Spring is around the corner. For many people, this is a good time to add a new canine family member.

If you’re in the dog-owner-to-be category but don’t know where to start, here are some helpful hints to guide you.

Size matters. Dogs come in virtually every size. Big or small, they’re all beautiful. Ask yourself: what size dog suits your lifestyle? Try to envision yourself with your dream dog for many years to come.

Dogs have personality, too. Although every dog is different, expect certain personality types to run in certain breeds. That’s because dog breeds were created for a particular purpose. This influences energy level and personality.

Olympic goals. Every dog should have daily exercise, but some need more than others. Be honest with yourself. If you prefer a sedate lifestyle, choose a laid-back pooch. A dog that was bred to work outdoors, such as a hunting or herding dog, will be bursting with energy unless he gets plenty of exercise.

Big hair and spa treatments. Consider the dog’s grooming needs. If minimal maintenance is your thing, then set your eyes on a short-haired pooch.

Breed predispositions. Every breed is prone to certain health problems. Research your chosen breed so that you understand what your dog’s increased risks would be. Purebred dogs may be at greater risk for inherited health issues. That’s because the process of line-breeding also narrowed the gene pool for each breed. Choosing a mixed breed dog may decrease inherited health risks.

Adoption is an option. If your heart isn’t set on a particular breed, you may want to start with a local animal shelter. Those closest to the Newburyport area are the MSPCA at Nevins Farm in Methuen, the NHSPCA in Stratham, and the North East Animal Shelter in Salem. A broader online resource for dogs needing homes is www.petfinder.com.

If doggie adoption is your calling, and you have a certain breed in mind, consider a local breed-specific rescue group. These rescue groups help place dogs into loving homes. Look up the local rescue group for your chosen breed to see if Fido is waiting for your call.

Purebred puppies. Many expectant canine parents choose a purebred puppy to fulfill their doggie dreams. Ask around and do your research to find a reputable breeder. If a friend has your favorite breed, and the hound is happy and healthy, ask how you may contact the breeder. Online searches can be helpful, too. Here’s how to narrow your selection:

  • Choose someone who breeds for health and personality, not just physical features. Show-ring champions are beauty pageant winners. That’s nice, but make sure the breeder focuses on health and great personality, too.
  • The best breeders do this for a hobby, not for a living. Breeding quality dogs is expensive and time-consuming. Good breeders limit their number of litters each year.
  • Every breed has health problems. Ask the breeders what problems are in their lines. They should be willing to discuss their challenges, why certain dams and sires were removed from their breeding program, and how they are improving the health of their puppies.
  • Ask to meet the puppy’s parents. Try to find a breeder who lives close enough so that you can visit. The breeder should have mom on site. Sometimes the father doesn’t live nearby, but good breeders will make an effort for you to meet him if you ask. Be suspicious if they do not want you to meet the parents, or if they require that you pay a puppy deposit first. Sometimes, this is the case if the pup’s parents are unhealthy or aggressive. Remember, behavior problems can be inherited, too.
  • Ask the breeders for names and contact info of people who have bought their puppies. Make sure this list includes people whose dogs are now senior. Call and ask if they would get another dog from this breeder. Has their dog been healthy? Have they encountered aggression problems?
  • Be suspicious of breeders who have too many demands. Your breeder should require that you provide your new dog with a loving home, fresh food and water daily, exercise, and proper veterinary care. They should not demand that you agree to their feeding practices or vaccine requirements.
  • Avoid puppy mills. No one will announce that their puppies came from puppy mills. Be suspicious if the “breeder” does not have the mother on site, or if there are many different breeds for sale. These “breeders” may be puppy mill brokers. Avoid pet stores, too. The puppies on display are adorable, but reputable breeders do not sell to this source.
Remember that every new dog – whether puppy or adult – will need time to adjust to the new home. Your patience will be rewarded by your pooch’s unconditional love.