How important is breed?

If you're just starting your search, you may be asking yourself what kind of dog or cat would be best for your lifestyle. You may be diligently researching the characteristics of each breed, making a list of which breeds would and wouldn't be a fit. To you, we say: Relax! It's okay to do your research, but don't feel like breed selection is the ultimate key to finding your perfect match. It really is about much more than what looks good on paper: it's about the individual dog or cat's personality and the chemistry you feel together (yep, we have chemistry with animals just like we do with other humans!). And don't forget about those marvelous mutts! Not only do you get a one-of-a-kind companion, but many veterinarians say that mixed-breed dogs tend to be healthier than purebred dogs, who tend to be prone to certain genetic conditions, depending on the breed.

What's important to you?

Good with Kids

We get it: adopting a pet when you have children can seem daunting. Many of us here at are parents ourselves, so please take it from us: adopting a dog is every bit as safe (and we think even safer) than buying a puppy. We have some tried-and-true advice for those of you trying to make sure the dog you bring home will blend

1. Train your children. Yes, we all know the importance of training your dog (and, don't get us wrong, that's one of the most important things you can do to make your adoption a success), but it's equally important to teach your children how to interact with dogs in a safe manner. Before you bring any dog home, make sure your kids know how to approach a new dog: extend a hand, palm down, and allow the dog to sniff. If the dog gives your child the "Okay" signal (wagging tail, kissing, no signs of aggression, fear, or nervousness), your child should pet the dog on his side rather than reaching over the dog's head. Teach your kiddos to treat their own dog with respect, and always to touch him gently. For more tips about child safety, see Helpful Tips for Kids and Dogs and Understanding Woofs and Growls.

2. Go for an adult dog. Puppies are great, but they're not perfect for kids. They mouth tiny hands with razor-sharp teeth, they jump, and they're also easily injured. Also, contrary to popular belief, you can't always tell or control what personality traits your puppy will develop. On the other hand, when you adopt an adult dog, what you see is what you get. Their personalities are fully-formed and on display for the world to see! It's much easier to tell if an adult dog is great with kids now than to guess if a puppy will grow up to be.

3. For extra certainty, adopt from a rescue organization. Many rescue organizations keep their pets in foster homes, so rescuers have a pretty clear picture of their pets' personalities. Foster families have a chance to observe their dogs around children, other animals, and can also tell you if the dog is housebroken (many are--another benefit of adopting an adult dog) or knows basic commands.

4. How important is breed? Not important. Some tiny breeds, like Chihuahuas, tend to be nervous around children, and Italian Greyhounds are considered much too injury-prone to be a safe choice around very young children. Other breeds, like Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, are widely thought to be great with kids. But there are exceptions to every rule: we know many Chihuahuas who absolutely adore children, and even Golden Retrievers can bite. And don't believe the hype: pit bulls can make wonderful companions for children. Bottom line: It all depends on the individual dog. We're big fans of mixed-breed dogs, who often have wonderful temperaments. Please, keep an open mind and you'll find the right dog for you and your kids!

Apartment Friendly

Live in an apartment, but longing for some canine companionship? Not to worry. Many, many apartment-dwellers have successfully adopted dogs. In fact, in dog-friendly cities like New York, most people live in apartments, so don't despair. If they can do it, so can you! You just need to take into consideration a few things. First, make sure your apartment allows dogs, and understand that if you move to a new apartment, you'll need to find another that allows dogs. Next, you'll need to provide training to make sure your dog doesn't bark incessantly and disturb neighbors while you're away (this is where adopting from a rescue group, where dogs have been in foster homes, can really make a difference. They'll know if the dog you have your eye on is prone to barking). Finally, you will need to make sure your dog has adequate access to the outdoors for some exercise and potty breaks. A dog-walker and doggy daycare are great resources to use if you work long days.

Whether or not a dog can thrive in an apartment has much more to do with his personal traits than his breed. Most breeds can adapt to apartment life. But all dogs, no matter what breed, require some level of exercise to remain happy, healthy and well behaved. An under-exercised or bored dog can become quite destructive in any home.

Keep an open mind when you begin your adoption search. Many large breeds do surprisingly well in apartment life. For instance, Greyhounds and Great Danes make great apartment companions. Though they are very large, both breeds are generally quite happy to be couch potatoes when indoors as long as they are provided some outdoor activity each day. Conversely, some small, high-energy dogs who are prone to barking when left alone may not be the best choice for shared-wall living. However, and we can't stress this enough: it's all about the individual dog, not about the breed, and a mixed-breed dog very well may end up being "the one"!


Can certain breeds of dog really be suitable for people who are allergic to dogs? The answer is yes… and no. To start with, it helps to have a little background on dog allergy. Contrary to popular belief, dogs' fur is actually not much of an allergen on its own. Rather, the skin cells (called dander), dust and pollen that collect in the fur are what can trigger allergic reactions. Some people are allergic to dander, while others are allergic to dogs' saliva, or even their urine. If you're allergic to dog urine, as long as the dog urinates outdoors, it's not usually much of a problem; but if you're allergic to saliva, one lick may be enough to trigger a severe reaction.

First, find out your allergy. "Allergic to dogs" is actually a very general term. Before you consider adopting a dog, find out if your allergy is to pet dander, saliva or urine. If you're allergic to saliva and your doctor approves of you adding a canine family member, you can ask your local rescue groups to keep an eye out for an adult dog that doesn't lick people. You need a mature pooch, because you'll be able to tell exactly what the dog's licking behavior is—unlike with a puppy whose behavior has yet to become permanent. Make sure to wash your hands after playing with or petting your dog, especially if your hands come in contact with toys that have been in your dog's mouth.

While no dog is 100 percent nonallergenic, if you're allergic to dander, you may be able to tolerate a so-called "low-dander" dog. Several breeds are known as low-dander dogs. These types of dogs have coats that are more like hair than fur, and they tend not to shed much. They also usually require a lot of brushing and grooming, due to their constantly growing hair.

Here is a list of 9 "Low-Dander" Dog Breeds

  • Bedlington Terrier
  • Bichon Frise
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Maltese
  • Poodle
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Schnauzer
  • Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier (commonly called a Wheaten)

Many mixed-breeds involving one of these low-dander breeds will also be appropriate for dander-allergic people. For instance, most poodle mixes are low-dander. Many people with allergies also do well with hairless breeds like the American Hairless Terrier or the Chinese Crested Hairless. If you want a low-dander dog, you can find lots of options in shelters and from rescue groups.

If you do adopt a dog, it's important to make sure you keep his or her skin as healthy as possible, whether he or she has hair or not. Dogs with dry skin tend to scratch a lot, which causes their dander to be released into the environment around you. Also, consider fostering a dog for a rescue group or animal shelter before adopting. This will give you time to make sure your allergies will tolerate the specific dog before you permanently add him or her to your family.

There are a few methods you can use to try to neutralize pet allergens. Look for a cleanser that you can wipe on your dog's coat once a week to fight allergens. Make sure you wash your bedding, your dog's bedding, rugs and curtains often to rid them of dander, saliva and dust. Give your dog a bath as often as his or her skin will tolerate. Some allergic dog owners have their dogs groomed once a week.

Above all, keep yourself healthy and consult your doctor before adopting. Can certain breeds of dog really be suitable for people who are allergic to dogs? says the answer isn't so simple. But you can Reduce Your Allergies to Pets following our tips here!