Choosing a good pet these days is pretty easy: just close your eyes and pick, and you'll probably get a pretty decent pet.
But if you want the best pet -- and who doesn't want the best pet? -- you may need to put some thought into it. This guide aims to help you with that.
The first question you need to ask yourself is: the best pet for what? Unfortunately there is no single one best pet for every hunter and every situation -- if there were this guide would be very short! However since pet damage has been standardized, and pets may now be switched to any talent tree, they are all really very close. What it comes down to is the look you like and the family skill.
Let's start by thinking about what you'll be using this pet to do. Here are some possibilities, and you may have others in mind as well:
Since hunters can have five pets with them at all times (and an additional 50 in the stables!) you may want to cover most of these purposes, using a different pet for each. (But just to simplify the process, we suggest you work on choosing one pet at a time.)
Of course, not all these roles listed above require the same things from your pet. Some of them, like looking good in town, are very subjective. But for if you need a pet for combat purposes -- and most hunters do -- then we have some basic guidelines that may help you choose a pet. You'll want to start by looking at the different pet skills.
Each pet family gets to use one to three unique family skills.
The pet family skill is important because it can really add a lot to your pet's role if it's a good fit. Of course, if the pet you want doesn't have a family skill that fits, it's not the end of the world. But it is a missed opportunity. You can find a complete list of family skills on the Pet Skills page.
For a PvP pet, you may want to look for stuns or immobilizing effects, or DoTs and negative effects that stack to protect your own debuffs from being dispelled. You'll notice a lot of these in the Cunning tree, but there are some in Ferocity and Tenacity as well.
If your pet will be doing a lot of raiding, you may want to choose a family with a skill that boosts damage or reduces armor. Most of these effects are in the Ferocity tree, but again there are some in the other trees too. You may also want to avoid AoE skills since they can break traps and other crowd control. The same skills are valuable for solo questing and leveling as well since they can help you kill your enemy more quickly.
If your pet will be tanking for you and your friends, look for skills with effects that will help the pet stay alive and keep the enemies focused on it and not you. AoE skills are often very good for keeping up threat, and there are plenty of defensive skills to choose from in all three trees. The same skills that make a good tank also make a good defensive solo pet. If you end up taking a lot of damage anyway, you might consider a spirit beast which can heal you as you fight.
While the family skill is arguably the most important factor in choosing a family, there are a couple of other things you should think about as well.
A pet's personality includes the overall look of the pet, the way it sounds, and its behavior. Crocolisks, for instance, have a habit of heavy breathing while bats are known for their enormous (and sometimes inconvenient) wingspans.
The big question, when you are considering family personality is: Can you live with a pet from this family? Or are you going to hate it minutes after taming?
If you hate cats, you probably shouldn't tame a cat even if the stats and skills look good for you. And if you have a strong fear of spiders, you probably don't want a tarantula!
Once you are happy with your chosen family, it's time to choose the particular pet. This step is simple: because all pets in a family are identical in gameplay terms, all you have to do is find one that looks good to you -- and that is your level or lower (so you can tame it!).
Of course, once you tame the pet you may find out that its skill doesn't quite work as well as you'd like with your playstyle. Or maybe you find that the squeal it makes when it attacks is really getting on your nerves. That's okay -- there are a huge number of other families for you to try out. With that much choice, you will find the best pet for you.
One final words of advice: don't get too caught up in choosing the single most absolute best pet in the world. What matters is that you and your pet work well together and that you both have fun.