YOU READY FOR A PUPPY OR A DOG?
Everyone thinks their breed or cross is the greatest.
However, what is right for your family or lifestyle
may not be right for someone else. Before you run out
and get a dog you must stop and look at your lifestyle.
Take a moment and read the following to help you decide
if a dog will fit into your life.
Are you prepared for
a puppy or dog?
1. Time Commitment: How much time each day do you
have to devote to the animal? Are you willing to commit
to the dog for the dog's life? What if you have to move?
Puppies require far more work than adults. You must
make time for classes, training, socializing, and activities.
To get a puppy or dog and then leave him in a backyard
with no socialization or effort on your part is cruel.
Dogs are social animals and do best when part of the
family. If you cannot devote time to raising baby, ensuring
your dog is well trained and socialized for the next
ten to fifteen years or more, do not get one. Remember
that one series of obedience classes does not a trained
dog make. Training and learning lasts the life of the
2. Human Medical Issues: Are there any allergies
or medical conditions in your family that could cause
issues resulting in having to get rid of the dog? No
breed is truly hypoallergenic. People with serious problems
may not be able to tolerate ANY breed – regardless of
what someone's ad would lead you to believe. If there
are suspected health concerns, consult a doctor before
considering a pet.
3. Cost: Can you afford a dog? Getting the puppy
or dog is not the big expense. It is what follows that
can drain your wallet: buying the crate and other necessary
supplies; puppy inoculations every few weeks while the
puppy is young; training classes (any where from $30
to over $100 depending on where you go); annual wellness
checks and inoculations; feeding (the bigger the dog
the bigger the food bill); medical emergencies (can
easily run hundreds of dollars if not more). I
spent $100 to adopt a dog and closer to $300 getting
a big enough crate, enrolling in classes (yes, even
instructors take their dogs to classes), vet checks,
leash, collar, and extra toys… The dog was the cheap
4. Housing: Can you properly house the dog? Being
chained in the back yard with a hut and water is not
proper housing. Dogs are social animals and pets really
should be part of the family pack. If you cannot make
a dog a family member, keep him safely inside when you
are not home and let him have plenty of exercise in
a safely fenced area, reconsider. It is cruel to a dog
to leave him outside all the time. Also, these dogs
are more prone to become nuisance barkers and victims
of "pranks" or theft.
5. Lifestyle: What is your lifestyle like? Are you
an active family that spends time hiking and camping
or going for long walks? Are you more sedentary? Some
breeds require a lot of exercise daily – both physical
and mental. The half hour walk given to a Bulldog is
far from adequate for a Border Collie. A Bulldog will
not be able to handle the strenuous hours of daily workouts
a Border Collie requires. Research any breed thoroughly
before getting – use several different sources as well.
What one person or even a vet says about a breed may
be totally erroneous. Look at books devoted to the breed;
many breed-specific dog clubs have websites with plenty
of information, etc. If you are looking at a cross,
research the breeds you know are in the cross to give
you an idea of what you are getting. And bear in mind
that small does not equal less energy. Some giant breeds
have lower activity level than many smaller breeds.
Size is not always relevant when it comes to how much
energy and exercise a dog requires.
6. Grooming: What about grooming? All dogs need grooming
– even hairless breeds! Some breeds are quite a bit
for the average person to handle and may require professional
work (Poodles and Bichon FrisÚs for example). Others
require only a few minutes of going over with a brush
once a week as well as regular attention to teeth, ears
and nails. All dogs shed to some extent. Even supposed
"no shed" breeds will lose hair. Hair falls out of follicles
– take a look at your own brush or how often do you
pluck a strand off your jacket. Some breeds shed less
than others. If you are a neat freak and cannot stand
dust bunnies, consider a lower shedding breed. Also,
coat length does not mean a breed will shed more or
less. A short-coated breed can shed just as much as
a medium to long coated one.
7. Need: Why do you want a dog? Companionship, participating
in sports, protection? Again, you must research the
breed or cross in regards to what you want. If you want
a dog that can be trained for duck hunting a Collie
may not be the right breed.
8. Experience: Are you an experienced dog owner or
is this your first one? There are many breeds that are
not appropriate for a novice for one reason or another.
Many people see Border Collies (Babe) and Jack Russell
Terriers (Frasier, Wishbone) and must have one. What
about those 101 Dalmatians? Obviously these dogs must
be great if they are in Hollywood! WRONG! What makes
dogs excel in acting, Agility and other things often
makes them more (sometimes FAR more) than the novice
dog owner is prepared to handle. Thousands of Dalmatians,
Border Collies and Jack Russells found themselves given
up by owners who HAD to get on because of the image
Hollywood gave them. Some breeds are self-willed and
can be a challenge to work with. Not that they are bad
but the owner needs to understand the breed. No breed
is untrainable – regardless of what some surveys would
have you think. Knowing the breed (or breeds that went
into a cross) is a big step to understanding the dog
and working with it.
9. Long Term: What will happen to the dog if you
start a family? Are you just going to dump the dog or
do what it takes to ensure he is ready for the new arrival?
What if you have to move? Thousands of pets are given
up because of a new child or move. Have you thought
about the long-term needs of the dog?
10. Golden Years: What when the dog ages? Are you
prepared to cope with the onset of old age or when the
dog is no longer "useful" will you get rid of it. Can
you handle the increased health issues that can go along
with a senior dog? A dog will spend his life trying
to please an owner. The least we can do is make their
Golden years truly golden.
Now that you have thought all this through and have
decided to get a dog, what should you look for?
I always urge people to seek out a rescue group or
reputable breeder when choosing a dog. Here are a few
things to look for when choosing a dog or puppy.
1. Age: Puppies should be no younger than eight weeks.
A good breeder will not place puppies younger than that.
Old school used to be six weeks was fine. But so much
growth and development happens between six and eight
weeks. Also think, puppies' eyes and ears open at about
three weeks and they begin to test solids foods after
that. A five or six week old puppy is barely weaned.
The extra couple weeks with the dam and littermates
can make a big difference overall. Also, puppies should
have at least one set of shots before going to homes.
The vaccine schedule for puppies is usually 6, 9 and
12 weeks with the first rabies booster being at 16 weeks.
As for the other end of the age spectrum, older animals.
I am a firm believer that any dog at any age – even
a senior – will have something to offer. If you go to
a rescue, look at an adult dog. Just because a dog is
fully-grown does not mean they are past training. Adult
dogs have better bladder control and more attention
span than a young puppy. And puppies are only little
for a short time! Sometimes puppies in rescue may have
to be placed younger than eight weeks. This is an exception
to the rule and many shelters will try to find foster
care for young puppies if possible. The younger you
get a puppy, the more work it will be and the more patience
you must have with it. Ideally, no pup should be placed
before eight weeks. If a "breeder" tried to insist otherwise,
get out. It is amazing how many people have litters
and try to place them young because of the work and
expense involved. And keep in mind; in some places it
is illegal to sell animals less than eight weeks.
2. Condition: The puppies or dogs should show NO
signs of lameness, discharge from eyes, ears, nose,
etc. They should have clean, shiny coats and be alert.
Their stool should be firm. A good breeder or rescue
group will have no issue if you wish to have your vet
examine the animal before bringing it home. Many will
insist you do. If you are going to a breeder, ask what
tests were run on the parents to help ensure the healthiest
dogs were bred. If there were no tests done at all,
leave immediately. If there were no shots given to puppies,
leave immediately. Also a good breeder will give you
some form of health guarantee. Many will even have a
lifetime guarantee as long as you are taking proper
care of the animal. Are the dogs from lines that fit
the breed standard correctly – ideally they dogs should
have proven themselves in both the show ring as well
as in some form of performance sport like Obedience
or Agility. Now, look at the condition of the facility.
Is it full of feces and looks unclean? Does it have
a really offensive odor or smell too heavily of cleaners
as if something was being hidden? Is there sign of pest
infestation? What is the attitude of the people to the
animals? What is the attitude of the animals?
3. Attitude: Is the person trying to place the pup
or dog trying to push the animal on you? Is the person
telling you both the pros and cons of the breed – or
cross? I cringe when I hear statements like "This is
the BEST dog for anyone." This is far from true. What
I would like in a dog is probably different from what
you want. I like active dogs with a strong work drive
and moderate to high energy levels. I prefer longer
coats and dogs that can handle various climates. I want
something that will think nothing of hauling a pack
or cart or working all day if asked to. This can be
quite a handful for many people. No matter how I feel
about the breeds I like and have, I would never insist
it is the best breed for everyone. Anyone who tells
you this should be selling used cars on the corner.
I look for someone who will tell me both the good points
and bad points of a dog. Having gotten animals from
reputable and responsible breeders as well as rescues,
I feel that people in both areas should be more than
honest when trying to match a dog to you. If they seem
too anxious to make that sale or adoption, I would consider
strongly going elsewhere.
4. Temperaments: Has there been any temperament testing
to the puppies or dogs? If you are a quite, laid back
person, it could be tough to be matched with an outgoing,
dominant puppy. If you are looking for a dog to compete
with in sports, that quiet, shy dog would probably not
work out well. A good breeder or rescue will screen
the puppies or dogs to make the best match possible.
5. Your gut: What feeling do you get about where
you are looking to get your pet – be it a reputable
and responsible breeder or a rescue? And when considering
a rescue, many are tempted to rescue that hardship case.
Use your brain. Having rescued hardship cases I can
personally say it is a HUGE amount of dedication, work
and money. Multiple trips to vets, medications, worries
about potential behavior issues and how to deal with
them, time, effort and money can easily run into the
thousands before you realize it. It is noble to wish
to help all the hardship cases out there. But in reality,
can you devote the time and effort? Many hardship cases
end right back in rescue. Use your brain as well as
I hope I have outlined, adding a dog to your life
is no small thing. It is time, commitment, money and
even heartache. Impulse buying a pup from a pet store
(the worst place to look for a pet) or grabbing the
local paper and reading the plethora of ads from people
breeding for the same of it often lead to bad placings
and even trouble.
It is your responsibility as a future dog owner to research
your life as well as various breeds or types of dogs
to help make the best match for you. It is your responsibility
to find well-educated and committed people to help match
you with the best canine companion. It is your responsibility
to ensure the dog is well trained, socialized and the
safest he can be.
Before you buy, stop and think and think again. Is this
the right thing for you?
Reprinted with permission from Karen Peak of West
Wind Dog Training,
the NLRC Website
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