Before you begin, think about why you want a dog. Do you need a companion dog, working dog, hunting dog, Therapy Dog or are looking to start a breeder business? This will have a big effect on what type of breed you should look at first.
The first decision after that is what dog fits you, your family, personality, time, energy level, finances, living arrangements and compatibility for all. You need to research this choice carefully. The AKC website has pages of information for all breeds of dogs that include the pros and cons.
First time owners should look for someone who has the breed you want. I am sure they will agree to a meet and greet. Watch the dog's behaviors, and how it acts around adults and children. You can call the breed Parent Club (explained in next step) to ask if there is a member who would be willing to spend some time with you to interact with their dogs.
This is the biggest part of the whole idea of getting a puppy/dog. Be sure you have chosen the correct dog for your situation. You also have to decide what age group you want to start at. Is it puppy, young, adult or senior? For previous owners who have their favorite breed, consider that you may have aged a bit and energy levels for training may not be what they once were.
Take time to think of what veterinarian visits will cost. With a puppy, there are still shots, rabies and boosters plus the cost of spaying/neutering right in the very first months. Licensing the dog in your municipality and if needed, Obedience School. You need to take into consideration the start up cost if this is your first puppy and if you will be able to afford the cost of food. There is a lot to think about but don't get discouraged!
Do not just go for the cute puppy of the breed. All puppies are cute. Absolutely do not let emotions rule your head! Otherwise, your savvy consumer intellect will be in your feet. This is what I allowed myself to happen to me. It didn't work out well.
You've done all the work, decided on the breed, age, and all that needs to be considered; so where do you start looking?
These are the options:
The classified section of your local newspaper
Online dog adoption sites
Your local pound or SPCA
Some of you may think that a few of these options are obviously the wrong choice. This is my whole point. I am going to take you from the bottom of the ladder to the top. Along the way, I want to teach you what to do and what not to do. It will be a lot more fun finding a puppy/dog this way!
Please note. In order to have less repetition with the word breeder, he/she will be used. There is no bias as to which it is.