Interpreting the Results

1. Take a good hard look at how much time you will devote to exercising your dog. Although retrievers are an acclaimed family dog, they require a lot of exercise—pent-up energy can result in household destruction and impulsivity. If the breed you're considering cannot meet your predetermined exercise plan, pass it by!

2. Does the thought of brushing your dog's hair appeal to you? Or can you afford to hire a professional to groom your dog's coat one or more times a month? Like our hair, a dog's coat continues to grow throughout her life. If you cringe at the commitment, consider short-coated breeds, but remember—even they will need a slicking down from time to time.

3. Dogs enjoy predictability, some more than others. Consider whether the breed is companionable or dependent on human direction—that can turn into destructive neediness if you're not around. An independent breed that is more self-directed may be more content under those circumstances.

4. House size matters only if you're not committed to outdoor excursions, or if you're impartial to navigating around a human-size lump in the middle of your kitchen floor. All puppies start out small. . .

5. The measure of yard size reflects how committed you are to daily exercise. A small yard and a high-energy dog are only suitable if daily exercise is a commitment.

6. Although all dogs love adventures, some require a good run to calm down, especially during the first few years.

7. Family dynamics are as important a qualifier for breed choice as is energy level. Dogs bred to herd can get career stress in a home full of active children. Dogs with a propensity toward guarding their "catch" and food sources (terriers and hounds for example) can get nervous around young, impulsive children. When you're deciding on a breed, talk to as many knowledgeable people as you can find. (See reference section.)

8. How do you measure up? If you're an exacting personality type, having a dog who isn't concerned with human direction might be frustrating. If you're light-hearted, a dog who is very dependent on your input may be a nuisance.

9. If your house is like Grand Central Station, a protective breed won't be the right choice. If, however, the thought of having a dog who warns visitors of her presence is important to you, that would be a breed to consider.

10. Some breeds kennel well, others go on a starvation diet when taken out of their home environment. Speak to a professional about your choice ahead of time, and condition your puppy between the ages of 4 and 6 months by leaving her in this situation for a day or two.

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