For those of you who are in the process of finding your perfect dog, you have so many wonderful opportunities and possibilities laid out before you. It is an exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming.

Getting a dog is a huge decision and it can be one of the best decisions you make your whole life. The right dog placed with the right owners can have such strong bonds. They can become your very best friend and your constant companion.

We think finding your perfect pooch comes down to two things – considering your own lifestyle, personality, and family dynamic and researching until you find a breed that fits.

Consider your Lifestyle

There are hundreds of lists created about dogs every year that you can find. Top 10 Most Popular Breeds in America, 5 Snuggliest Breeds, and Most High Maintenance Breeds. Figure out which list you think fits your lifestyle the best, and take a look at those breeds.

Be critical about your daily life, your home, your family, and your personality. Do you live in an apartment or a home? Do you have access to parks? Will you take advantage of these parks? Will your dog be living indoors? Do you have children your dog will be with? Will you pay to take your dog to doggy day care? Can you take Fido to work? Answer these questions and keep that in mind when you are considering a particular breed.

Be open to new possibilities and be honest with yourself. If you don’t like being outdoors and active, get a breed that requires less exercise (though all dogs need daily exercise). If you are a neat freak in your home, don’t choose a breed that sheds excessively, even if you think you can overlook it. You may have encountered a particular breed and had a good experience, but that doesn’t mean they’re right for your home. Shepherds aren’t for everyone, retrievers aren’t always the best option, and the most popular breed of the year might not be a fit for your home.

Do your Research

A new dog can make your family feel whole. Getting the right dog is a big piece of the puzzle, however, and that is why we strongly recommend researching a breed before taking the plunge.

Keep in mind that different breeds were designed to do different jobs. Some were bred for herding, others for retrieving, some for sniffing, and others for companionship. Those hard-wired instincts play a huge role in the personalities of different breeds.

A great general resource is the Dog Encyclopedia. Sounds funny, but this book was given to me by Santa (YES, that long ago) and it has been a resource for family, friends, and myself ever since. This book covers hundreds of breeds and gives you some basic dog knowledge, as well. If you haven’t narrowed it down to a breed, this is a great way to start selecting your favorites. Each breed has a page or so excerpt with their history, personality, and upkeep. Find it on amazon here.

To get started, you can always do internet research too. It’s quick and easy and if you don’t want a huge dog book on your shelf, this is a great alternative. You can also read a wide array of articles and soak up tons of knowledge.

If you have a breed in mind go to Google and type in “dachshund breed information,” or whatever your breed might be. Read up, but keep in mind, these articles and even books will be written by enthusiasts of the breed. They will let you know about the downfalls, but they might downplay them.

To get a reliable and full explanation of a breed online, look at the American Kennel Club site. They have all of the registered dog breeds on their site and they can even help connect you with a reputable breeder in your area. They also just have tons of reliable and useful information about dogs.

You can also find breed specific books. Just hop on and type your breed into the search box.

Looking for a mutt? Read the specific dog’s bio on the rescue site. This can give you a great idea of what to expect from a magnificent mutt.

I have personally experienced both scenarios – researching a breed beforehand and not researching a breed beforehand. It has always turned out better for me to know as much as possible before committing to a dog. And that’s exactly what you should do – commit. Don’t just get one and see how it turns out. That can be emotionally traumatizing for a dog and it won’t be easy for you either.

Cute is a factor on some level, but really, the right dog will steal your heart no matter how ugly. Don’t believe me? Check out the Instagram account @tunameltsmyheart.

There is a breed or mutt for everyone. Just take you time and figure out your perfect pooch so you can have a life full of happiness, joy, laughter, and love with your new companion.