Having a pet brings numerous rewards, but finding the right puppy is key.

How To Choose a Puppy
Golden retrievers, one of the most popular breeds when choosing a puppy, are known for their friendly and easygoing personalities.
| Credit: Van Chaplin

Do Your Research
For first-time dog owners, choosing the right puppy for the family requires a little bit of work. If you want to go the way of a purebred, do preliminary research to find a match suitable for your home and lifestyle. Check with your local library, or do research online (www.akc.org and www.canismajor.com are good places to start).

Also, ask the experts: veterinarians. They know firsthand the general qualities of different breeds. Talk with friends and coworkers to get their perspectives on canine companions as well.

Decide What Kind of Puppy You Want
Next, determine what you are looking for in a puppy. Do you want big or small, short- or long-haired? Think of where you live. Some animals thrive only where they can be very active, while others require little room to be satisfied and happy. If you have children, you need to consider which breeds are compatible with them.

Like a new baby, a puppy requires a lot of attention and care. Think carefully about the time of year your family gets its first dog. Summer--when your children have more time to devote to the puppy--may be perfect.

Finally, consider your budget. The cost of a purebred dog ranges from $100 into the thousands, and your puppy will need immediate veterinary care. Also, think about the long-term costs such as grooming, medical expenses, and feeding.

Make Sure You Get the Pick of the Litter
Purchase your pet from a responsible breeder. You'll want to avoid puppy mills, where irresponsible owners keep the animals in overcrowded conditions without proper care.

Meet the pup's mother; this will give you an idea about how your dog will look and act someday. Observe each puppy's interaction with the litter. Do you want the most rambunctious one or the little shy guy?

Welcome Your Puppy Home
Once you've found the dog of your dreams, the fun is just beginning. Taking the time to find the right pooch to fit your home and lifestyle will reward you in countless ways as he or she becomes a bona fide part of the family.