What's the best dog breed? That's one of the most commonly asked questions on social media, not just because it gets lots of likes and responses, but because everybody has an opinion.
Fortunately for those of us who love dogs, there is no single answer that's right for everyone. With more than 400 different breeds around the world and countless mixes and crosses of those breeds, there's a "best" dog out there for each person.
We can, however, narrow the choices based on personality and lifestyle, and what we're looking for in a dog. Are you active or laid-back? An athlete or a couch potato? A traveler or a homebody? Do you work, work, work, or do you balance the workday with hobbies, activities or downtime? Do you want a dog that's playful? Protective? Smart? Funny? Loves to snuggle? Those traits don't necessarily all come in the same canine package.
To find the dog that's just right, make two lists. In the first one, write down traits that describe your personality and lifestyle, the type of home you live in (stairs or single-story, yard or no yard, apartment or house, city/suburb/rural), whether you have kids and how old they are, and how much time per day you could or would devote to a dog.
On the second list, write down everything you're looking for in a dog: size, coat type or length, activity level and ways you'd like to interact with the dog — jogging, playing fetch, dog sports, boating, swimming, hiking, napping on the couch, teaching tricks ... you name it.
To bring your two lists together, look for one of the many dog selector sites that offer suggestions based on your input. Pet food companies, including Purina and Pedigree, often have such quizzes on their websites.
When I used the one from Purina, entering traits I'm considering for a future dog, the suggested breed was a toy fox terrier, one that's on my list. Pedigree gave me an option of eight breeds, including the one I already have — cavalier King Charles spaniel — plus three others I've considered over the years: American water spaniel, Japanese chin and papillon. Rover.com matched me with a rat terrier and a cocker spaniel, both breeds I might consider. The Spruce Pets recommended several different spaniel breeds, all of which are among my faves.
Using several different breed selectors can help you cover all the bases and narrow your selection. If you've got your eye on a rare or foreign breed, cross-breed (aka "designer dog") or mixed-breed dog, try the DogTime.com breed selector. And the websites of pet health insurance companies such as Embrace and Trupanion often have extensive breed and cross-breed profiles — but no quizzes.
I also noticed that none of the dog selector tools took health into consideration. It's a good idea to think about how much you could afford to spend on veterinary care annually and whether the breed or mix you have in mind is prone to expensive health problems. Within breed profiles, pet health insurance companies sometimes include a dog's risks for certain conditions, as well as the cost range for treating them.
Once you have some breeds in mind, get to know them. Watch YouTube and Animal Planet videos featuring the breeds that interest you. Look for videos of puppies and adults being trained or groomed, doing tricks or dog sports, playing or just hanging out around the house. Then start seeking out reputable breeders — at dog shows or online at the breed club website. (You can also see more here: uexpress.com/pets/pet-connection/2021/01/25.)
If you can't find the "right" dog? You might just be a cat person.