Picking a Puppy – Things to Think About Before Purchasing a Dog
Well dear readers, as you know from reading my previous post Adopting a Rescue Dog we will be adding a new dog to our family sometime in the hopefully not to distant future. Although the time is not right just yet, I can’t help myself and I have been looking at different dog rescue websites and doing a bit of a dog training ‘refresher’ course (gotta be prepared – and yes I would have made a good boy scout. If I was a boy;).
It really saddens me that there are just so many dogs (and other animals) in rescue because they have been treated as if they are ‘disposable’ possessions. I know there are exceptions and some people have legitimate reasons for surrendering an animal (and that is of course a better option that dumping the poor creature somewhere), but many animals end up in rescue because their owners made irresponsible decisions before and after obtaining the animal.
How To Pick a Puppy is the first of several articles that I wrote in 1996 (which are just as relevant today) relating to responsible dog ownership, choices and behaviour that I am going to post on my blog, and I hope that they will help my readers who might also be considering a new addition to the family. If there is any important point you think I have missed, please let me know and I will add it in!
Picking a Puppy
I am a dog lover not a Dog expert, but from a number of years research, reading books, speaking to dog breeders and dog owners I believe that the following will assist you in your selection. I will make NO attempt to suggest suitable breeds, my aim is to help the prospective buyer understand that just because you like the look of a particular breed DOES NOT make it a suitable because there are many variables that need to be considered other than just the appearance of the breed.
Owning a dog is a LIFELONG commitment and there are a number of things that you should think about BEFORE you start looking to make sure you choose the breed of dog that is the right one for you. There may be MANY breeds that are not suitable for your lifestyle, and if you put a little thought into the decision you may save yourself a lot of heartache, not to mention the effects that a wrong decision may have on the poor dog. I believe that if more people thought before they bought we would not have anywhere near the number of abandoned dogs that we do. So, ask yourself these questions…..
WHY DO YOU WANT A DOG?
You need to think about the reasons that you are considering getting a dog. Do you want a companion only, a lap dog, a friend for the kids or a guard dog? What do you want to do with the dog – show, obedience training, hiking, bring in the cows for milking etc? Not all breeds are suitable for every activity.
HOW MUCH TIME PER WEEK DO YOU HAVE TO DONATE TO A DOG?
Different breeds have different time requirements in regards to exercise, grooming and training, and in a lot of breeds, skimping on time spent on the dog can have disastrous effects, for the dog, for yourself and for your possessions.
HOW BIG IS YOUR YARD AND HOW HIGH ARE YOUR FENCES?
This will determine the size of dog you should be looking at. You need to make sure that your dog is not going to be able to get out of your yard and possibly hit by a car, picked up by the pound/ranger or mauled by another dog. Don’t forget that some small breeds of dogs can jump very well. I know of several small Terriers who are able to scale six foot fences, but alternatively, some very large breeds of dogs are not very active and may do well in a small yard.
DO YOU WANT AN INSIDE OR AN OUTSIDE DOG?
This will determine not only the breed, but also the size of the dog you get. If you want an inside dog, consider the size of your house – will a large breed take up every available inch of space? Is a small but very boisterous dog likely to knock over your priceless China collection? Looks and size can be deceiving, many small breeds are not suitable for apartment living due to their activity level, while some of the larger breeds can be excellent for small houses or apartments because they are real couch potatoes.
Other breeds need human companionship and are not suitable for leaving outside all the time, neither are breeds that are not suitable for your environment due to coat length, or susceptability to heat exhaustion.
DO YOU OR ARE YOU PLANNING TO HAVE CHILDREN?
Some breeds are not recommended for young children particularly, and this is a very important question to consider. The wrong choice could permanently disfigure your child for life and result in your dog being destroyed. Unfortunately, there will always be exceptions in every breed and quite often children are not aware of the implications of fulling a dogs ears or tail, so I feel that no matter how much you may trust your dog, never leave children unsupervised with ANY dog until they are old enough to effectively command the dog – I would suggest until the early teens – depending on the child. I know many people would probably disagree with me on this point, but I personally do not think that it is worth the risk to either child or dog.
DO YOU HAVE OTHER PETS?
To avoid bloodshed of dearly loved family pets this is a good point to consider when determining which breed of dog is right for you. Some breeds get on very well with other species, but a lot DON’T so ask the breeder before you buy.
WHAT SORT OF CLIMATE DO YOU LIVE IN?
This is an important consideration for the sake of the dog and really is just common sense. Most breeds that originate in cold climates have very thick coats and will suffer terribly in very hot conditions. Likewise, breeds that have very thin coats, or in the case of some breeds that have very little body hair at all, may be particularly susceptible to the cold – they may also be susceptible to sunburn and skin cancers. If you have a climate controlled house or kennel where the dog will spend most of its time, this may not be such a problem.
HOW MUCH MONEY ARE YOU PREPARED TO REGULARLY SPEND?
Some breeds have a higher maintenance level for food, veterinary assistance, medical tests, grooming and equipment. Every dog requires food, worming, nail clipping, some level of grooming, vaccinations, hopefully sterilization unless you plan to show or breed, and every dog is at risk of unexpected illness and injury. I am not suggesting that only rich people should have dogs, but if you don’t have or are not prepared to spend a great deal of money, then maybe a long haired breed that requires clipping every six weeks and may be susceptible to ear and eye infections because of the long hair, may not be the most suitable breed for you.
WHAT TEMPERAMENT DO YOU WANT?
As with people, dogs have different temperaments, and although no dog will ever match a breed standard 100%, most characteristics, including temperament tend to appear reliably in pure bred dogs. This includes independence – some breeds are very dependant on human company and affection, while others are very independent.
HOW MUCH EXPERIENCE HAVE YOU HAD WITH DOGS?
Some breeds of dogs are very dominant and are not usually recommended for first time dog owners. This is because unless you are able to establish dominance early in puppy hood you and your dog will forever be at odds with each other (and this is NOT achieved by physical abuse). Being able to establish dominance is dependant on your understanding that dogs are pack animals and have a very strong hierarchy, and it is important to understand ‘pack logic’ from the dog’s point of view. Many interesting books and articles have been written on this topic, and it is a great idea to read a few, regardless of which breed you purchase, as they will help you to understand some of your dogs behaviour.
Once you have thought about the above points and anything else that is relevant to you and your family, you should be able to narrow your choices down by doing a bit of research. Surf through the net looking for individual breed pages and FAQ’s, read some books and contact registered Dog Breeders for information.
If you have done all of the above, here are some points when it comes to picking your puppy:
* NEVER BUY ON A WHIM!!!!!!
* NEVER Buy and animal as an unexpected gift or Christmas Present!!!
* DON’T BUY FROM A PET SHOP, PUPPY MILL OR UNREGISTERED BREEDER.
* Telephone the breeders and ask about their breed. Most will be happy to answer any questions you might have, and will advise you of the suitability of their breed to your situation. Don’t be afraid to let the breeder know if you do not have a lot of experience with dogs.
* Go and have a look at several different breeds if you are still not sure which one is right for you. This can best be achieved by attending an All Breed dog show. This will help you decide which breed you like, as well as which breeder’s dogs you prefer.
* Decide if you want a pet or a show quality pup. This may determine how long you have to wait and how much you will have to pay – show or breeding quality pups usually being fewer in number and more expensive.
* Have a look at the health of the other dog’s in the kennel. Are they lively, alert and friendly. (Don’t forget, most kennelled dogs will bark at strangers and some breeds will very rarely look friendly, but you can get a general idea – dogs that look down right viscous might not be good parents for a dog that is going to be a family pet).
* Does the kennel look clean and sanitary?
* Do the dogs react happily to the owner/handler or do they cringe away, snap or growl?
* Puppies should be nicely rounded in shape, without being overly fat or skin and bones.
* Most healthy pups will have shiny, alert eyes and healthy looking coats.
* Check that the puppies are not infested with ticks and fleas.
* Ask to see both parents. It is common for breeders to use a stud dog that they do not own, but they may have photos of the dog. Quite often, the bitch will not look in ‘show condition’ after whelping a litter. The reason for this is that whelping and feeding a litter places huge demands on the bitch, so she may be a little thin (but not skin and bones), and may ‘blow’ her coat (shed) due to the hormonal changes caused by pregnancy and milk production. She should however, still appear happy, lively, confident, interact well with the owner/breeder and show no signs of illness.
* Ask the breeder if they have any references from people who have bought their puppies in the past.
* Make sure that you see all appropriate paperwork including parents pedigrees, medical certificates for tests such as hip dysplasia if this is relevant to the breed, as well as the puppies pedigree papers and vet certificate confirming worming and vaccinations. Be very sceptical of any breeder who is not willing to show you paperwork – if you are unable to see the papers, the breeder may not actually have them! Many people are not concerned about having ‘papers’ for their pet, however, you do want to make sure that if you are paying the price for a pure bred dog, then that is what you are getting. Also, if the breed that you are buying are prone to certain medical conditions, you want to make sure that the parents have been ‘cleared’ by a vet, and the puppies checked (depending on the relevant condition) to ensure that there is the smallest chance possible that the pup you buy will develop the condition.
It is also a good idea to ask to see the membership card for the canine controlling body (Kennel Council) for the state/country that you are in.
REMEMBER: It is ultimately your responsibility to research the breeds you are interested in as well as the individual breeder that you finally purchase from. While it is your right to ask as many questions as possible, it is also the breeders right (and responsibility) to ask you questions as well, so don’t be offended if the breeder gives you the third degree!
Finally, if you do not want or cannot afford a pedigree dog from a registered breeder, there are many reputable dog rescue services that you can adopt from rather than obtaining a dog from a pet shop or backyard breeder. You can obtain a dog of any age from a rescue, (pure breed or mixed) and usually the people who run the rescue will be able to give you some information about each dog they have. If you adopt a dog from a rescue, you may well save it from being destroyed, particularly the older or not so ‘pretty and cute’ dogs which usually don’t get adopted quickly. If you would really like to make a difference to a rescue dog, you might also consider giving a dog that has been mistreated and abused a comfortable, loving home for the remainder of its days – you would be amazed at the love and devotion that you will receive in return.
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