You’re ready for a new dog. Figuring out where you should get your dog can be a challenge, though. Today, so many options are available to you and it can be hard to figure out where to start. A quick internet search can yield hundreds of dogs. Think of it as the beginning of your story together. You want to make sure you make the right choice.

I’m not sure there is a way I haven’t gotten a dog. Over my life I, or my family, have gotten dogs from a breeder, saved one from dog catchers, from a friend, from craigslist, and a couple just showed up at our house and stayed.

The best rule of thumb is to go wherever your perfect pooch is. Here is the rundown on three different avenues you can take.

Breeder

If you know you are after a specific breed and you’re ready to start from the puppy stage, maybe a breeder is where you should find your new addition. There is something wonderful about chatting with a breeder about the litter and going in to pick out your pup. Watching the grow up and shaping those early experiences can be incredibly rewarding.

If you choose to go with a breeder, this gives you an excellent opportunity to establish a relationship with the person you get the dog from and understand how they breed their dogs. This should make you feel much more comfortable with what to expect from your puppy.

Finding a responsible breeder can be a trick. A lot of people purchase purebred dogs and have litters, but they aren’t really breeders. This can range from backyard breeders to places that are basically puppymills. You will also likely pay the most if you choose to go with a breeder. A good breeder will be worth the money, in many ways, but this is not for everyone. Make sure your breeder is experienced, responsible, and keeps a clean kennel.

Shelter

Going to your local shelter and finding your perfect pooch can be a great experience. You are able to meet and greet with different dogs until you find the perfect one. You can also keep an eye on their website or Facebook page to see when a great lookin’ pup comes through. You are likely to adopt an adult if you go to a shelter. Not always, but usually. These dogs will also have some history. It’s important to know why the previous owner gave him or her up so you know if there are underlying behavioral issues you will need to nip in the bud or avoid altogether.

At the shelter you are going to find some wonderfully unique dogs. A great way to find the right one is to volunteer at the shelter. You will get to know a few different dogs and if you bond with one or fall in love, you can take him home. Shelters are often overcrowded and that might make this dog especially grateful. Adopting from a shelter will make you feel great too for improving this pup’s life.

Rescue

A rescue could be the middle ground between a breeder and a shelter for many reasons. You can find a breed specific rescue like DRNA or frenchbulldogrescue.org or grrace.org. You will get that purebred dog you’re looking for, but you are still taking on an older dog who really needs you.

There are rescues for non-purebreds of course. Some rescues specialize in dogs who were in high-kill shelters or elderly. These include lastdaydogrescue.org and the senior dog project.

A rescue will probably cost you somewhere between the cheaper shelter and the more expensive breeder. Often, rescues list their dogs online so you can read their whole backstory and any behaviors their foster parents have noted. This is a great way to know more about the dog before you bring him home.

No matter where you get a dog, you will likely be asked a few questions about your living situation, your family life, and your current pets. This is because so many dogs are given up to shelters and rescues. Breeders, shelters, and rescues alike want to make sure the dog you take home his finding his or her forever home.

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