How to Find the Right Breed for You

Currently, there are more than 190 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. Needless to say, not all breeds are appropriate for all individuals. Breeds are man-made, with each developed for a purpose. The attributes found in each breed are appropriate for the job the breed was meant to do. Trying to shoe-horn an inappropriate breed into your current lifestyle because of the way it looks or the message it sends is a recipe for disaster. The best choice, leading to the most satisfactory relationship between pet and owner, is the one that matches the personality and unique lifestyle of the owners with the temperamental characteristics of the breed. Given the diversity of human personalities and lifestyles, and the differences in temperaments and appearances of various breeds of dogs, it stands to reason that one can find a unique match between person and pet. It just takes patience and a bit of fortitude.

It helps first to assess your own lifestyle. Some of the aspects you should consider are:


Urban, rural or suburban; condo, apartment, or house; size of available exercise area; neighborhood requirements or restrictions; weather and climate.


Ages of children (if applicable), presence of other pets, your past experience with dogs, financial resources, availability of family members, general activity level of the household.


Playmate for children; companion; watchdog; herder; hunter; lap dog.

Breed Characteristics to Consider

After you assess your own lifestyle, explore the characteristics that make each breed unique. These qualities are most often directly related to the purpose for which the breed was originally developed. They can be roughly divided into these categories:


These attributes include weight, height, strength, coat color and texture, tendency to shed, tendency to drool, ears natural or cropped, tails long, short or docked, health issues, life span and food requirements.


These characteristics include indoor and outdoor activity level, emotional stability, sociability, training potential and watchdog/guard-dog ability. In addition, it is helpful to know the history of each breed, its background and relative popularity. With a little bit of homework, you should be able to narrow down your selection to the right dog for you, your family and your lifestyle.

Breed Resources

The most obvious resources for breed information are breeders. However, there are also a number of sources in the library or bookstore, on the internet, and at the Detroit Kennel Club Dog Shows.

Books and Publications

There are many books that honestly list the characteristics of pure-bred dogs, often supplying a quiz or questionnaire to test your appropriateness for a particular breed. Beware of materials in which all of the dogs are described in glowing terms. It is important to understand the negatives as well as the positives of each breed.

Some suggested books are:

  • The Right Dog for You by Daniel F. Tortora, Ph. D.
  • Your Purebred Puppy: A Buyer’s Guide by Michelle Welton
  • Dogs by Roger Caras (see also Roger Caras Dog Book)

National Breed Clubs

Most national breed clubs have web sites, and many also have information packets or handbooks available to those interested in their breed. Many regional clubs also have web sites as well as handouts and pamphlets. To find the contact for a particular national breed club, and a brief description of each breed, check out the American Kennel Club web site.

Dog Shows

In addition to the Detroit Kennel Club Dog Shows, there are many dog shows held throughout the year that will provide you with the opportunity to meet dogs up close and personal. At most dog shows, dogs leave after the breed competition ends, so it is important to arrive at the show before the posted judging time in order to see the dogs and arrange to talk with owners and breeders after the competition has ended. The best time to talk to an exhibitor is after s/he has taken the dog into the ring. Most breeders and owners love to talk about their dogs, but may be nervous or preoccupied before the competition begins. Shows and show times can be found on the show superintendent site. The superintendent for the Detroit Kennel Club shows is Jack Onofrio Dog Shows.

Breed Seminars and “Meet the Breed”

Many shows offer opportunities for show spectators to meet dogs, their owners and breeders during casual information sessions call “Meet the Breed.” Often held during the lunch hour (approximately noon – 1pm), exhibitors are invited to assemble in a designated ring(s) with their dogs. Spectators are invited as well, and are able to wander from dog to dog, meet them, pet them, and ask all the questions you might have. These are casual sessions and are free to all show spectators.

Sometimes shows will offer more in-depth Breed Seminars where only one breed will be presented. During these seminars, often held away from the show ring area, expert breeders and owners will bring their own dogs for you to meet and will give more of a formal presentation about their breed. Guests are welcome and encouraged to ask questions!

NEXT – Guide to Finding a Breeder