Dogs are man’s best friend. They’ve been by our side for millennia and have protected us, comforted us, helped us, and loved us. While most of us nowadays don’t need a working dog to do a job on a hunt or on the farm, our love of dogs has not abated at all. There are so many breeds (especially once you look at all the modern mixed breeds) that it can feel impossible to choose. Know the breed, what it needs, and what to expect is how you can train your dog better and raise a healthy, happy, confident dog. If you aren’t prepared to manage or control the same traits humans have bred into them for centuries, then you’re setting everyone up for disappointment.

Knowledge is key. Knowing and adapting how you raise and even care for your new pet will determine whether you have a naughty dog, or a well-behaved companion. All dogs want to do well and please their humans, but if you don’t meet them halfway to ensure their needs are met, you’ll only get so far.

That’s why choosing the right dog breed is so important. It’s how you can ensure you’re a good fit, regardless of whether you adopt an adult or raise a puppy. If you aren’t sure what breed suits you, then start with this guide:

Create a List of Dogs You Like the Look Of

While you absolutely should never choose a dog breed based only on their appearance, it’s natural to want a fluffy companion you like the look of. You may have a soft spot for dogs that look like human, for example, or poodle mixes. Once you have that list you can then narrow it down and select the best breed to match your lifestyle and accommodations.

Research Breed Characteristics

Next, you’ll want to narrow down that list by extensively researching the breeds. This even applies to mixes, who tend to have a mixed bag of traits that you can’t always predict, so it’s important to be fully aware of all their heritages so you can adapt as necessary. This will help you really understand which breeds are a good fit, so you can then start searching.

Understand Health Concerns

Knowing the health concerns for each breed is another important consideration. Mixed breeds usually don’t have as many health concerns as pure breeds, but being aware in advance can help you save up and take a proactive approach to their health. Beagles, for example, have an increased risk of cancer so it’s recommended that females are spayed (although this is a good idea in general). Other breeds have joint issues as they get older, so feeding them supplements from the start is a good way to help them.

Tips for Finding Your Dream Dog

Knowing the breeds that fit you is step one. The second is knowing how to research the breeder. While there are many caring, quality breeders out there, there are almost just as many backyard breeders that horribly mistreat their animals. It’s worthwhile finding reputable options that are truthful about the dog’s breed and health history. If you adopt, then you’ll want to set alerts and make yourself aware of the adoption requirements in advance so you can move fast when you see a dog that fits you and is in need.