Depending on your hopes for your new dog, you should learn about what your dog's ancestors were bred to do. A German Shepherd whose parents and grandparents excelled at Schutzhund will have a very different temperament and energy level than one whose family were mostly pets.
Within any breed there are individuals that represent more or less of the qualities the breed emphasizes. Consider a breed rescue where purebred dogs are carefully evaluated for their drive and energy level. On the other hand, a mixed breed dog may suit you best.
Responsible breeders and rescuers work hard to help match people with the right dog for their personality and lifestyle. They know that a dog whose energy and intellectual needs are met is a happy, well-behaved dog.
The best dog in the world for one person could be a nightmare for someone else. When searching for a new dog, it is important to avoid breeders that are more interested in making money than producing quality dogs for appropriate homes. Breeding dogs for profit is controversial, because there are already many more dogs than available homes. In addition, breeding responsibly involves so much expense that making a profit may indicate corner cutting somewhere along the line. For more information on how to select a responsible breeder, see the links in the next section.
The relationship of humans with dogs is both long and involved. Dogs are an integral part of more aspects of human society and culture than any other species. Today there are more than 350 recognized breeds, an infinite number of mixes and dogs that are no breed at all. There are dogs that find lost people, detect bombs and drugs, guide the blind, herd and guard livestock, and comfort the sick; there even dogs that can detect certain types of cancer. Most of all, there are dogs that simply share and enrich our lives. Knowing more about dogs allows us to find the right dog or to understand and appreciate the dog we already have.
For more information about what dogs do or how to choose the right dog for your lifestyle, check out the links in the next section.