Picking The Right Dog Breed

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Dogs RunningPicking the right dog breed for you should not be taken lightly. The decision should involve the entire family and take many factors in to account. When it comes to choosing a pup it is always important to research the dog you are looking for. Whether you choose to adopt from an animal shelter, at a breed rescue or from a breeder, the journey cannot begin until the type of dog you are looking for has been decided on.

Picking The Right Dog Breed

There are many factors that go in to picking the right dog breed for you including: compatibility with children, energy level, working vs. nonworking breeds, size, grooming care, special needs of the dog etc. Below are some helpful criteria to help you start to narrow down your thoughts around adopting a new dog. Once you have found the right breed for you the search can begin at local shelters, breed rescues and / or breeders.

There are many facts that go in to selecting a breed. Some families go in to selecting a dog knowing that they want a working dog that can perform search and rescue with a designated handler in the family. Some families go in selecting a breed that sheds less than other breeds. Some families go in selecting a breed that has lower energy levels.

Dog Breed Selection Checklist

Of all of the options in selecting a dog there are a few things that seem more popular among families that are choosing their dogs:

  • age
  • coat length
  • shedding
  • activity level
  • size
  • family-oriented nature
  • trainability / intelligence

A Dog’s Age

When selecting a dog the dog’s age plays a large part in determining the right dog for you. If there are young toddlers in the house you may be better suited to a grown dog that will not teethe on your younger children and their toys. Another plus in picking a grown dog is that the breed specific rescues and breeders with full grown dogs will be able to tell you how well the dog interacts with children.

On that note some families do choose to pick a new puppy that can grow up with their child and with obedience classes this arrangement can work just as well as adopting a fully grown dog. Age is also a factor in the energy level of the dog you select. If you are looking for a running companion, selecting a senior dog is not the right option for you. If, however, you are looking for a more sedate dog than a senior dog may be the right choice for you.

Coat Length And Shedding

Another important factor in selecting a new dog for your family is coat length. Some family members may be particularly sensitive to certain varieties of fur. While there is certainly no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog (the allergen is in the saliva not the fur), some allergies are prompted by long haired dogs. There are also dogs who shed considerably less than others such as Poodles. Due to the nature of a Poodle’s hair it sheds a lot more than a Collie might. Hair shedding is not always a matter of allergies either; it can be a matter of housekeeping. If you are looking for a dog that won’t leave you running around with a vacuum twice a day there are short haired dogs that shed less than certain long haired dogs. As a general rule of thumb dogs with longer coats shed more than dogs with shorter coats and dogs with wire hair shed less than dogs with silky coats.

Activity Level

A particularly important factor for families when they are picking their dog is activity level. Families who live in an apartment are not well suited to dogs with particularly high energy levels although this can be remedied if you are a runner and are dedicated to giving your dog an adequate routine of exercise. Many families start with this intention and wind up dropping the ball. A high energy dog without any outlet for that energy is going to turn in to a destructive dog who is just plain bored.

Some families set their heart on a specific breed of dog and cannot be swayed, if this is the case yet the family is unable to provide adequate exercise for a young dog it is worth considering an older dog of the desired breed.

Working Dog Breeds = High Energy

In general working dog breeds are dogs that have high energy levels, working dog breeds are listed on the AKC website along with other categories of dog including: sporting, hound, terrier, toy, non-sporting, herding, and miscellaneous.

Dog Size

One of the most basic factors in selecting a dog is the size of the dog; size includes both height and weight. Families living in a small apartment should consider getting a smaller breed of dog. Families with particularly small children should also be particularly careful when selecting a giant breed of dog, while breeds like Mastiffs can be graceful and gentle with children they also do not realize the sheer enormity of their size and can easily knock down small children.

Likewise small breeds that are notorious for herding or ratting can nip at children’s heels in an attempt to corral children like sheep – this trait can be trained out of individual dogs though so it should not be a singular reason for writing off a breed. When selecting a mixed breed puppy from a shelter it can never be certain what size your fully grown dog will be, however, in general shelter officials can help you determine the approximate size of your fully grown dog by guessing the dogs mixed breeds.

Family-Oriented Nature

An important factor when selecting a dog for a household with children or a household with the intention to add children is the family oriented nature of the dog. Some dogs are naturally good with children, such dogs include Labrador Retrievers. Some dogs are not as good with children such as Alaskan Malamutes who are more intended for outdoor work dogs. This is not to say that all Alaskan Malamutes will not be good with children nor is it to say that all Labradors are great with children but in general some breeds of dog mesh well with a family that contains young children and some do not. Here is a helpful article on the best guard dogs for families to help you make the right choice for you.

Trainability And Intelligence

Another important thing to consider in choosing your pet is how smart they are in addition to how easily they can be trained. If you are looking for a dog to go on walks with you, you will need it to heel. If you are looking for a dog to catch a frisbee, you will need to know it is smart enough to be trained to do so. The examples go on and on. So, the smarter the dog, often the more trainable it is. But, there are some dogs that are almost too smart for their own good which can make them stubborn and difficult to train. You may want to review our list of the smartest dog breeds to see how one of these intelligent pups might fit into your world.

Dog Breed Selection Interactive Tool

We recently discovered this interactive breed selection tool that may help you narrow down your best dog type so you can be more informed as you head into the exciting phase of meeting new dogs!

Visit Your Local Animal Shelter

Many people choose to frequent the local animal shelter and pick out a dog that they fall in love with, this is a perfect way to incorporate the whole family in to picking out your puppy. One thing you should keep in mind when picking out your puppy from the animal shelter is the type of dog or mixed breed you are looking for.

Ask Questions, Take Your Pick, And Save A Dog

Are you looking for a dog that has a short coat? Are you looking for a particular breed mix? Are you looking for a long haired dog? Are you looking for a dog that has a high prey drive? Are you looking for a dog for a specific purpose i.e.: search and rescue work? Are you looking for an older or younger dog? After really planning what you are looking for you can begin frequenting your local shelter and working with the staff there to let them know exactly what you are looking for in your future dog. The great thing about choosing your dog from an animal shelter is that your new dog will leave room for one more homeless dog in the shelter when you bring your dog home. Another plus to selecting your dog from a shelter is that you have free range over the age of your dog; you do not have to select a puppy.

Try A Local Rescue Group

Some people choose not to pick their puppy from the animal shelter and they choose to go with a local rescue group. Most, but not all, rescue groups specialize in certain breeds so it is important to research what breed would be the best match for you before contacting rescues. Nearly every breed in the books has a rescue organization dedicated to it and usually each organization has a division throughout the North East, South East, Central, and Western United States.

Rescue Organizations Will Know Their Dogs Well

The positive thing about selecting your dog from a rescue organization aside from giving a dog a second chance is that the rescue organizations generally have a great gauge of the dog you will be selecting. Since rescue organizations generally foster all of their dogs to volunteers for a selected time period they are able to give you a full picture of the dog you are looking at. Another plus to selecting your dog from a rescue group is that you can get a purebred dog of any age and often times the older dogs in rescues are partially or fully trained when they come home to you.

Selecting A Dog From A Breeder

Some people who know for sure what breed of dog they are looking for go straight to a breeder. It is important to research many breeders and ask as many questions as possible when shopping for a purebred dog. There are many websites online that offer lists of questions that you should ask of your potential breeder. It is always important, when shopping with a breeder that you look over the certifications of the dog’s lineage, this is important for the health of your dog. When you are preparing to pay a large amount of money for a dog or a new puppy it is important that you ensure the health of your new dog by checking over hip, elbow and eye certifications. You should also ask about the health of both parents of your new dog to make sure that there are no major health problems in the lineage of your dog.

A good breeder will be more than happy to offer you information on the health of your dog’s ancestors. A breeder will also give you more direction as far as picking the right dog for your needs. Knowing just what you are looking for in your new dog the breeder will be able to assess new puppies in terms of their dominance, their shyness and their overall personalities. These factors are much easier for a breeder to determine as they watch their puppies develop over the first few months of their life. When purchasing a dog from a breeder you should also make sure that you read the contract that your breeder gives you to sign prior to completion of the purchase. Most often a breeder’s contract will stipulate that your dog must be spayed or neutered and that if you ever find yourself needing to give up your dog it must be returned back to the breeder. In general purchasing a dog from a breeder is more costly and comes with more stipulations than the other two dog selection alternatives.

Take Your Time, Choosing A Dog Is A Long Term Decision

Choosing the right dog and its breed for you and your family can take a lot of work and a lot of planning ahead and ideally it should do because the decision to bring a dog home is a decision that can last as long as sixteen years. Picking your dog based on traits and breeds is a great way to get started in picking your new family member but much like people, dogs are individuals. Each dog has its own personality traits and likes and dislikes and ideally picking out your dog should involve multiple visitations with your dog before bringing it home. Most shelters and rescues as well as breeders require that potential families visit their new dog at least twice prior to bringing it home so that you are aware of the dog that you are getting. The biggest factor in bringing home your new dog and creating a happy and healthy home is patience. Make sure to take your time and do your research and you will be well on the way to picking the right dog for you and your family.

About The Author:

Michelle holds an MBA from Vanderbilt University and has worked in marketing at Bank of America, Mattel and Hanes. She is the proud co-founder of Canine Journal and a dog lover through and through. Since the day she was born, she has lived in a home full of dogs. Her adult home is no exception where she and her husband live with Bella and Lily, their two adorable rescue pups. In addition to her love for snuggling with dogs, she also has enjoyed working professionally in the canine field since 1999 when she started her first dog-related job at a dog bakery.

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Ellie Davis
I liked that you mentioned one of the most basic factors in selecting a dog is the size. My husband and I are thinking about getting a dog for our children, and we are looking for advice. I will let him know about the benefits of considering the size to choose the right dog for our family.
Dino Violante
Thank you for emphasizing the importance of researching a lot about the breeder and asking all of the necessary questions if they want to have a purebred dog. How will I do that? Should I check their websites? Or should I ask testimonies from previous customers? This is really important because I want a purebred poodle to give to my sister. I need someone reliable to give one to me because I do not know what it really looks like.
I never thought about if there was a dog breed that was too smart! I am glad you mentioned it because I can see how that could make them hard to train. Do you have a list of breeds that are organized according to the distinction you have made here?
Sadie Cornelius (Admin)
Jay, yes we have a smartest dog breed article that points out the most intelligent breeds.
John Lawrence
Yes it’s true that picking the right dog breed id very important. You need to consider the space, environment and many more. Thanks for this article.

Which dog breed is right for you? This is the main question that each person must answer for themselves before taking the huge step of choosing a dog as a pet. As this author points out, this question is actually quite involved and difficult to really answer.

The first thing to consider is what type of dog you think you would like. Do like large breeds or small breeds? Are you more attracted to a certain type of dog due to their mannerisms or style? This is as good a place to start as any.

Now consider your lifestyle. If you are runner and want a dog that will enjoy going out with you every morning, then take this information and add it to the mix. On the other hand, I think it would be a bad idea to think that if you get a high energy dog who likes to run that you will be motivated to add this to you routine every day (or at the very least several times a week). Be very committed to this routine change or else you might find yourself with a dog that has so much pent up energy they start climbing the walls or going crazy!

Also think about your living situation. If you live in a large home with a nice sized backyard you will be able to comfortably add a number of different types of breeds. On the other hand, if you live in the city in a high rise or other small apartment, you should probably not be considering one of the large breeds. Just match the type of dog to your living situation.

Another important step to take when doing your research is to avoid some of the more common misconceptions. These includes old sayings which indicate that the Dalmatian is an excellent breed for children (in reality they can have some very sour moods which may lead to a bit of aggressive behavior…certainly not the ideal breed for being around children).

These tips should start to give you some ideas about a list of breeds which might be right for you. From here, you can examine them in more detail. Maybe even consider going to an animal shelter and taking a look at a few of the different dog breeds and see which ones are available. Also take into consideration any input given by other members of the family.

The bottom line with selecting the right breed of dog is that you simply must match your wishes, needs and desires with the type of dog. You are looking first of all for a good fit. This entails some good and accurate information. Focus on doing your own research and do not believe everything that people tell you (especially the ones who are looking to sell you something). Once you feel that you have enough information start thinking about possible breeds. Maybe even start to get some input from your family members. Then, once the field has been narrowed down to a few select breeds, maybe visit an animal shelter and start looking at some possibilities.


If you have a house out in the country with a lot of land or a big yard, then by all means go ahead and get one of the larger breeds. On the other hand, if you are in a small apartment, a smaller breed of dog is probably more appropriate for your situation.

Finally, focus on the general nature and temperament of the dog breed. Make sure you research this thoroughly, since there are many misconceptions about which breeds are well mannered (and which are not). For example, a Dalmation is usually thought to be an excellent breed for children. However, this is not the case. In reality, they can be high-strung, have a very up and down nature and have been known to snap and bite on a fairly regular basis.


The size of the dog may have an effect on whether they are the right fit for you and your family. This includes both the height and weight of the breed. If you have small children, it is probably not a good idea to have an Alaskan Husky or a Mastiff. These breeds may indeed intend to be gentle (and they both certainly can be), but they are just simply so big that they do not realize their own size and strength. They can unwittingly hurt or injure small children.

We have also found that it is impossible to ever completely remove all the hair. Also, it will get in your car; we eventually had to put either sheets or blankets on the seats, confine her to the back seat and then regularly change and clean them. It was far more trouble than we had bargained for. Nevertheless, we all loved her. If you want to have the same challenges, than by all means pick a breed that is known to shed frequently and have a great time picking up and cleaning after them!

I also think that the activity level (or energy level) of the particular dog breed you are considering is a hugely important factor. You really need to think about your personality also. When you come home from work after a long day, do you want to spend time in active play with your dog, or would you rather sit down and relax? A high activity and energy level dog breed that has been cooped up all day eagerly expecting your arrival will be very disappointed if you are not ready to engage in some active play, at least for a while.

Also think about your lifestyle and living arrangements. If you live in an apartment in a big city, it may not be a great fit to have a high energy breed. On the other hand, if you are a runner or some other type of athlete, it may work if you intend to take the little one along on your runs or other workouts. Now, you must be committed to doing this, not just trying out a new type of physical routine. Your dog is who he is, and this energy level will not change simply because you have decided that running every other day is becoming too difficult. The author also points out that a ‘working’ type of dog breed generally means a high energy level.


As a dog owner, picking the correct breed is one of the most important decisions you can make. This decision should involve not only you, but also the entire family, since everyone will need to live together with the new dog. Make the right choice, and elicit the help and opinions of everyone in the family and they will all feel like they were a part of the decision.

My thought is that including the entire family is a great way to do this. All kinds of studies have shown that the more people are allowed to participate in an important decision, the more involved in the process the feel. This can also lead to a much greater sense of satisfaction once the decision is finally made. This is especially true for younger family members. Kids typically feel left out of most major decisions. Being included could actually make the difference between having them be a willing participant in helping to learn how to take care of the new dog. This could also teach them the value of animals and lessons about learning to care for others and treating everyone (animals as well as people) with greater love and respect. These are all certainly traits which we want to see in our children.

There are a number of factors which should be taking into consideration when deciding upon which breed of dog to choose. Obviously, some of the specific factors will be determined by your particular situation. If you have children, then how compatible a certain breed is with children will be very important for your evaluation (and much less important if you are a confirmed bachelor just looking for a good loyal companion). Some of the additional factors to be considered include the age of the dog, coat length and shedding, activity level, size of the breed and their general nature.

The first factor is the age of the dog. While this does not really relate to picking a specific breed, it does play a big role in influencing many of the other factors. For example, an older dog will likely have more mild and calm nature. Also, choosing an older dog will mean that you do not need to worry about things like the pet biting your toddler because they are teething or just not have been house broken.

You may also want to think about the coat length and how the dog will shed. Personally, this is a big area of concern with my family. In our mind, there is nothing worse than a dog which is always shedding and leaves hair everywhere. Not only are they incredibly difficult to clean up after, if you are not careful this can lead to some strange smells throughout the house.

Hannah Neilson
I agree that you want to consider how active your dog is before choosing them. It would be good to find one that is as active as you. My husband and I are looking for a new dog, so we’ll have to find one that has a good activity level.