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Getting a dog should be a well-planned decision to ensure a lifelong commitment. Dogs are not objects that are returned if you change your mind because they have become too big, too energetic or too time-consuming to care for properly. For the greatest chance for success, put forth the effort to find the best match for you and your family.


Dogs were domesticated from ancestors of wolves to work alongside humans and help with our daily lives: hunting, guarding, protecting, herding, being exterminators or just being wonderful companions. Over hundreds or even thousands of years, the selective breeding of dogs with certain traits developed types of dogs that are predictable in their physical characteristics, behavior and personality. Predictability is the major advantage of getting a purebred dog over a mixed-breed puppy or older dog. Predictability and dependability are important because there are usually fewer chances of surprises related to their size, physical characteristics, behaviors and personality traits.


The best chance for a successful match is finding a dog or puppy that will fit in with your lifestyle, activity level and living conditions. If the match is not good, expectations can become disappointments and lead to unfortunate circumstances for both dog and owner. In those scenarios, it’s best if the dog can be returned to its responsible breeder. In the worst case, the dog will be relinquished to a shelter, where it may not survive.

For example, if you are looking for a dog to accompany you on hikes, runs or long walks, a short-legged dog may not be the wisest choice. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you may not want a high-energy dog that requires a lot of exercise. And if you live in an apartment, size may be an issue.


Being a responsible dog owner is being an informed, realistic dog owner. Do research and educate yourself about dogs and proper dog ownership, nutrition, health and training. Understand the time, energy and money that may be needed to give you and your dog the optimal chance for your relationship to thrive.


There are 198 recognized AKC dog breeds, each with their own look, behavior and personality. Research the common and not-so-common breeds by visiting AKC’s website. Let your research take you to a particular breed’s parent club website (a parent club means that breed’s national club) and learn about that breed’s history, purpose and disposition. There are also lists of recognized breeders and possible rescue members of that breed that may be up for adoption.


Responsible purebred dog breeders are committed to that breed and its welfare. Responsible breeders should ideally be members of that breed’s national club and should be educated and accountable on their breed’s health status and adhere to their parent club’s (or national breed club’s) recommended health tests.

A responsible breeder will ask you important questions about your lifestyle, living conditions and expectations. They may not have a puppy or dog for you at that moment, which can signify that they breed very selectively for quality and not quantity. They may be willing to put you on a waiting list or refer you to another responsible breeder.

Breeders who have shown commitment to their breed and adhere to all the recommended breed-specific health checks by their breed’s parent club are designated as “Breeders of Merit” by the American Kennel Club.


If you prefer to rescue a dog from a shelter, you still need to be honest with the shelter staff about you and your family’s lifestyle, living conditions, energy levels and expectations. Responsible shelters should be asking you those questions. A good shelter also wants to get the best possible match for their puppies and dogs. If they are not asking you questions about your lifestyle, living conditions and personality expectations or giving you accurate information, be wary. This is especially important when getting a young mixed-breed puppy or an older dog with their own history. It’s important to understand why they ended up in the shelter so that you can make an informed decision as to whether that is a dog for you, and if necessary, take steps to resolve any challenges the dog may have had.


If you have a connection with and love for a particular breed of dog but would still like to rescue a dog, most parent clubs have breed rescue groups that are notified if a dog coming into the shelter is of their breed. With funds donated by that breed’s club, local member volunteers go get that dog from the shelter and place it in a foster home until it can find its forever home.

An example of a getting a good match from a responsible breeder AND a rescue is our first family. President Joe Biden and his family have two German Shepherds. Champ, the majestic 12-year-old, was obtained from a responsible breeder and illustrates what a truly magnificent breed the German Shepherd is. The Bidens loved the breed so much that they added a second German Shepherd, Major, from a rescue organization.


Before getting a dog, do your homework, and be honest and realistic with yourself and whomever you’re getting the dog from. That way you’ll have the greatest chance of getting the best match and a true loving companion for you and your family for life.