeds are the:
Characterized by their "eagerness for spirited argument" Terriers are feisty, energetic and stubborn. Terriers were (and still are) bred to be vermin hunters who protect the home, barn and family from rats, mice and other pests. Though Terriers make phenomenal pets, they do require determination on the part of the owner because they are stubborn; have high energy, and require special grooming to maintain a characteristic appearance. Some of the most popular Terrier breeds are the:
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
- American Staffordshire Terrier (Pit Jack Russell)
- Airedale Terrier
- Kerry Blue Terrier
- Miniature Schnauzer
Toy dog breeds are affectionate, sociable and adaptable to a wide range of lifestyles. They make great lap-warmers and terrific companions, but don't be fooled by their diminutive size - most toy dogs seem to have no idea that they're small. In fact, Toy breeds like the Papillon and the Yorkshire Terrier are at least as bold and tenacious as dogs many times their size. Some other breeds that belong to the Toy Dog breed group are the:
The non-sporting breed group is made up of a diverse selection of breeds of varying sizes, coats, personalities, temperaments and appearances. Non-sporting dogs come from a wide variety of backgrounds and are bred for a wide variety of different purposes, which makes it difficult to classify them. Some of the most popular non-sporting breeds are:
Known for their remarkable ability to control the movement of other animals, Herding dog breeds are intelligent, make excellent companions and respond very well to training. Though the vast majority of Herding dogs live happy lives as household pets, they retain their pure instinct for herding animals. Thus, they may try to herd their owners and especially children. Other breeds that belong to the Herding Breed Group include:
Crossbreeds and Hybrid Dogs
Crossbreeds are hybrid dogs are not registered with the AKC but are, nonetheless, phenomenal companions and family dogs. As an added bonus, many crossbreeds are hypoallergenic, meaning they are less likely to aggravate canine allergies. Some of the most popular crossbreeds and hybrid dogs are the:
Choose a Responsible Breeder
At this point in the puppy choosing process, you've determined why you want a dog as well as the breed that best fits your lifestyle. Now it's time to determine where you are going to purchase your new puppy. Though there are many places to purchase a puppy, prospective owners should avoid puppy mills at all costs. Instead, choose a responsible puppy service, like PuppySpot, who's enhanced screening has more than 100 points of emphasis for every puppy and its parents.
PuppySpot has set a new industry benchmark with proprietary standards that go significantly above and beyond federal and state regulations. So, you can be sure that your new puppy is happy and healthy from the moment you bring it home. Contact PuppySpot today to speak to a puppy concierge about choosing the best puppy for your family.