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When Maria B. Moya was growing up, she always wanted a dog, but it wasn’t possible where her family lived. Then she got out on her own and moved to Hoboken, New Jersey. In her new town, everyone, it seemed, had a dog. Many of them were the trendy mixed-breeds, known as “Goldendoodles.”

Moya, who lives with her boyfriend, Max Headley, thought she’d follow the pack and buy a “Goldendoodle,” too, like everyone else in the neighborhood.

“I just figured, ‘Why not?’ ” she recalls.

Then a friend suggested another possibility—a purebred dog from a good breeder. Moya hadn’t considered this concept, but she had an open mind and the curiosity to attend the AKC Meet the Breeds event during the weekend of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in February.

There she met hundreds of beautiful dogs of all kinds, from delicate, hairless Mexican toys to gigantic white, fluffy guardians from the mountains in France. Muscular Italian farm dogs shared an aisle with tiny silky lapdogs, once the favorites of a British king.

And there, in the “B” section, Moya’s eyes settled on a pair of upright ears, a muzzle bearing a mustache and beard, and a large, agile body covered in shiny, flowing hair. It was her first glimpse of a Briard.

“He was all love,” she recalls. The dog came over and laid his head on her shoulder and, all of a sudden, Moya was no longer thinking of following the “designer-breed” fad.

A centuries-old French farm dog had captured her heart.

Take Time to Choose

Bringing a dog into your life is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. It is a serious commitment to care for an individual who will rely on you completely—for food, shelter, health, and happiness—for a decade or more.

In exchange, this puppy or adult dog will become someone who will be there for you through everything, no matter what. It’s impossible to count the ways dogs enrich our lives. That’s why choosing one should be done with great care, not unlike picking a spouse. The right one is a blessing. The wrong one can mean years of heartache.

The first critical step is to decide, honestly, what kind of dog will make you happy—puppy or adult, large or small, short coat or long, pointy ears or droopy ones, white and fluffy or dark and sleek, high-energy or couch potato. The list can seem endless, but it’s important you narrow it down. If you’re a marathon runner who wants a dog to train with, you should not get a Bulldog, no matter how adorable they are.

Even after you pinpoint the traits that would go into your perfect dog, you still have a lot of choices. One of the most difficult is where you are going to find your canine ideal.

Over the past two decades or so, “adopt- don’t-shop” has become a louder and louder drumbeat, with media campaigns suggesting that going to a shelter or rescue is the only way to obtain a dog.

But this is not true. Even a one-time critic of breeding and selling dogs, former ASPCA President Ed Sayres, recently wrote in a Sun Sentinel newspaper editorial, “The single most effective way to ensure a lifelong bond and to prevent a pet being surrendered is to allow prospective pet owners to choose how they find their ideal pet.”

In other words, one size fits all is a terrible concept when adding a dog to your family.

Sayres says he now supports responsible breeders, as well as pet shops, as long as they are held to rigorous inspections and standards.

More than one survey has found that roughly a third of owners go to breeders for a purebred puppy, for many valid reasons. Perhaps someone in your family has allergies, and you want one of the breeds, such as the Chinese Crested, Poodle, or Havanese, that are considered hypoallergenic.

You may be interested in participating in dog shows, and for that you need a dog with a pedigree and potential. Or you may just love a certain look or history and appreciate the knowledge and dedication that went into molding a beautiful example of a breed.

Measuring Up

Moya was captivated by the Briard’s looks and the temperament, what she describes as an “aura.”

Once she decided, she did a lot of research, learning everything about the breed. She contacted Molly Gardner, of Briards du Soleil, in Jacksonville, Florida, about purchasing a pup.

Going to a responsible breeder is one of the best ways to find the dog of your dreams. This person has dedicated years of study, experience, and heart to maintaining very high standards. You’ll get the benefit of an expert’s knowledge, as well as generations that came before because few breeders can learn how to produce high-quality litters without a mentor.

Just talking to Gardner, an AKC Breeder of Merit, made Moya realize how much you have to think and plan before bringing a dog into your life. It wasn’t just a matter of plunking down some cash. Gardner’s pups are special to her, and she isn’t about to turn them over to just anyone.

Moya recalls feeling nervous, wanting to prove that she and Headley were capable of giving the dog a happy life.

Gardner spent time with the couple, making sure they understood the ups and downs of living with a dog created to work all day herding and protecting livestock.

The couple made the grade, and about a month after meeting the breed for the first time, they welcomed Lucca, a rambunctious 8-week-old Briard, to their Hoboken home.

To Moya’s surprise and delight, Gardner has stayed in touch. Like many quality breeders, her interest in the puppies she sells does not end after they go to new homes. She is involved in the life of the dog, up to and including keeping her name as a backup contact on Lucca’s microchip in case of an emergency.

“She’s very helpful,” Moya says.

Lucca’s settling in as a Jersey boy and has become a bit of a celebrity in his neighborhood.

As for Moya, she’s so in love with Lucca and happy she decided to choose a purebred. She finds the history fascinating, as well as the idea that these dogs were created for a purpose.

“I’m a Briard lover for life,” she says.

Related article: What Dog Is Right For Me? How to Choose The Perfect Breed
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