Tips for Choosing the Right Puppy
Spring is in the air and so is puppy love. This is the time of year when many of us yearn for a new puppy… what could be cuter? Dogs make wonderful companions. Just remember not to jump into pet ownership thoughtlessly. There are many factors that should be considered to ensure that your new puppy is the proper fit for your family.
- The first thing you need to look at is YOU. How active are you? Do you have children? How old are they? How old are you? Do you live in an apartment, single family home or in the country? Is your yard fenced? What is your personality like? Are you assertive, passive or somewhere in between? Do you have any disabilities or health issues? Do you mind spending time or money on grooming your pet? How picky are you about your house? Do you think pets should even be in the house? The list goes on but the point is the first thing you need to look at is your life and lifestyle.
Once you have an idea of your parameters, it’s time to start looking at the dog.
- What size of dog fits you? Large dogs require more space. They can be more difficult for a petite or older person to handle. They are more expensive to feed, medicate, spay or neuter. They can be a heck of a lot more work to exercise as well. As for small dogs: they require less of everything but activity. Size does not relate to activity level. There are some VERY busy small breeds.
- How about activity levels. You need to be very honest with yourself about what activity level you can tolerate in your pet. Age and general health may dictate a small, quiet, older animal. Are you interested in taking your dog to the dog park or out for a walk or run every day? Even with a large backyard, most active breeds will require additional exercise. If you’re a couch potato, many of the hunting and herding breeds may be too high energy for you. Think about your children as well. If they are too boisterous and rowdy, they may terrify some of the more timid breeds.
- Then there’s sociability. Do you want a dog that loves everyone or a more reserved animal that may bond only to you or your immediate family? If you love entertaining or traveling, be sure to get an animal that will enjoy it as well. Clearly, a one person dog would not be a great idea if you usually have your children as well as all the neighbors’ kids running through the house.
- Emotional stability is just as important. Some breeds are very easy going and unflappable. Others are less so. That includes many of the smaller breeds but some of the big guys as well. Again, this is particularly important if you have small children or an active social life. Do your homework and make certain you find a breed that will tolerate busy little hands and bodies.
- Trainability. Don’t confuse intelligence with trainability. Many of the so-called smart breeds can actually be quite difficult to train. Trainability should be thought of as the “will to please”. So, if you insist on perfect behavior, do your homework and plan on spending some time in obedience classes as well. But, if what you really want is a pet that will simply sit, lie down and not eat up the house there are plenty of contenders out there. PLEASE just don’t buy a highly motivated Border collie or other overachiever if you don’t have the time to keep them busy. When not kept occupied these doggie geniuses may end up destroying your home out of boredom and frustration.
- Dominance. Unfortunately many people confuse dominance and aggression. Most of the biting dogs we see in veterinary practice are actually fearful in nature. Dominant animals are generally confident if they have a calm, assertive owner. In the simplest terms dominance can be thought of as the how hard your dog will work to get his or her own way. Dominance is variable. Some dogs may just be dominant over other dogs but submissive to people. Dominance is not related to size either. There are a lot of pint sized Napoleons out there. Be sure to match your will to rule to that of your future pet.
- Hardiness. Pay special attention to hardiness when selecting a breed. Bulldogs and some of the short-faced (brachycephalic) breeds don’t do well in the heat. Chihuahuas, Greyhounds and other short coated dogs are not suited to outdoor life in the colder climates. Matted coats, burned skin, heat stroke or frost bite may all be the consequences of wrong choices made on your part. Then again, some breeds have been so completed altered by human kind that they are born with an array of health problems just waiting to happen. No matter what, it’s still best to know ahead of time.
- Grooming. Do you mind brushing your dog every day? How about a grooming bill once a month? How about a really big grooming bill once a month? Would you prefer a non-shedding coat? How about a dog with almost no coat at all? Do you know how to care for eyes and ears or nails and matted hair? What about anal glands? Every breed has different grooming care needs. Don’t overlook this when selecting your dog.
Great dogs can be found in a lot of places. That includes shelters and rescue groups. We wish you good luck in your search and hope that you have figured out that picking the right puppy involves a lot more than who’s got the cutest brown eyes. Hopefully, you now know that it takes a well thought out plan that combines your needs with those of your future pet. So be sure to use all of the resources available to you. Read books, attend dog shows, ask your veterinarian, talk to your friends, talk to breed associations, do whatever it takes to make yourself aware and educated. Then go ahead and take the big leap into puppy love.