With hundreds of breeds to choose from, how do you decide which one is right? Narrow down the choices in a few simple steps.

Size Matters

First, consider your available space. If you live in an apartment, you can rule out large dogs. Look for dogs in the Toy group, such as Yorkshire Terriers, or some of the smaller dogs in the Terrier group, like the Miniature Schnauzer.

If you have children, you may want to rule out very small dogs, such as Chihuahuas or Maltese. They are delicate and can be accidentally injured by young children. On the other hand, very large dogs, such as Boxers or Saint Bernards, can be overly boisterous and can accidentally turn your child into a human bowling pin. Consider medium-sized breeds, such as Fox Terriers or Lhasa Apsos.

Exercise Essential

Next, consider how much exercise you can give your dog. If you have a home with a fenced yard, your dog will be able to get some exercise on his own.

However, dog breeds in the Sporting, Hound, and Herding groups are very high-energy animals, and they will need intensive daily exercise. Plan to take a lot of long walks with your dog or go for a daily romp in the park. After all, these dogs were bred to work hard, and they don’t do well unless they have a job to do or a way to burn off excess energy.

To Groom Or Not

Also, don’t forget to consider grooming needs. Some breeds need only half an hour or so of grooming a week, while others require an hour a day. If you are short on time, don’t buy a Standard Poodle or a Maltese — unless you plan to take your dog to a groom. Breeds like Boston Terriers or Whippets are good choices for people who don’t have time for a lot of grooming.

Puppy Problems

Once you decide which breed you want, you will need to consider the age of the dog. Many people opt to buy a cuddly little puppy instead of an adult. While puppies have the advantage of not yet having developed any bad habits, it will be up to you to be sure your puppy is housebroken and obedience trained.

Do you want to buy a puppy? If so, you will need to find a reputable dog breeder who has a litter of the appropriate breed. Often, a good breeder will have a waiting list for puppies. If you aren’t the patient sort, you may be tempted to buy a puppy from a pet store. A word of caution — many pet store puppies come from puppy mills and have genetic health defects, bad temperaments, and other problems. It is usually safest to buy a puppy directly from the breeder.

Older dogs are usually housebroken and frequently have some obedience training. They are also less likely to be hyperactive and destructive. However, they can have behavioral problems or health problems that prompted the former owner to find them a new home. If you are interested in an older dog, you may want to visit your local animal shelter or call a breed rescue. These groups evaluate the dogs’ health and temperament before adopting them out. Once you’ve picked the breed and the dog, you have one more important decision to make — what to name your new best friend!