Find the dog breed that best fits your lifestyle, then find your new pup. Avoid backyard breeders and pet stores who lack experience and are only interested in making a quick buck; opt instead for a breeder with experience and knowledge. Purebred dogs can have medical problems specific to their breed. For example, some breeds are prone to hip dysplasia, a painful, genetic condition that affects a dog's gait. Responsible breeders have their dogs examined and certified to be free of hip dysplasia before allowing them to produce puppies.
Choose the Right Breed
Your new puppy is going to be a member of the family for many years; it's important to carefully consider which breed is best for your specific situation.
Take into account the amount of activity your family can spend with the dog. Some dogs need lots of exercise or they'll become bored, obese and prone to destructive behavior. Others are happy hanging out on the couch.
Some breeds need monthly grooming; others are more low-maintenance. Some shed mountains of hair every day; others don't shed much at all.
Look for a breed that has a temperament that fits your family's lifestyle. Some breeds love kids; others prefer a more quiet environment.
Every breed has known, breed-specific medical issues specific. While many of these issues are avoidable with responsible breeding practices, you should be aware of the potential problems of the breed you choose.
Find a Reputable Breeder
Check with your veterinarian, who should be familiar with breeders in your area. Good breeders work closely with veterinarians to have dogs checked for potential health problems and typically bring puppies in for their first few vaccinations before adoption.
The American Kennel Club offers a list of breeders across the country. To be added to the AKC Breeder of Merit Program, breeders must be members of the AKC and be involved in events for at least five years. The AKC requires breeders in the program to register all of their puppies and to screen every dog for recognized breed health issues.
Most breeds recognized by the AKC have their own clubs with breeder registries. Clubs provides education to owners and breeders, sponsors dog shows and can refer responsible breeders. Search online to find breed clubs.
Check Your Breeder’s Credentials
A responsible, professional breeder should allow you to visit the kennels and meet your puppy's parents. He will be able to provide you with medical records for the puppy, as well as health certifications for both parents.
Keep in mind that it may take up to a year to get a puppy from your local breeder. Well-known breeders typically have a waiting list. They don't overbreed their dogs, so you may have to be patient.
Responsible breeders don't sell their dogs to just anyone. Most insist on interviewing the prospective owners. If you rent your home, the breeder may require you to show proof that the owner allows dogs. You may be required to sign a contract that states that you'll return the dog to the breeder if you're ever unable to keep him, and that you'll have the dog spayed or neutered.
Check Shelters and Rescue Groups
You'll find more than mutts at your local animal shelter. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that about 25 percent of dogs in shelters are purebred. Stop by for a visit; you may find several puppies and older dogs in the breed of your choice. Good dogs end up in shelters for lots of reasons: owner's death, illness, divorce or relocation. Others are abandoned because their owners weren't committed to spending the time necessary to train them.
Breed-specific rescue organizations work with local breeders and animal shelters to provide no-kill solutions for their breeds. The AKC offers a list of rescue organizations. Check with your local shelter, veterinarian or breed-specific club for others.
When assessing an individual dog, pay close attention to his personality and body language. Ask employees or volunteers about his history and health. While many dogs aren't at rescues or shelters due to behavior problems, some do have special issues. Most shelters have special areas where families can get to know prospective adoptees. Sit quietly with the dog. Take him for a walk or spend some time playing fetch. Bring the whole family to meet the dog so you can see how he interacts with everyone. Make sure you're ready to make a solid commitment to a dog before you adopt.