Top Things to Consider Before Getting a Puppy
There’s nothing more exciting than welcoming a puppy into a household. It’s the stuff that builds memories. These cute bundles of joy and fluff can be irresistible and the centre of all you do for a while. Sadly though, one only has to reflect on the statistics of abandoned dogs to realise that the cute phase passes for some people, and life long commitment is not always on offer by the owner. Here are some of our thoughts on what you should be thinking before getting a puppy:
1. Why do you want a puppy in the first place?
There are so many reasons why people choose to get a puppy. Replacing another dog, growing your family, companionship for you or another pet. Whatever the reason, ask yourself first: is adopting a dog an option? Your best friend might already be waiting for you through a pet rescue service.
However, for some people, raising a puppy is a huge part of the experience, and I understand that completely. I have loved raising puppies in our family. So if a puppy is the go, then what else do we need to consider?
2. What’s the perfect dog for me?
This would have to be one of the most common questions I am asked. My response, “Find me a perfect kid and I’ll find you a perfect dog!” There is no such thing! So let go of your expectations to have a perfect dog, and aim to choose a breed that best suits you.
Be informed every step of the way, do your research and accept that there is no perfect script for the perfect dog. There is individual variation in personality and physical characteristics in every breed of dog out there, pure and mixed. There are no guarantees, but keep in mind that often your dog’s flaws are the quirks that you’ll love the most!
3. Where do you get your puppy from?
We strongly recommend that you do not get a puppy from a pet shop. A pet shop cannot provide the early puppyhood experiences that are so vital to getting them off to a good start. The only possible exception to this could be through a privately, family owned business that has an occasional litter and the puppies spend the majority of their time at home.
Any breeder you are talking to should be able to demonstrate that the litter was planned, that professional advice from a veterinarian was provided and health screening was carried out. All stages from conception, through to birth, weaning and socialization, must be managed with commitment and care. You can see more information about things to look out for here - finding a reputable breeder.
Basically you are seeking ethical, committed independent breeders who are motivated by what is best for the dogs, not their purse. When breeders are motivated by finances, they are inclined to over-breed, intensively breed (ie puppy farms) and take short cuts on health and nutrition. Again, there are always exceptions to this, so be guided by intelligent questioning and seeing the premises where the dogs are bred. Meet both parents, or at least the bitch if possible. I don’t recommend to anyone to buy a puppy online without visiting and meeting the breeder and litter first.
4. Pedigree or designer dog?
I have loved and welcomed in to my life both pedigree and mixed breeds dogs. In my world, there is a place for both. Our dog family right now comprises five dogs: a purebred Labrador, a purebred Golden Retriever, a cross bred Shih Tzu from a private household, a rescued Schnauzer from a puppy farm (she was a breeding bitch) and an unregistered Yorkshire Terrier from China!
Be mindful of breed related health and temperament issues when choosing a dog. It’s not necessarily a reason not to get a specific breed, but I would be questioning the breeder and your veterinarian on issues in a breed, and strategies for management. A simple example of this is ensuring breeding parents have been screened where possible for conditions such as joint and eye conditions.
5. What are your current circumstances and stage of life?
Here’s a very brief overview of factors to consider when it comes to committing to a puppy:
TIME: Puppies take time. Lots of it. And it’s the fun part that you don’t want to miss. Do not commit to a puppy if he/she is going to spend most of the time home alone. I am not suggesting you spend 24/7 with your puppy. In fact, they do need to learn to be independent. But for the initial weeks you will need to dedicate significant time to care, toilet training, enjoyment and other training.
LOCATION: What are your living arrangements? Consider your property size, length of time and house ownership status. It can be difficult to bring a puppy in to a rental in many instances.
FINANCES: Puppies cost money. Plenty of it. Through purchase price, veterinary visits, health management, good nutrition, desexing, microchipping, registration, insurance and puppy classes, expect the first year of your puppy’s life to cost you a decent amount. And that’s the beginning. Dogs will continue to cost you money through life. Be prepared for this. They are not disposable items.
FAMILY: Do you have children under 4 years of age? Seek advice about brining a puppy in to the household, especially with babies and toddlers on the scene. You will already be very busy. It is possible, but seek advice first (ask us!).
STAGE OF LIFE: If you are 80 years old and have always had German Shepherds, that does not necessarily mean a German Shepherd is still the right breed for you. Choose a size and breed of dog that suits your current stage of life.
The Next Step
Consult Cherished Pets for a tailored consultation on choosing a companion pet. We are here to support the human animal bond through all life stages, and offer dedicated home consultations on choosing and finding the right pet for you at this time in your life. Contact Dr Alicia on 0439094379 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT DR ALICIA: In 1994 Dr Alicia pioneered Puppy Preschool in Victoria by starting the program at Bellarine Veterinary Practice, Geelong, based on the original program founded by Dr Kersti Seksel, one of Australia’s leading veterinary behavior specialists. Alicia developed and led training programs and workshops for veterinary nurses on puppy preschool, back in the early days. In 1998 Alicia’s book, “A Dog in Your Family”, was published by Oxford University Press. We still have a few copies left in stock. Cost is $5 and all proceeds go to our charity, Cherished Pets Foundation, that supports community pet care projects.