the puppy files: chosing the perfect breed


Thanks so much for all your encouraging comments from the first post in The Puppy Files (Are We Ready?). It is amazingly exciting to be getting ready for our new family member. I know this is going to cause some controversy — and disappoint some of you — so let me get it out of the way. After a great deal of deliberation and debate, we have decided to get our puppy from a breeder, not a shelter. I know a great many friends who have found awesome pets through shelters, and I have personally supported many through the years. But knowing that we were looking for a “forever” pet and that we had a toddler in the house lead us towards this decision.

First, we did a ton of reseplace on dog breeds that are recommended for families. A few good resources I found were: Martha Stewart’s Dog Breeds: Good With Children and WebMd’s Choosing The Best Dog Breed For Your Family.

Secondly, we came up with a wish list of traits.
1. Smallish. Or rather, bigger than a cat but smaller than our daughter (who currently about 35 lbs).
2. Non-shedding. I have been known to sneeze a bit too much after hugging furry animal, and admittedly, we don’t vacuum as much as we should.
3. Smart, social and hopefully, easy going. We have lots of little people around our house, all the time. Shy won’t work.
4. Under 6 months old. Like humans, much of a dog’s personality is determined by his early development. Plus, the whole puppy experience is one we don’t want to miss out on.

After some exhaustive reseplace (including stopping nearly every dog walker we saw in our neighborhood and drilling them about their dog’s origins), we decided on a Labradoodle (an Australian Labradoodle mini, to be exact). A “designer” mixed breed that is not recognized by the American Kennel Club, Labradoodles were originally bred in the ‘80s in Australia to create service dogs for people with allergies. Their ancestors were poodles and Labradors, but now they are their own sophisticated breed, complete with traits, enthusiasts and breed snobs. (You may recall that Obamas were considering a Labradoodle before deciding on Bo, a Portuguese Water Dog.) They also kinda look like Benji, the dog of my childhood dreams. (I know Benji was probably a terrier mix.. but I digress.)

Once we narrowed our sights on the type of dog we wanted, we started seplaceing local shelters to see if similar ones ever came up. We scoured Petfinder. In our area (Southern New Jersey), puppies in shelters are rather rare –they go fast. Most of the dogs we saw were larger dogs (Labs, rottweilers, and pit bulls are the most common — all which could be awesome pets, but are not right for our home and small child).

Then, I thought I hit gold when I found a shelter in our area that specializes in placing homeless Labradoodles. Perhaps having a puppy didn’t matter so much after all and they could help us find a dog in a need of a home? After digging around on their site I discovered a showstopper: Unfortunately, the shelter doesn’t place dogs into homes with children under five years old. It’s understandable – having a young tot and a dog that may have special needs is not something many families can undertake. We were back to square one. Time to start reseplaceing breeders. — Angela M.

Do you have a dog breed you have a soft spot for? I’d love to hear about it!

Previously on the Puppy Files
After Losing Our Dear Cat, We Ask: Time For a Puppy?
Coming up next: What To Look For From A Dog Breeder

From our partners

It’s frustrating that people are so critical of picking a breeder vs. a shelter dog. I applaud you for looking into adopting a dog, but ultimately the decision has to be what works best for your family. I always wonder if these same people criticize others for having their own children over adopting one…

If you haven’t made your decision yet, consider looking at a shih-tzu poodle mix. We’ve got one and it fits all your criteria. Great temperment with kids =)

I grew up with a Westie, and we absolutely adore her.

Small but not too small, smaller than a labradoodle.
Smart for a terrier.
A little quiet for a terrier. If trained well, won’t turn into one of those annoyingly yappy little dogs you often see (and hear).
Social, if introduced to other dogs when a puppy. My dog was great with us kids, but we didn’t introduce her to other dogs for a while and so she took some time to get used to behaving well around other dogs.
Non-shedding. This was a huge factor for my interior-decorating mother. However – I caveat this with the fact that the dog will only 100% not shed if you regularly take time to brush her coat. Otherwise, there will be a few white hairs scattered about.

I love my Westie.

These guys just make me smile. Awesome choice.

I have a thing for Vizslas. Low dander/short hair, great with kids, and easy to train. They are needy in that they want to be wherever you are, but we adopt a dog to be loved and part of the family, so the “velcro dog” works for us. Congrats on this big step! We just adopted our pup a few weeks ago and are adjusting to puppy life for the first time in 14 years.


I have friends in Connecticut who found a wonderful small Australian Labradoodle from Curtis Rist, a breeder in Claverack, NY. They have three small children and couldn’t be happier. Here’s a link to the website:


I’m sure you probably won’t, but I would suggest not discounting pitties or pit mixes. Many pitties or mixes or only in the 30 to 45 lb range. They have short, easy, low maintenance coats. They’re extremely eager to please and love people and children. And there are plenty of them available in shelters and from rescue groups (even plenty of puppies!).

I personally have 3 dogs. Two Rat Terriers, and one Pittie/Catahoula mix. I love my terriers to death, but they’re wily little bastards! There’s no way I’d ever trust those two with kids! But my pittie/houla girl is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. She’s the most wonderful, loyal, intelligent dog I’ve known (and I grew up with dozens of dogs over the years). I never thought I’d own a pit bull, but I don’t regret a thing in adopting her!

I guess just remember, breed doesn’t define a good dog. You don’t necessarily need to set out with a particular breed in mind when you’re looking for a dog. Good dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Just keep your minds (and your hearts) open, and your own personal perfect dog will find its way in. :)


We have a Glen of Imaal terrier – a very rare Irish breed. He is smart, affectionate, loyal, and adorable! He doesn’t bark (unless someone knocks at the door or he wants to go outside or he wants to play), he hardly sheds at all and he’s a really good size – about knee high but very stocky and broad. Very strong. We love him dearly and I highly recommend his breed to anyone – he loves to exercise and loves to cuddle, he is excellent company, loves to meet new people and children. Check them out – they are wonderful dogs!


Of course it is your decision and up to you to do as you choose, but I don’t really understand this: “knowing that we were looking for a “forever” pet and that we had a toddler in the house lead us towards this decision.”

All pets should be forever pets. If you don’t feel that way maybe you should reconsider your decision to adopt a dog. Even if you buy one from a reputable breeder it is not guaranteed to have every characteristic you want and none of the ones you don’t. At what point does it cease being a “forever” pet and become a “disposable” pet?

Angela M.

Thanks for all your comments! I will definitely explore some of these other breeds. I never heard of a Vizslas!

I wanted to quickly respond to Rachel.. Perhaps my thoughts weren’t clearly explained. Of course we realize that there is no guarantee that a puppy from a breeder would have all the characteristics we desire… We just didn’t want to risk adopting a dog that may not work well with young children in the household. It’s not fair to the dog or us. If you look at closely at shelters, you’ll see many many dogs, are marked as “not for homes with small children”… It would be irresponsible of us to NOT that take into consideration.


My husband has horrible allergies and the area that we lived in at the time of adoption didn’t have many dogs smaller than a Shepard mix so we too went to a breeder. Our little man is a Mini Schnauzer named Henry. Non shedding and very social. Not really a tiny dog but not a 60 pound bouncer either. Just right. I understand the dilemma of wanting to rescue but not finding a perfect match to your family. We have recently moved to a bigger centre that has Schnauzer rescues and we have said that our next will be from one of there. Have fun with your new family member.


I’m very fond of the Miniature Pinscher (Min Pin) a very intelligent but not very obedient breed, this dog combines a spunky regal personality with a cuddle soft spot that will warm your heart.

How they pack such a huge personality in such a small dog I will never know. A compact, short haired dog in the toy class, my little girl is around 7-8 pounds but has no idea that she is small. Great for apartments and small spaces but needs a lot of love, play time and a daily walk, they are very energetic. Loves toys, cuddling, and is very quirky.

Minuses are that they are not very obedient, so you will have to work on training them. Can be an excessive barker but if properly cared for and trained will be an excellent companion.

Coat is shiny and sleek, sheds for summer/winter coat but since hair is no larger than an eyelash it is very easy to manage.

They are very clean and only require a bath once a month unless playing in mud/dirt etc.

I would encourage everyone to go on the American Kennel Society and look up the dog breed standards to see if they are a right pick for you.

Remember this is a commitment that you should keep for the entirety for the dogs life, so keep in mind, environment, kids, allergies, social situations, and your time and money allotment.

It’s always great to adopt a dog but when decided to chose a dog breed and go to a breeder you should educate yourself so that you choose the right dog for you.


Have a look at the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier – meets all of our qualifications and looks similar to a Labradoodle. This breed is entirely non-shedding and highly pleasant to the touch, about 35 to 45 lbs., very smart, EXCELLENT with small kids and other pets, loves to play, and loves to snuggle. I’ve owned half a dozen wonderful dogs over the past couple of decades and have known many more, and this one is exceptional.