Find the best match for your family
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Create a detailed list of qualities you want in a pet, including coat length, size, and temperament. All of these factors impact the amount of grooming and exercise necessary for a happy and healthy pet.
"Don't just base your decision on looks," warns Chris Redenbach, a certified dog behavior consultant and director of Park Training Academy in Tucker, Georgia.
"If all [visitors] have free access to your house, it's not a good idea to get a rottweiler or German shepherd or Bouvier des Flandres or other guarding breed -- they will be confused and find it hard to cope with the home being Grand Central Station," she says. "But if you live a private lifestyle and want a dog that's protective, then you may want to look into that breed."
Redenbach tells families to begin their search using American Kennel Club
's website, which lists detailed information on more than 150 breeds
, as well as the websites for breed-specific national clubs. Even if you get a mixed breed, knowing behavior traits will help identify the best option. Dog shows, dog parks and a walk through your local animal shelter also allow you to get up close and personal. To identify complimentary personality traits, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) created a "Canine-ality Assessment
" that groups breeds into color-coded categories ranging from "Couch Potato" to "Free Spirit."