Go-to pet for soloing so far? Definitely the bear. Soaks up the damage and holds agro like a wasp up a trouser-leg. I started with a Black Bear that I ran across at Charr's Triumph in Plains of Ashford. I know this because, with the attention to detail that we're already beginning to take for granted from GW2, the Pet Management window records exactly where you charmed each of the more than three dozen animals that you can currently collect.
Pets, or Companion Animals as I believe they are known to Rangers who take their rangering a little more seriously than I do, come in Familes - Bear, Cat, Bird and so on. They also divide by Terrain - Terrestrial, Amphibious, Aquatic. (Amphibious pets aren't all frogs and newts, by the way. Actually, none of them are frogs and newts. They're land animals that can also swim underwater. They're amphibious like a duck. Or a DUKW ).
All bears should have the same stats, which are derived (I know not how) from the Ranger him or herself. They differ only in that every animal has one unique ability. Other than if you need that specific ability, it shouldn't matter which bear you have.
Oh, it does, though. You want the Arctodus. Well, maybe you don't but I do. I found him by chance in beta and he made a huge difference, probably mostly psychological. I'd forgotten him the way I seem to have forgotten almost everything I learned or did in beta but yesterday Mrs Bhagpuss found him the same way I did, by chance. Now we both have one.
To tame a pet in Tyria you have to find a Juvenile. There may be juvenile arctoduses (Arctodi? Arctodopodes?) scattered far and wide but the ones I know are locked up by the dirty commie dredge in an underground pen in Moleberia.
A bunch of miners are standing around outside hand-wringing about their imprisoned comrades. Captured by the Dredge and now they've stopped singing. I wasn't entirely clear if it was the dredge or the captive miners who'd gone silent but apparently lack of barbershop harmony is an ominous sign in the mining business either way. The ones who escaped are too scared of the dredge to go in and free their buddies but they're happy to sell you a tuning fork if you'll do it for them. That's just the kind of stand-up guys they are.
Free the miners by all means but while you're down there don't miss out on a free Wolf-Bear. There's a Veteran Dredge standing directly in front of a locked door in the big cavern you enter right at the start. Burn him down and smash the door and you'll see several Juvenile Arctoduses (let's not go there again) milling around in a tiny cave.
Bingo. There's a bear that will serve you loyally and look great while he's doing it. And unlike Beastlords in EQ2, where the appearance of each new type of animal in a family overwrites the existing one (boo, hiss!), in GW2 you can keep all your bears for always!