Getting Your First Dog

Have you decided to get your first dog? Congratulations! This is a big step and it's important that you do it right. The following tips can help you decide what kind of dog is right for you and figure out where to find your first dog.

  • 01 of 06
    beginner new dog owner
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    Before we begin, it's best that you ask yourself this question first. Are you truly ready to be a dog owner? A dog is a huge responsibility and generally a 12-15 year commitment. That commitment is financial, emotional, and time-consuming. But dog lovers everywhere agree it's all worth it. Are you ready? Here are some tips to guide you through getting your very first dog and canine companion.

  • 02 of 06
    Dogs in A Row - Black and White, Different Sizes
    Decisions, decisions. Photo © Photodisc / Getty Images

    There are so many types of dogs to choose from. Which one is right for you? Consider the following factors:

    • Size: Small, medium, large, or giant?
    • Age: Puppy, adult, or senior?
    • Activity Level: High energy, low-energy, or somewhere in-between?

    Other traits to consider include grooming needs, health concerns, personality traits, ease or training and more.

    Also, ask yourself this: Do you need to get a purebred dog? Or, is a mixed-breed dog more your style? Mutts are great and definitely worth...MORE consideration.

  • 03 of 06
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    Adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue group is a great way to help a dog in need. Many homeless dogs end up euthanized while waiting for their forever homes that never come. You can make a difference in the life of one dog, and that dog will be your friend for life!

    Learn in advance what to expect from dog adoption so the process won't be too overwhelming. When it's time to make a final decision, then sign the papers, you will be well-prepared.

  • 04 of 06
    volunteering and other ways to help animals in need
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    Shelters and rescue groups usually have a selection of dogs in all sizes, ages, breeds and personalities. You might even be able to find a purebred dog if you want one. (If so, look for breed-specific rescue groups.) 

    Most cities and towns have numerous dog shelters and rescue groups. Where to begin? If you know the kind of dog you want, it may be helpful to look on a website like to help you narrow down the list to a few locations.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06
    Newborn Puppies
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    Do you have your heart set on a specific dog breed? Perhaps you have decided that you want a puppy with a well-established pedigree. You want to know all about the puppy's parents and have papers to prove the dog's bloodline. 

    If this sounds like you, then it's essential to find a responsible dog breeder. Avoid backyard breeders! Arm yourself with knowledge so you can feel confident that the breeder has done everything possible to breed healthy, well-adjusted puppies. 

  • 06 of 06
    puppy in cage - sad caged puppy
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    Warning: there are certain places you should avoid when looking for a dog. Sadly, unscrupulous people out there are trying to make money by cutting corners, causing harm to dogs in the process. Others mean well and just want to give away a dog, but that dog might have problems. Learn about some places where you should NOT get your new dog.

NEXT UP: A Beginner's Guide to Caring for Your First Dog

After finding your new best friend, it's time to get ready for the world of dog ownership!