Picture this scenario. Ever since you can remember, you’ve loved dogs. Your childhood memories are full of instances where you begged your parents for a dog only to be told that you could have one when you were older and able to take care of the pup yourself. Then one day, that day arrives, and you’re finally ready to commit to caring for a living being other than yourself. But with so many options out there, how do you begin the search for your pup?

There are over 150 American Kennel Club recognized purebred dog breeds, and this is not taking into account the variety of “mixed” breed munchkins that are also looking for homes. How then do you find a dog that will be the yin to your yang? Don’t fret, because I’m here to help you get started on your search.

Choosing a fur mate is a bit like choosing a soul mate. It’s a lifetime commitment, ‘til death do us part. It’s therefore important to consider compatibility from every angle before taking the plunge, from basic personality traits and shared interests to similar energy levels. To make the process easier, I recommend you get out a pen and paper and make a list of questions to kickstart the thinking process.

Like, what kind of lifestyle do you lead? How much money do you make? Does your apartment allow dogs? If so, are there any size restrictions? How much time in a day do you have to spend with your pup? What kind of mental and physical stimulation can you provide? Are the people you co-habit with as excited as you are about getting a dog? Are you a fan of big dogs or small dogs? Is getting a purebred dog with papers important to you, or would you prefer to rescue a dog from your local shelter? (Remember you can find purebred and mixed breed dogs alike at shelters, both puppy and adult.) Do you prefer a female dog or a male dog, and why? Do you have time for the intensive grooming that a longhaired dog might need, or would you rather go for dogs with short and easy coats? And how important is a pristinely clean home to you?

Now that you have your list of questions to get you started and a basic understanding of the different dog groups and personalities out there, I’d say you are officially ready to begin your search. Welcoming a dog into your family is a fun and rewarding journey with many perks, including bolstering your mental well-being and improving your health. Ensuring you choose the right dog is the secret to a lasting, successful, and happy relationship, and I wish you the very best of luck!