You’ve seen them; little bundles of joy, 8 weeks old, covered in fur, big eyes peaking out at you and taking everything in. Maybe you were passing the pet store in the mall and a sign with big bold letters read “Puppy Sale.” Or maybe you were walking into a department store and sitting in the hot parking lot was a family of five with a box marked “Free Puppies.” Either way, you were hooked. You can’t say no to those big brown eyes so you take the little fluff ball home with you.
Congratulations, you just made common mistake number one! Animals should never be an impulse item. Animals are Sentient beings capable of emotions, the ability to feel pain, and unique personalities and traits. All dogs are individuals, but within breeds you may see certain traits that are common characteristics of the breed. Before getting a dog, sit down and ask ask yourself these questions:
Do I have time for a puppy?
Do you like sleep? Too bad, you’ll be getting up every few hours to let the puppy out unless you litter train him. Want to go on vacation to Barbados? You’d better find some one to watch Fido for a week. Enjoy your spare time? A lot of it will be spent training Rex and taking him on a 2-4 mile round trip walk. Puppies are a lot of work, if you don’t have the time to meet everyone of her needs then you had better not get her. But that’s okay, guinea pigs make fun pets too. Try that instead.
Do I have the money for a puppy?
There is no way around it, puppy’s cost money. That first year you are going to be dropping major bank on supplies, food, veterinary care, training and even replacements for destroyed household items. If you can not afford a dog then don’t get a dog. It is illegal, not to mention unethical, to get a dog and not care for him. If you can not meet Rover’s needs then he is better off without you. But hey, goldfish are cheap.
What breed is right for me?
Okay, we’ve established that you have the time and money to take care of a little puppy, now you need to decide which one is right for you. If you are a marathon runner maybe you want a running mate? An athletic Pit bull Terrier may make an excellent jogging buddy, an English Bulldog would not. Say you are a couch potato who considers going to the kitchen for a soda to be a week’s worth of exercise. A Boxer would be the wrong kind of dog for you, but a Pug may be right up your alley. Got four kids? A rambunctious Lab may have the energy to keep up with small children. Do your homework and really research what breed of dog is right for you, but remember that these are guidelines only. All dogs are different, even within a breed standard.
Finding your dog
Congratulations, you saved a life! Every day shelters in America are forced to kill 30,000 dogs and cats. The life of the dog you saved could turn out to be your very best friend. Older dogs know that you rescued them from a bad situation and many bond stronger with you than if they came from a breeder. Adopting a pound puppy is an excellent option, but it is not without its disadvantages. Older dogs may have ‘baggage,’ older dogs and puppies may have minor health problems such as malnutrition, worms or other parasites. Fortunately, these minor health problems are usually pretty easy to fix.
When adopting from a shelter, unless you are adopting an ‘owner surrender’ it is unlikely you will know anything about the dogs back story; where he came from, how he’s been treated, etc. The breed of dog may also be a surprise. I once trained a dog that weighed 30lbs, the dog was a pound puppy and was adopted out as a chihuahua! Shelter workers and volunteers make their best guesses, but in the end, that’s all it is– Guesswork.
Getting a mixed breed from a pound can have the advantage of not developing breed specific illnesses, but if you have your mind set on a purebred dog, take heart. A quarter of all pound puppies are purebred. There are also Breed Rescues that cater to certain specific breeds.
If you are going to adopt a dog from a breeder then do your homework. Many breeders are backyard breeders out to make a quick buck. These irresponsible breeders will not do background checks for hereditary health issues, they won’t screen potential owners and many of them will get rid of the puppy before it is developmentally ready. Never get a puppy if she is under 8 weeks old. 8 weeks should be the minimum age you take the dog home.
Not all breeders are irresponsible, some do it out of love for the breed and a genuine love of animals. Look for a breeder who has done hereditary checks and who screens potential owners. Look at the price of the dog, a healthy dog from a reputable breeder is going to cost you a mint. But it’s worth it to know that you got a healthy pup. Look at the home of the breeder.
-Is it clean?
-Are there too many dogs there?
-Does the dame look friendly and healthy?
-Are the puppies eyes clean and bright?
-Is the puppies skin elastic?
-Are the puppies active and curious?
-Is the anus free of fecal matter?
-Are the yard and kennel odor free?
If you answered ‘no’ to just one of these questions then get the dog elsewhere. I don’t care how attached you are to the cute little brown one, or that you drove 30 miles just to get there. Don’t support bad breeders. It could be that the health and well being of your dog that is at stake. A good breeder makes very little profit on the dogs, even on a dog you paid several hundred dollars for. This is because so much is put into the care and well being of the puppy before he leaves the home. A good breeder will make you sign a waiver saying that you will return the dog to them if things don’t work out.
There is no nice way to say this so I’m just going to be blunt. Don’t get a dog from a puppy mill. Just don’t do it. There is no excuse to support puppy mill operators. If you want to help those dogs then call the authorities or the Humane Society. Puppy Mills are a business, run strictly for profit. Dogs are kept in deplorable environments; deprived of comfort, human interaction, and canine interaction. Puppies often leave the puppy mills with serious health and behaviour problems. Female breeding stock are kept caged and continually bred for years. When she has outlived her usefulness she is then killed, abandoned or sold to another mill.
Pet stores almost always get their puppies from puppy mills. They may try to dress it up and tell you about the “farm” that the puppy was lovingly raised on, but the truth is that even the fanciest pet store in the nicest part of town got their dogs from puppy mills. The puppies go straight from the mill to the store and miss out on a crucial socialization period. They are often sold with little to no thought about their health and well being. Many have health and behaviour issues brought about by lack of socialization. The puppies are sold to the consumer and it becomes their problem. Pet stores often have “guarantees” on their puppies promising replacement puppies if yours suddenly dies. They are able to do this because the markup is so high. Every dog purchased from a pet store encourages the store and the puppy mill to continue the endless cycle of abuse.