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From the Affenpinscher to the Xoloitzcuintli, AKC Meet the Breeds is an encyclopedic celebration of dogs. Though the breeds you’ll see will vary at each event, each booth will be dedicated to a different dog breed. From the popular breeds, like the top ranking French Bulldog to breeds you might never have heard of, like the Cirneco dell’Etna, this event is the perfect place to learn more about all kinds of dog breeds.

Each booth displays breed basics on personality, origin, and traditional purpose (in addition to the dogs themselves!). If you’re thinking of adding a dog to your home, you’ll have the opportunity to explore your shortlist of favorite breeds, add new breeds to your list, meet dogs from each breed in attendance, and talk to breed experts.

But how do you get the most out of the experience? Although it’s incredibly fun to visit the booths and pet all the dogs, having a game plan can be beneficial. Read on for how to prepare for your day exploring AKC Meet the Breeds!

What Is This Breed’s Purpose? What Is Its Job?

The first thing to consider is a given breed’s original purpose. That purpose will have a huge impact on a breed’s personality, instincts, and behavior. For instance, dogs bred to be companions, like many of the breeds in the Toy Group, are likely to see your lap as the perfect place to nap. They tend to require less exercise than other breeds as well. Dog breeds from the Herding Group were developed to work all day moving livestock. They will need more exercise and activity than their lapdog cousins. Plus, their high intelligence means they thrive with a “job” to do, whether that be on a farm or in an agility ring.

Start your research by asking a booth volunteer about their breed’s origin and purpose. But don’t make your own inferences about how that past has influenced the breed. For example, just because a breed used to guard sheep, doesn’t mean it won’t accept strangers into your house. You can ask the breed representative about how the breed’s past impacts their personality and behavior today.

AKC, Meet the Breeds show at Javits Convention Center in New York City, January 28 and 29, photographed by John Ricard.
John Ricard ©American Kennel Club

Is This Breed Good With Children and Other Pets?

Every dog is an individual, but there are breeds that are great with children and others that aren’t. Kids can be loud, unpredictable, and can pull ears and tails. A breed that tolerates children is essential if you have children of your own or as regular visitors to your home. Ask the booth volunteer for an honest assessment of their breed’s comfort around kids. These representatives love their chosen breeds and want to see them in appropriate lifelong homes, so they have no reason to sugar coat reality.

If you have other pets, or plan on having other pets in the future, inquire about that aspect of the breed as well. Certain breeds can see some pets, like cats or hamsters, as prey and the mix could be risky. But there are dog breeds that love other pets and enjoy nothing more than curling up with a fellow furry housemate for a nap. Once again, the booth volunteer can give you the scoop on what to expect if you eventually share your home with their chosen breed.

What Is the Best Part of Living With This Breed?

There are wonderful things about living with any dog, but each breed has its own special merits. It’s a given that the booth expert loves their breed but inquire about specifics. Ask about the best qualities of the breed and the expert’s favorite part of living with them. The answer might surprise you. The volunteer might love having a Velcro dog that follows them everywhere, whereas you might find that too intrusive.

What is the Worst Part of Living With This Breed?

Now it’s time to reveal the not so great qualities of a given breed. If a breed drools all the time or sheds endlessly, you want to know. Ask the booth representative about the worst part of living with their breed. Again, they want to see their breed in the right home, so you can expect honest answers. But remember, negative qualities are just as subjective as positive ones. Your potential new dog must fit into your home and lifestyle. Perhaps a dog’s standoffish personality is a negative to somebody else, but it might be completely acceptable for you.

Trick dog demonstration by The Amazing Eskies in the Demo Ring at AKC Meet the Breeds, January 28-29, 2023, Jacob K. Javits Center, New York, NY.
John Ricard ©American Kennel Club

Does This Breed Have Any Special Requirements?

Sure, that fluffy coat looks gorgeous, but it might require daily brushing. Is that more than you’re willing to do? Or is that kind of time commitment well worth it for the beauty. And grooming a dog is just one consideration to ask about. How much exercise do you need to provide? How much training? If you’re looking to take up dog sports, time spent with your dog could be a joy. But if you’re looking for a less time-intensive breed, this is the question that’ll let you know what you’re in for.

Think about extra costs as well. As a rule, the bigger the breed, the more expensive the care. After all, larger dogs eat more and need bigger beds. But there are other factors too. For instance, professional grooming services will add to your financial burden. Special dietary needs or potential health problems can be a money issue as well. Ask the booth expert for a rough estimate of the annual cost of caring for their chosen breed.

Is My Lifestyle a Good Match for This Breed?

Even if you’ve learned everything about a breed, what if you aren’t a great fit for them? Consider asking a breed expert if your daily routine, living space, favorite activities, or likes/dislikes actually mesh with their experience with the breed.

For example, if you’re an avid runner, your obsession with the cat-like Japanese Chin isn’t going to magically make that breed a great companion for your half-marathon training regimen. You might love their lap-dog qualities and small size for your apartment space constraints, but your desire for dog that’s a running partner means you’re not a good match for a Chin. You might need to look at a sporty Papillon instead, or a medium-sized breed in the Sporting or Herding groups that craves plenty of exercise (and is built to handle it).

If your favorite activity is relaxing on the couch in your apartment and binge-watching Netflix shows, that same medium-sized Sporting or Herding dog will likely find its own fun and entertainment, which might mean wreaking havoc on your shoes or worse. A Japanese Chin or a Basset Hound would be an ideal fit for those who prefer just hanging out and taking a daily stroll around the neighborhood, but surprisingly enough, so might a giant breed like a Great Dane. Breed experts can help you figure it out.

The point is, just because you love a breed and have learned everything there is to know about it, you still need to be realistic about your own day-to-day lifestyle and how well it works for that breed’s needs. Giving this some real, honest consideration will mean that both you and your chosen breed are happier and healthier for all your years together.

AKC, Meet the Breeds show at Javits Convention Center in New York City, January 28 and 29, photographed by John Ricard.
John Ricard ©American Kennel Club

I Found My Breed, So Now What?

Now that you’ve tackled the exciting, overwhelmingly cute world of AKC Meet the Breeds and got as much research bang for your buck as possible, you can leave the event armed with the knowledge needed to make the right choice about your future dog. Plus, you’ll have met a whole lot of interesting people, maybe made some breeder connections, and pet so many delightful dogs.

If you’re ready to start your search, you can visit the breed’s parent club website for breeder referrals, attend a local dog show and meet breeders who may be in your area, check out the AKC Rescue Network, or visit AKC Marketplace to search for breeders. Armed with lots of research and preparation, you’ll be well on your way to making it official with the best breed (and breeder) for you.

Related article: The Most Popular Dog Names of 2023
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