So you're ready to add a new member to your family -- a furry one -- but now you have a million more decisions to make: Should you buy from a breeder or look at a shelter? What kind of dog should you get? And how can you be sure you've found the right one? Relax. As long as you do your research, choosing a dog should be fun.
- Do pick a pooch that fits your home. Bring a big dog into your house only if you can give him a lot of space and long walks. If you have the room and you're an active, outdoorsy family, a good choice might be a sporting breed, like a Labrador retriever, golden retriever, or cocker spaniel, or a working breed, like a bullmastiff, Bernese mountain dog, Siberian husky, or Great Dane -- all are active and friendly.
- Don't buy a shaggy dog if you're allergic. Think about getting a nonshedding dog if you're worried about loose hairs or kids' allergies. Dogs that are regularly professionally groomed shed less in the home. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog since all dogs produce dander, but some have less than others. Good choices are bichon frises, standard poodles, or schnauzers. And if allergies are a problem, try wiping the dog's coat with a dryer sheet once a day to pick up excess dander and loose hairs.
- Do pick a mild-mannered puppy. Pugs, boxers, bulldogs, Brittany spaniels, standard poodles, soft-coated wheaten terriers, bearded collies, and bichon frises are all sweet-tempered dogs that are likely to be more forgiving of -- and protective of -- their little owners. Some aloof dogs that don't mix as well with kids are dalmatians (don't be fooled by the movie -- they're excitable and not a great match), toy poodles, and chow chows.
- Don't choose a herding dog if you're lazy. Border collies, corgis, and Shetland sheepdogs are very smart, obedient, and trainable, but they need a lot of mental stimulation. And keep a close eye on them when they're with your children; they may actually try to herd them and nip at their ankles.