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Stacey Salter Moore (SSM Photography)

Finding the right dog from among the 201 breeds currently recognized by the American Kennel Club may seem daunting. Fortunately, AKC Meet the Breeds events make the task not only more manageable but doggone pleasurable. Each breed has a national parent club that oversees its well being. This includes participating in Meet the Breeds events to interact with the public and educate future owners.

Just as with meeting a human partner, when searching for the right canine fit, it’s vital to remember that beauty is only skin deep. While you may first fall for a breed because of its cute appearance, it’s important to find out what makes that breed tick. Then, you can see if those traits are compatible with your personality and lifestyle. All breeds have their appeal but they vary widely in temperament, trainability, grooming, and exercise requirements.

Because purebreds have the great advantage of predictability, you can research a breed, find out what it was historically developed to do and be confident that your puppy will grow up to look and act like its parents and grandparents. At Meet the Breeds, you’ll engage with puppies and adults at each booth. Parent club volunteers will act as your “life coach,” asking relevant questions to determine your compatibility with their breed.

As you walk the colorful aisles of Meet the Breeds, you’ll want to consider these lifestyle questions.

What’s Your Personality Type?

Are you a bubbly extrovert, the life of the party, or more reserved and less fond of crowds? If your life and your home are always full of people, you’ll want a breed that’s just as easygoing.

Many breeds in all seven Variety Groups—from Golden Retrievers (Sporting) and Beagles (Hound) to Pugs (Toy) and Poodles (Non-Sporting)—will be happy to greet your friends and houseguests like long-lost buddies. Others, such as Chow Chows, and sighthounds like Afghan Hounds or Salukis, are characteristically more reserved, cat-like, and take their time warming up to strangers. Beyond merely reserved, there are breeds like the Tibetan Mastiff that are decidedly protective of their home and loved ones, and you will need to very carefully introduce a stranger to your dog, and supervise their visit.

SSM Photography ©American Kennel Club

What’s Your Energy Level?

What’s your typical reaction to waking up on the weekend to a foot of freshly fallen snow? Do you want to strap on your cross-country skis and head outside? Or would you prefer to curl up by the fire with a good book?

For outdoorsy types, there are lots of Working and Herding breeds (Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, Samoyeds, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Belgian Sheepdogs, Belgian Tervurens, Bouviers des Flandres, among many others) that would love to join you in your athletic pursuits, winter or summer.

On the other hand, the laidback Bullmastiff is a giant breed that requires much less strenuous exercise and would happily stretch out by the fire as you read. Other choices might be a Basset Hound, a Sussex Spaniel, any of the Toy breeds, or one of the shorter-legged Terrier breeds, among others.

Do You Have Time for Grooming?

Are you able to pull yourself together at a moment’s notice or do you require hours of prep time? If 10 minutes to shower and shave is the way you roll, you may not appreciate a breed that will require frequent grooming. Yes, all those breeds covered in cords look cool in their Meet the Breeds booths. But, it may be best to admire them from a distance. A better fit may be a shorthaired, low-maintenance breed of whatever size and temperament you decide is most compatible.

If you have the time and desire to do so, there are breeds in each Variety Group that require extensive grooming, with long and flowing or hard and wiry coats. There is a trade-off when it comes to grooming some high-maintenance breeds: those that require professional clipping/trimming (e.g. Poodles, Portuguese Water Dogs, Bichons Frises, most Terrier breeds) are also non- to minimally shedding. Is paying a groomer four to six times a year worth not finding dog hair on your furniture and clothes? Only you can decide.

SSM Photography ©American Kennel Club

Can You Care for a Canine Multi-Tasker?

Some people are never happy sitting still and must have multiple activities on the go to feel fulfilled. If that sounds like you, the good news is there are breeds that would love for you to put them to work! Breeds like the Brittany, Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, and Pumi, among others, crave a job—or two, or three!—to do. Whether it be fieldwork, herding, agility, or Schutzhund, these dogs are happiest when kept busy, so active owners are the best match.

For those who are happy to chill during their downtime, you can find lots of breeds in every Variety Group that will be content with exercise in the backyard, the dog park or your condo, depending upon their size and activity level.

Make a priority list of what you are looking for in a canine partner, then visit your nearest Meet the Breeds event to get up close and personal with the dogs that sound like the best fit.

Related article: The Most Popular Dog Names of 2023
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Selecting a Puppy

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