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How to Choose the Right Puppy for You

Updated on February 10, 2013
Choosing the right puppy takes some homework
Choosing the right puppy takes some homework | Source

Why are There so Many Bad Choices?

If you ever step inside a shelter, chances are high you are looking at many wrong choices. These are dogs that more often than not were the result of poor thinking. Many times, puppies are adopted on the splurge of the moment, just because they are cute and cuddly or because they just happen at a time when people are more vulnerable to giving into the idea of owning a dog. At times, choices are based on the media; a cool movie comes up and shortly everybody wants a puppy of that breed. Most problems start when the puppy grows up and 80 pounds later the dog no longer engages in "cute puppy behaviors". Indeed, shelters tend to be overfilled with dogs between the ages of 6 months and 18 months which not surprisingly coincides with a dog's adolescence stage. Knowledge is ultimately power when it comes to choosing the right breed and right puppy for you.

How to Choose the Right Breed of Puppy

There are about 157 breeds registered with the American Kennel Club, but there are more than 400 breeds recognized around the world. With so many breeds it is quite easy for prospective dog owners to feel overwhelmed by the variety of shapes, sizes and looks. Narrowing down the choices, however, is a must if dog owners want to make an informed decision. Truth is, choosing the right breed takes a good amount of time and research to ensure the breed meets your lifestyle. But it is also true that a lot depends on a variety of other factors, as each dog ultimately comes with its own personality.

So should prospective puppy owners trust books and websites that set up a profile for each breed? Yes and no. While it is true that Golden Retrievers and Labradors make great family dogs it is also true that they are over represented in shelters because of their high activity levels. Yet, there are also dogs of these breeds that do not turn out as the breed standard depicts. This may be due to nature or nurture or a combination of both. A good way to avoid dogs genetically predisposed to problem behaviors is to purchase from reputable breeders who temperament-test their breeding specimens. This can significantly help reduce the amount of bad apples in a batch of puppies.

Reputable dog breeders specifically breed dogs to adhere to the standard of the breed. This means that they ultimately try their best to breed dogs that get as close as they can to the way the breed is supposed to look and act from a temperament standpoint. Labradors therefore would ideally be '' kind, outgoing, eager to please and non-aggressive towards man or animal'' whereas, Rottweilers would be "calm, confident and courageous dogs with a self-assured aloofness " according to AKC standards. Following are some tips on choosing dog breeds wisely.

How to Choose Your Puppy Wisely

  • Read books about dog breeds and bookmark the breeds of interest to you
  • Consider temperament more than looks
  • Consider breeds that match your lifestyle (active, passive), family structure (children, pets) and personal choices (does not shed much, barks little, protects property)
  • Purchase books specifically about the breeds you are really interested in
  • Understand what your future dog's needs will be (need for exercise/training/mental stimulation)
  • Ask questions to people who own the breed you like
  • Look at how the puppy you are interested in looks like and behaves as an adult
  • Learn about how to socialize your puppy properly. Read the Importance of Socializing Your Puppy
  • Learn how to survive the dog adolescent stage
  • Find a reputable breeder. They will help you make an informed choice and will select the puppy that may fit your lifestyle and character best.
  • Look at your shelter or rescue groups. Many purebred dogs are up for adoption.
  • Consider a mutt. There are many advantages in adopting a mutt. Read "Advantages of owning a mutt"
  • Figure out if there are breed restrictions in your area. There are more than a dozen breeds that are black-listed by many insurance companies.
  • Avoid breeds that are not ideal for first time dog owners if this is your first puppy.

The Most Common Breeds Adopted

There are several reasons why despite 400 breeds being present, the same types of dogs appear over and over in many households. This over-representation is due to dog breeds having traits that are appealing to a vast amount of people. History of breeds being introduced on American soil are also a reason for some breeds being more common than others. Of course, you will see not many "Lagotto Romagnolo" in the United States because this breed is Italian, even though more and more people abroad are enjoying this breed's predisposition to hunt truffles!

Following are the most popular dog breeds according to the American Kennel Club for 2011:

  1. Labrador retriever
  2. German Shepherd
  3. Beagle
  4. Golden Retriever
  5. Yorkshire Terrier
  6. Bulldog
  7. Boxer
  8. Poodle
  9. Dachshund
  10. Rottweiler

What About Mutts and Adult Dogs?

Overwhelmed by the vast array of dog breeds or having a hard time choosing between two breeds? Try a mutt! There are many mutts in shelters that make great companions and are eager to finding their final home. There are many advantages of owning a mutt that make them many times preferable over purebred dogs. Adult dogs unlike puppies on the other hand offer more reliability. With an adult dog, for the most part "what you see is what you get", whereas, puppies are blank slates that may change as they grow depending on genes and the environment in which they are raised.

Are you happy about the breed you chose?

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