Pathfinder Repository


Choosing a Dog or Puppy

This Pathfinder is no longer being actively maintained by ipl.

General Information

Choosing a dog or puppy is an exciting experience but it also is a confusing time if you do not have accurate information on which to base this very important decision. There are so many issues to keep in mind: Do I want a puppy or an adult dog? Do I want a pure-bred or a mixed breed? What kind of dog will fit my lifestyle in terms of temperament, grooming, and activity level required to keep the dog healthy? Where do I go to find the dog once I have made my decision?

This guide will provide you with resources that will help you to intelligently answer the above questions and similar questions. Below you will find that the resources are divided into the following categories: organizations, print resources, and internet resources. Use the resources which you have access to and with which you feel the most comfortable. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of resources; however, the resources suggested in this guide are a good start to answering your questions and will suggest additional resources which you may find helpful. Good luck!


Depending on whether you want a pure-bred or a mixed breed dog, there are several organizations that can provide helpful information to you. The pre-eminent pure-bred organization in the United States is the American Kennel Club (AKC). The AKC serves several functions including: standard setting for all 134 recognized dog breeds, registering and pedigrees of individual pure-bred dogs, sanctioning dog shows of all types, publishing information for public education, and fostering interest in the health and welfare of dogs. The AKC is an excellent resource.


Each recognized breed also has its own association that can give you more specific information about its breed, point you in the direction of reputable breeders, provide a calendar of dog shows to which you can go and actually meet breeders and their dogs, and many other services.

Contact the AKC to obtain contact information about the breed clubs nearest you. (If you live outside of the United States, contact the AKC for information about your country’s kennel club.)


If you have chosen to pursue a mixed breed dog, you have several sources to obtain information. Local humane societies and animal shelters are excellent sources of dogs of all breeds, temperaments, sizes, and ages. There are a couple of ways in which to find these societies.

The Humane Society of the United States may also provide helpful information and names of local humane societies.


Their postal mail address and phone number is as follows:

The Humane Society of the United States
2100 L Street, NW
Washington DC, 20037

If you live outside of the United States and would like to find humane societies in your country, The Humane Society of the United States may be a helpful place to find contact information.

Check at the reference desk at your local public library for the National Directory of Nonprofit Organizations . In this book, you can search under “humane society” and find addresses and phone numbers of humane societies near you.

The American Business Disc CD-ROM (also found at your public library) can also be helpful. Using this disc, the SIC (Standard Industry Classification) number for humane societies is 8699-01. This disc lists humane societies, shelters, and cruelty prevention societies alphabetically by state. Ask the reference librarian for assistance.

Internet Resources

The Internet contains an overwhelming amount of information for dog-lovers. It seems as if there are sites for almost every breed. Using a search engine, you can simply type in the name of the breed you are interested in (type in as a phrase using quotation marks if the breed is 2 or more words). Ask is especially useful for finding information on dogs; just type in “dogs” in the search box.

While the information found in this way is entertaining and often contains adorable color photos, it may not always be the most factual so please check the source of the information!

The following sites are helpful, trustworthy ones for choosing and locating the dog of your dreams!

About.com:Dogs – How Do I Choose the Dog That’s Right for Me?
About.com’s site expert on dogs provides advice and resources on choosing the best dog for you.

GoodDogz.org – Choosing Your New Dog
A non-profit organization provides great advice and resources on how to choose a dog best suited for you and on whether you should purchase or rescue a dog.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS): Choosing the Right Dog page
HSUS tells you how best to pick a dog from a shelter.

This Australian site maintained by the Petcare Information and Advisory Service lets you fill out a questionnaire on the computer to compare your needs with the needs of 100 breeds and then suggest breeds that will most likely suit your needs. Information about the temperament and size of the suggested breeds is also provided as well as see a photo.

Print Resources

If you have been to your local library or bookseller lately, you may have noticed the sheer amount of books written on this subject. Here are a few suggestions:

The Complete Dog Book-an official publication of the American Kennel Club-According to the AKC, this is the “official book of the pure-bred dog.” This book goes through each of the 153 recognized breeds and offers a photo of each breed and information about breed standards, origins, temperaments, and major faults of the breed. This book also has a section entitled “Choosing the Right Dog” which raises issues to consider.

While there are numerous books about pure-bred dogs, not as may are written about the mixed breed. Here are a couple that you may find helpful.

Mini-Atlas of Dog Breeds-by Andrew DePrisco and James B. Johnson (T.F.H. Publications, 1990)-Similar to the AKC book described above, this book outlines each breed and includes remarks on temperament.

While there are numerous books about pure-bred dogs, not as may are written about the mixed breed. Here are a couple that you may find helpful.

Choosing and Caring for a Shelter Dog-A Complete Guide to Rescue and Re-Homing a Dog-by Bob Christiansen (Canine Learning Center Publishing Division)-This book includes information on selecting, training, and living with a shelter dog. It also has sections on problem behavior and health care.

The Mixed Breed-by Jeanette Stark (Howell Book House, Simon and Schuster, 1996)-This book provides information on choosing mixed breeds and places to find mixed breeds.

These books (and books similar to these) can be found at your local public library (Dewey Number 636.7) or at a local or online bookseller.

This pathfinder created by Julie Lawton. Updated by Mike Galloway in December 2007.