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You Be the Judge: Is Best in Show’ the Best Breed for You?

The camera loves a pretty face: especially when it’s got a cold, wet nose. But what you see on-camera, isn’t always what you get at home.

Each year, the popularity of a particular breed will soar when it comes to public attention in a movie, on television or at major dog show. For example, demand for Dalmatian puppies soared after the release of the film "101 Dalmations", just as the popularity of border collies and St. Bernards rose after the "Babe" and "Beethoven" movies. Unfortunately, the number of these dogs returned to the breeder or turned over to a shelter or rescue group skyrocketed, too.

Look and listen

Television coverage of this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will undoubtedly spark a rise in requests for particular breeds simply because they look so appealing trotting around the show ring. Before you decide that you want a magnificent white Pyrenees , or a charming corded puli, take the time to research and consider the many factors that determine how well that breed will fit your home and lifestyle.

The dogs at Westminster are divided into seven groups: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, and herding. Begin by learning about each group. Listen to the commentator’s remarks at the show, and read about breeds you find interesting. Think about what you expect the dog to contribute to your life, and how much you’re willing to commit to him in return. The activity level, trainability, and grooming needs of the pet should be researched. Learn about specific breed characteristics.

Ask questions

The herding and working groups offer some of the most intelligent, beautiful dogs. Do you have the living space these hardy pooches require? Can you devote the time required to exercise and play with him each day? Many of these dogs were bred to work, which means an inherent need to be busy and active. If you can’t make a definitive time commitment, the dog may get bored or depressed, leading to the potential for trouble and destructiveness.

Before deciding on a particular breed, visit a local dog show to see puppies and adults. Talk to owners, handlers, trainers and groomers. Call or visit breeders and ask about the about the advantages and disadvantages of the breed. Find out what type of household ideally suits a particular breed. Take into account the size of your home and family, and the climate where you live (for example, it wouldn’t be wise to bring a Bernese Mountain Dog into a studio apartment in Florida ).

Finally, consider the costs: you can pay more than $1,000 for a purebred dog.

For more information

The Westminster Kennel Club website offers short descriptions of the breeds represented at the show. The American Kennel Club website also offers information on more than 150 breeds: . Both sites have links to the parent club websites as well.

Want some helping narrowing down the breed choices based on your lifestyle? There are several online "breed selector" sites you can try, including: SelectaPet at Pet, Purina’s Dog Breed Selector, and the breed quiz at Dog Breed Info Center. Remember that online quizzes like these are not the definitive answer on the right breed for you, but they will help you get started thinking about the characteristics that will help you find you family’s perfect match.