Purebred or mixed breed -- no matter. "Taking time to meet the animal and learn about its personality is really the key to finding the right pet for your family," says Sara Kent, director of shelter outreach for Petfinder.com. Consider these factors before you bring a dog home:

"A fine-boned dog like a Chihuahua might not be the best choice for a rowdy household of kids," Kent says. This breed would be a better fit for, say, a low-key, less-active family.

if your dog complements your family's "personality," everyone will be happier. Do you prefer a friendly dog who loves to kiss and snuggle, or a more subdued one?

Puppies are lovable and sweet, but they also require a great deal of attention. Be sure you're prepared to contribute the time and funds necessary for raising a young dog -- think puppy training classes, vet visits, and all of those replacements for chewed-up shoes.

Frequent trips to the groomer can be costly and time-consuming. "Do you want to be going to the groomer monthly with your dog?" asks Kent. "Or would you rather have a pet who's maybe a little more wash-and-wear?"

Active dogs who don't get to move their bodies become bored and might exercise their brains instead -- in the form of destructive behavior. Assess the level of activity a dog will require, and whether your family can keep up, before you move forward.


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