Finding the right dog

Labrador looking happy with happy family looking at him

After confirming that your home and lifestyle are suited to owning a dog, the next step is to decide what type of dog would be best for you.

Choosing the right breed is a big decision

It's important to do your research to find the best match for you, your family and your lifestyle. With so many choices on offer, deciding on a breed isn't always easy. 

Do your research

Try to learn as much as you can about the breeds you’re interested in. Find out about both the good traits and the downsides of owning any breeds you’re considering.

  • Meet different breeds in person (Discover Dogs and Crufts are great places to discover dog breeds)
  • Visit our Breeds A to Z
  • Talk to friends or family members who already have dogs
  • Each breed has at least one breed club you can contact for more information

Key questions to consider

Puppy or rescue?

If you are looking for a puppy then you can use our Find a Puppy service to browse puppies for sale. This platform gives you all the information you need on the puppies, their parents and the breeders.

Rescue dogs

If you’re considering giving a home to a pedigree breed rescue dog, our Find a Puppy service has a rescue dog option, which provides contact details for breed rescues for your chosen pedigree dog breed.

If you are not able to find what you are looking for, then breed clubs may be able to provide you with expert advice.

Read more about breed rescue organisations and how to adopt a rescue dog.

Pedigree or crossbreed?

What is a pedigree dog?

A pedigree dog has two parents of the same breed and their family tree (their pedigree) is recorded by a registration body, like The Kennel Club. The main advantage of a pedigree dog is how predictable they are, as individual dogs within that breed will have similar characteristics, such as how they look and behave.

Find out more about pedigree dogs.

What is a crossbreed dog?

A crossbreed dog has two parents from different breeds, and although their puppies will be an unpredictable mix of their parents' genes, they are thought to be less likely to be affected by some genetic conditions unless the condition can be found in both parents families.

Find out more about crossbreeds.

Are there health risks?

Although many dogs will lead very healthy lives, all dogs have potential health problems. There are often DNA tests or screening schemes to help breeders avoid producing puppies with health conditions. Puppy buyers should research any tests and screening schemes that are relevant to the breed they are considering. Results from health tests or screening schemes of every pedigree dog registered with us can be found on our Health Test Results Finder. Being armed with the knowledge about the parents' health will help maximise your chances of getting a healthy puppy.

Brachycephalic breeds

Dogs with a flat, wide-shaped head are said to be brachycephalic (brachy, meaning short and cephalic, meaning head). This particular skull shape will often give these dogs a characteristic flattened face and a short muzzle. Although the shape of these dogs’ heads can make them look very cute, it also makes them susceptible to developing certain health issues associated with their features. 

Find out more about the health risks for flat-faced dog breeds.

Regardless of the type of dog you choose, it’s important that the parents are appropriately health tested and come from responsible breeders.

Characteristics to consider

Gender

The sex of the dog that you choose may determine its size (males tend to be larger) and its personality traits to some extent (e.g., levels of affection and independence). 

Size

Is the size of dog you’re considering appropriate for your home, garden, car, children and exercise plans? If you’re thinking about getting a big dog, will its size impact friends or family that might be looking after it during holidays? Will you, and other people helping to care for your dog, be able to manage its size?

Exercise

Every dog needs regular exercise, but some will require more than others. Some breeds may need one to two short walks a day, plus time to play or train, while others may require some form of physical activity for most of the day.

Grooming

It's worth considering how much grooming your preferred breed will need. If you have reservations about spending hours brushing your dog, then you may wish to consider a low-maintenance breed. Some short-muzzled breeds need regular cleaning of their skin folds to prevent infection, so they still require grooming despite their short coats. Other dog breeds may have a strong smell; some dribble a lot!

Non-moulting breeds of dog

All dogs shed their hair, but some breeds shed their coat less than others. This is something to consider if you have dog allergies, live with someone who does, or don't want to deal with large amounts of dog hair. If you do have an allergy, you should consult a medical professional before getting a dog. Our Breeds A to Z gives information on whether a breed sheds or not.

Temperament

Some dogs are bred for physical characteristics, others for their working ability. As a result, there's a wide range of temperaments, or personalities, on offer.

Colour

Each pedigree breed has a list of recognised colours found in our breed standards, which are guides to how a breed should look. They also detail the temperaments of the 221 pedigree breeds that we know and love. 

Some unscrupulous breeders will closely follow the latest fashion or fad, exploiting puppy buyers by advertising rare or exclusive coloured puppies at an inflated price.

If you're considering buying a puppy with a non-breed standard colour from a breeder, you should first check that they meet the responsible breeder criteria or you can find out more about what it means for a dog to have a 'rare' or 'unusual' colour.

Vulnerable native breeds

With over 200 dog breeds to choose from, potential puppy buyers are often spoiled for choice. Unfortunately, some native breeds (breeds of British origin) are becoming rarer as more exotic breeds grow in popularity. As numbers diminish, some native breeds are at risk of disappearing altogether. 

If you’d like to support breeds at risk, then consider buying a puppy from a vulnerable native breed. Learn more about vulnerable native breeds.

Is this breed child and pet friendly?

If you have young children or are thinking of starting a family in the future, one of the most important things to consider is how they will be affected once your new puppy has grown up. You may wish to consider more sociable breeds that children can become close friends with. Learn more about child safety around dogs

If you have an existing dog and would like to buy a companion for it, consider that many dogs prefer being the only dog in the family and can dislike sharing their space, humans, attention, toys and treats with other dogs. If you do want another dog, we recommend that a good age gap is about four or five years.

Next step – finding a good breeder

If you have a few breeds in mind that will suit your lifestyle, then the next step is to find a responsible breeder who breeds healthy happy dogs.