Finding the right breed of dog for your family will ensure that both you and your dog have the best possible life. Many families adopt a dog that they are not prepared to handle and eventually have to take that dog back to the breeder (or, even worse, to a pound). If you want to make sure that you are making the right choice for your family, here are some of the criteria you should consider when looking at different breeds:

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1. What size of dog do we want?

It is important to evaluate your living situation and determine what size of dog will fit best into that situation. For example, smaller breeds are usually a better choice for smaller apartments and homes, especially for those without yards.

Larger dogs usually need more space and are more active, and are best for larger homes with large outdoor spaces where they can run and play. That is not to say, however, that a large dog cannot be happy in a small apartment if your family is willing to make the effort to ensure that your dog gets the exercise and playtime he needs.

2. What’s our activity level?

Bringing a very active breed like a border collie into a family of couch potatoes is usually not a good idea. Families who are more active are more likely to be able to keep up with the activity needs of high energy dogs (like herding and working breeds), while lower activity level families would likely be happier with low-energy dogs. There are plenty of dogs, both big and small, that enjoy lying around the house. Many families get a dog hoping it will improve their activity level but discover, after a while, that they simply cannot keep up. These dogs start to act out because they don’t have the stimulation they need.

3. What do we want our dog to do?

Not every family looks for breeds from the frame of mind of giving that dog a job—but dogs are certainly happier in homes where they do have a job. If you are looking for a protective dog, a nanny breed like a German shepherd or St. Bernard might be a good option. If you are looking for a jogging buddy, a herding breed is a great choice.

4. How affectionate do we want our dog to be?

Every breed craves affection, but there are some breeds that are simply more loyal and require more attention and affection than others. Part of this can be traced back to how your dog is trained, but if you want a dog that is more standoffish, look for a breed that prefers to keep to itself. If, on the other hand, you want a dog that never leaves your side, look for a breed that his bred for loyalty and companionship.

5. Do we have other pets?

Some breeds get along better with cats and other dogs. They are more pack animals, while other breeds prefer to be the only dog in the house. This, again, can go back to how the dog is socialized and trained, but it is still a factor to consider when you are looking to introduce a new dog into your household. How well is this breed likely to mesh with the animals already in your home?