By Heather Venkat, DVM, MPH, DACVPM
How do I know I’m getting the right breed?
Nine steps to finding the right puppy
1. Talk as a family
2. Choose between a puppy or an adult dog
3. Learn about your breed
4. Consider your future plans
5. Prep your home
6. Choose a local veterinarian
7. Get puppy supplies
8. Choose your puppy from the litter
9. Bring your puppy home
By now hopefully you’ve completed step one and you know exactly which dog breed you want to bring home.
In understanding which breed is right for you, it’s important to both take the Breed Finder Quiz, as well as take into consideration the following:
How Do I Know I’m Getting the Right Breed?
Here are five simple questions to help you know if you are bringing the right breed home. Ask yourself these questions to better understand both what you are expecting as well as which breed will be a good, long-term fit.
1. Large, medium, or small?
What are you expecting in a dog? Are you wanting a large, intimidating guard dog? What about a medium-sized jogging partner? Or do you prefer a tiny little lap buddy?
How large is your current living space? Do you have adequate area for a large dog to roam and enjoy daily exercise?
Contrary to how it may appear, if you call a small apartment home, this doesn’t immediately rule out large dog breeds.
Instead, there are large breeds who will do great in small living quarters, provided you have a space nearby where they can run, exercise, and explore a bit of outdoors.
Consider your lifestyle and whether you have young children or elderly in the home when thinking about how big of a dog would fit best into your family.
2. How much time do you want to spend grooming a new dog?
There are low maintenance pups and there are dogs that require hours of regular grooming.
Grooming can include anything from brushing to detangling, bathing, trimming, and cutting of nails.
If you’re bringing your new dog home to the family, who will be responsible for grooming your new pal?
How much time can they dedicate towards grooming each week?
Also, don’t forget that some dogs will still need professional grooming sessions in between your home maintenance routine.
These visits may not be cheap, depending on how big of a dog you have or how complicated of a cut he/she requires.
Consider whether or not someone in your family is allergic to dogs or has sensitivities. A hypoallergenic dog that requires little grooming might be best.
3. Purebred or designer breed?
Do you prefer a purebred pal, or a designer dog breed instead?
Are you hoping to enroll your dog in a professional organization with those who own the same breed? Then a purebred dog may be right for you.
Some newer designer dog breeds do not have professional breed clubs yet, although that doesn’t mean you can’t start your own!
And don’t worry if that is the case, because some national organizations do allow purebred alternate listings or designer breeds to be registered with them, such as the American Kennel Club.
Perhaps you are hoping to continue a breed’s legacy, or even become a breeder yourself. If you have had your eye on a particular purebred pooch for a while, it might be a sign that’s the breed for you.
Or maybe you are looking for a dog that is one of a kind, a rarity.
Then a unique designer breed could be your best fit.
4. Is your home dog friendly?
If you are renting, are pets even allowed?
If they are allowed, does your landlord have dog age, breed, or size restrictions in place? Some apartments also only allow a certain number of pets in each unit.
Make sure you are following the rules so you don’t need to worry when you bring your pup home.
Do you live near dog parks or other outdoor activities where your dog can get good exercise? Consider if you will need or want a backyard, dog run, or have an enclosed community space available for your pooch.
Is there space in your home to store doggy accessories? Dog bowls, food, crates, beds, and toys all need their place.
Can your home comfortably fit a new canine addition?
5. What hobby will you do together?
What are you hoping to do with your new pupper friend?
Perhaps hiking, running, or water sports are how you spend your weekend.
Or maybe binge watching Netflix is your favorite weekend tradition.
Whatever the case, look for a dog breed that will match your stamina.
Every dog is an individual, but most breeds are pretty consistent in their temperament, training ability, and energy level. (Hence why some breeds are typically chosen to be therapy or service dogs!)
Knowing what the dog was originally bred for can also help you find the right fit.
For example, Huskies were bred to run and pull, Beagles were bred to sniff and bay, Border Collies to herd, and Rat Terriers to dig and hunt vermin.
Once you ask yourself these questions, you can better understand which dog breed is truly best for you.
With your breed now selected, let’s take a look at how to find the right puppy.
9 Steps to Finding the Right Puppy
1. Talk as a family
Communication is key when looking for the right puppy.
Before you go pick out a new puppy, discuss as a family who will be responsible to feed and walk the dog.
Who will do the grooming? What about training? What ground rules will you set, such as whether or not the pup is allowed on the couches or beds?
Do you want a male or a female? Are there other dogs in the home who get along with males or females better?
Find out if your family agrees on spaying or neutering the puppy. Or will you want to breed him or her in the future?
Plus, are there already other animals in the home who you should be considering before adding a new pack member? What is your plan for introducing them and making sure that everyone gets along?
Next, consider how often the puppy will be left alone. Typically, puppies love a good companion and are never fond of needing to stay alone for long periods of time.
Is there someone home at all times to supervise the puppy? If not, think about where he or she will be kept to stay out of trouble.
How often will the pup be let outside to do its business, and who will clean up after it?
If you already own several dogs, it’s important to also check your state laws regarding possible limits on how many canines you can have under one roof.
2. Choose Between a Puppy or an Adult Dog
If you select a puppy, you’ll have more leverage in providing good, positive training and socialization.
You’ll have a clean slate to teach good habits, plus you will know their history.
You’ll also likely encounter more training boo-boos as your puppy discovers the thrill in chewing on shoes, rugs, and couch legs.
Not to mention the occasional accident while your puppy learns the basics of house-training.
Be prepared to put some work in from the start so you can reap the rewards of a well behaved pal later.
Perhaps best of all, when you buy a puppy, you’ll likely have your pup for a much longer time period and get to experience the thrill of seeing your roly poly puppy grow into an adult.
An adult dog, on the other hand, will likely arrive home already having been trained in the basics of life.
House-training is often complete, and your shoes are more likely to stay intact.
However, with an adult dog can also come “baggage”.
You may encounter bad habits or unusual canine fears as your pal navigates life.
Behavior issues like separation anxiety, counter surfing, or food guarding may require more work to overcome.
There could also be underlying health issues that naturally pop up as a dog gets older.
Keep in mind also that if you want to enjoy your new furry friend for as long as possible, an adult dog is already several years into life.
3. Learn About Your Breed
Take time to really learn about your breed.
When you purchase from a high-quality breeder, the breeder can often predict how large a puppy will grow, the accompanying temperament, and how much grooming can be expected.
In addition, learn how much exercise your puppy requires.
What are training needs you should be aware of? What is the breed’s natural traits? What are the pup’s parents like?
Does this breed typically bark a lot, or is it more quiet?
Are there any common genetic health issues to watch out for in the specific breed?
What kind of appetite is typical for your breed? (It’s no surprise that a mini Poodle will consume fewer calories than a Great Dane!)
Has your puppy received any vaccines or deworming?
A breeder is an expert on the breed they provide, so go ahead and ask them anything you want to know about their puppies.
One way to find reputable dog breeders is via this dog breeder list.
Alternatively, when you find a puppy you are interested in, you can simply contact the breeder directly via the contact information included with each puppy.
4. Consider Your Future Plans
When you bring home a new puppy, imagine bringing home a life-long friend.
So think ahead a little.
What are your hopes for the next 10-15 years?
Will you be moving in the near future?
Are children in the picture? Could you have a job change?
Do you have the funds for a pup’s veterinary care, or are you prepared for any emergencies that might pop up? Is pet insurance an option?
Life happens and surprises may creep in.
Ask yourself these questions to better understand if you’ll be able to properly care for a dog along the way.
5. Prep Your Home
It’s time to puppy-proof your home.
Get down on a dog’s level and look around your home.
Do you see any potential hazards?
Are there dangling electrical cords on the loose? Tape them to a baseboard.
Do you have rat poison anywhere? Elevate it to where a puppy can’t get into it.
Where do you store your household chemicals? (Think cleaning supplies, etc.)
Oh, and plants. Do you have any plants that could prove harmful to a new puppy coming home?
What about kids toys or bowls of chocolate or candy? Or food bowls for your other pets? Keep them out of your pup’s reach.
Also, do you have stairs or something the puppy could potentially fall down?
If you’re bringing home a small puppy, what type of rugs are in your home? Will it matter if your pup chews a corner or two? Or has a few potty accidents there?
Are there breakables on or near the floor that a puppy could get into?
Don’t forget your backyard or patio! Is the fence tall enough and secure with no holes he/she could squeeze through? Is the pool blocked off? Are there any sharp or hazardous objects lying around?
You can either puppy-proof your entire home, or you could also install a few baby gates to keep your puppy confined to specific areas of your home.
6. Choose a Local Veterinarian
Changing hairdo. Yorkshire terrier stands still while its lower muzzle hair is being cut.Before you bring a new puppy home, find a local veterinarian who you can trust.
If you have the option of choosing between multiple vets, ask around for referrals to learn which vet will be your best fit.
In addition, inquire about potential costs and consider purchasing pet insurance or preventive care plans with monthly fees to offset any bills.
What does a normal check-up cost? How much can you expect to spend on vaccines, etc?
Make sure you look up their operating hours and if they are open on weekends. Keep a list of emergency veterinary clinics handy in case you need to take your pup in when your regular vet is closed.
Prepare your list of questions and concerns, if any, ahead of time before your first vet visit. Consider planning to take your puppy in before his or her appointment to get comfortable with the surroundings.
Also, have a plan for if you will use a carrier, leash, or harness to take your puppy to the vet, and get him or her accustomed to it before the visit.
7. Get Supplies
One last thing before you bring your new puppy home: pick out size-appropriate dog and puppy supplies. Here’s what to stock up on:
1. Dog Food
Puppies like to eat.
Sooner rather than later it’s important to start a new puppy on wholesome and nutritious kibble.
So talk to your puppy’s breeder about what food he is already giving your puppy. Learn if he has any specific recommendations.
Or grab a bag of wholesome dog food here.
You can expect to spend between $20-25 for a single bag of dog food.
Plan for a short transition period of one to two weeks as your pup gets used to the food. It is important to make the right choice so that he or she grows up healthy and strong.
2. Water bowls
If you don’t have water bowls starting out, small plastic containers will do.
Although you’ll want to grab a few water bowls soon so your puppy has an expected place where he/she can always access fresh drinking water.
Expect to pay $5-15 per water bowl.
Look for a strong, nylon collar that is appropriately sized for your breed. (Pro tip: nylon collars are the easiest to clean!)
Again for this you can expect to pay anywhere from $5-15.
4. ID Tag
This one is a must.
If your puppy is micro-chipped, go ahead and register your contact information if the breeder hasn’t already done so.
Then get your puppy an ID tag too. On the tag, include your dog’s name, your name, and your phone number.
This way should calamity strike and your puppy meander off, your puppy’s identity will be clear and you’ll be more likely to find him/her.
You can get an ID tag for as little as $8.
The variety of available dog leashes can be overwhelming. Simply look for a strong nylon leash, between six and eight feet long. (Again, these are the easiest to clean!)
Plus, consider your puppy’s size and energy level too. Large dog breeds will need a stronger leash, while mini schnauzers are less demanding.
For a basic leash, expect to pay between $10-15.
6. Dog Crate
This one gets pricey really fast, so check second hand if you’re unable to purchase new.
A comfortable dog crate is perfect for providing a safe space for your puppy while she acclimates to the rest of your home. A crate is also excellent at confining your puppy to avoid destruction while you are away from home.
It’s important to note that dog crates are size specific, so be sure whichever crate you bring home is large enough for your new puppy.
Soft-sided crates exist, but most puppies do best with a sturdy wire or hard plastic crate to prevent them from chewing through. These types of hard crates are also easier to clean if your puppy makes a potty mess inside.
For a new dog crate, expect to pay anywhere between $50-150.
7. Dog Toys
Nothing says welcome home like a few favorite doggy toys. Grab one or two starting out, and watch your new puppy start having fun.
Not only do toys help distract your pup from chewing your furniture, play sessions together also help the two of you start bonding right away.
New toys can cost anywhere between $5-15.
8. Dog Treats
Yes, yes, and yes to this one! Grab a bag of doggy treats and jump on the fast track to becoming your puppy’s hero.
Of course, you’ll want to use these in moderation. Treats are great for rewarding good behaviors while training, or just making a dull moment special.
You can also give your pup treats to teach them fun new tricks to show off when friends and family are around.
Expect to pay between $5-15 for a bag of scrumptious doggy treats.
8. Choose Your Puppy from the Litter
By now you know which breed you are bringing home.
You have basic dog essentials in stock.
You’ve made contact with a breeder and have your eye on a specific litter.
Now how to actually choose your new puppy from a litter is the next question.
If you are meeting the breeder and observing the puppies in person, carefully observe how the litter interacts with one another.
Is there a loner who prefers to wander off and do things by himself?
Or perhaps there’s an exceptionally aggressive puppy who enjoys acting as ring leader with his siblings.
One isn’t better than the other, they are just different. Consider which personality you are most drawn to, and then choose accordingly.
If you are not meeting the breeder in person, ask the breeder which personalities he notices in the puppies. Then choose a puppy based on which personality you most connect with.
In addition to personalities, either in person or via photos, carefully examine the litter mates for any hair loss, redness and sores.
Each puppy should have a nice, shiny coat and be looking healthy.
Lastly, depending on if you prefer a male or a female, your decision might already be a little easier if you’ve narrowed it down that way.
9. Bring Your Puppy Home!
It’s time to bring your new puppy home!
To ease your puppy’s transition away from his mamma and litter mates, take a small blanket along when picking up your puppy.
Rub the blanket gently against the mother and litter mates to catch their scent, then let your new little pup snuggle with the blanket during his first days home.
Or if you are having your puppy shipped, ask the breeder to include a small blanket in your puppy’s crate that already has the other puppy pack member’s scent.
This familiar scent will help comfort your new little puppy as he transitions into your family.
In addition to providing your new puppy with familiar and comforting smells, be patient with your puppy as he acclimates to his new home.
During the first few days he may seem a bit shy or timid. This is totally normal and nothing you need to worry about just yet.
The puppy might even cry or whine as it adjusts to life away from his siblings.
Over time (think several weeks), your puppy will slowly acclimate and start to blossom.
To further ease the transition home, be consistent and use a schedule with your new puppy.
This way your little pal can learn what to expect rather than spiraling into turmoil from constantly changing plans.
Whether it’s scheduled meal times or an evening walk every day, let your puppy know what he can expect from you on a daily basis.
Plan ahead to sign up for puppy training classes with a reputable local dog trainer, as spots can be limited and fill up quickly. Set your puppy up for success!
Last but not least, don’t forget to continue vaccinations with your pupper.
Learn from the breeder which vaccines and deworming your puppy already received.
Then schedule remaining vaccinations and other necessary care with your local veterinarian.
Even if you think your puppy had all of his vaccines, a thorough initial physical exam and check-up is always a good idea.
To learn more about vaccines and when they should be administered, click here.
How to Find the Right Puppy FAQ
Q. How to find a puppy?
First, choose your breed. Then, browse puppies for sale online specific to your breed of choice and look for a puppy that is happy, healthy, and well cared for.
Q. How do I choose the best puppy food?
Look for puppy food that is wholesome and nutritious. The ingredients list should include protein and essential vitamins while avoiding harmful additives. For new puppies, we recommend this kibble.
Q. Where are puppies for sale near me?
To find puppies for sale near you, browse our newest puppies for sale. At the top of the page, filter to include only puppies in or near your state.
Q. When should I bring a new puppy home?
A new puppy needs time to develop and bond with his mother and litter mates. As a result, a puppy should be eight weeks old before he/she arrives home.
Q. When should I get a puppy?
The best time to get a puppy is whenever YOU feel ready. Spring or summer is often preferred thanks to long, sunny days perfect for housebreaking, training, and walks outside.
One Last Word…
Summing it all up, to bring home the right puppy, first clarify which breed is best for you.
Then know your expectations and understand what you are looking for in a dog.
Talk about future plans with your family and if a new puppy fits into your long-term plan.
Next, prep your home and grab basic doggy essentials.
Choose your puppy from the litter.
And finally, bring home the right puppy and start living happy.
The process to bringing home a new puppy has never been easier.
Browse our entire collection of newest puppies for sale and meet reputable dog breeders from around the nation.
See you there!
P.S. I’d love to hear from you: which dog breed is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.
Donovan, L. (2020). What dog is right for me? Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/dog-breeds/what-dog-is-right-for-me/.
Tips for the First 30 Days (n.d.). Petfinder. Retrieved from https://www.petfinder.com/dogs/bringing-a-dog-home/tips-for-first-30-days-dog/.
Williams, L. (n.d.). 8 Steps to take when adopting and bringing a new dog home. Retrieved from https://www.moneycrashers.com/adopting-bringing-new-dog-home/.
Dr. Heather Venkat has been a veterinarian since 2013, working in companion animal medicine with dogs and cats, as well as veterinary public health. Her passion is in prevention, One Health, and strengthening the human-animal bond. A bonafide animal-lover, she competes in dog sports and currently shares her home with a border collie mix named Luna, three cats, and two leopard geckos.