Choosing a dog is an exciting time for any prospective owner. It is important to remember that you and your new dog will be living together for many years to come. This is a commitment with which you should feel comfortable. Choosing a pet can be a confusing process. Make this a fun but informed process. Use these guidelines to help you towards a good match!
- Decide how big and how energetic your pet should be.
If you are to take on a large breed dog you will need plenty of room and the ability to physically control it. It is also important to remember that larger dogs cost more to keep and medical expenses are greater. In many urban situations, a small to medium breed is more appropriate. Some breeds of dogs need more exercise than others. There is no point in getting a breed with boundless energy if you can only provide very limited opportunity to run it off.
- What age of pup should I get?
The best age to bring your pup home is around the 8 week mark. This is a point when they are already well weaned and are becoming very independent from their mother. Their maternal antibodies are waning, so they will need to start their vaccine course shortly after arriving home. Adopting an older dog is also a good option but bear in mind that much of a dog’s socialisation takes place before 3-4 months of age.
- How sociable do you need your pet to be.
Different breeds will have different temperaments. Families with young children may have different expectations to someone who is looking for security or companionship. Are you going to have to regularly leave your dog alone for prolonged periods? Will there be strangers coming in and out of the area where your dog will be kept on a regular basis? Do you want your dog to be welcoming or to have a guarding role?
- What sort of coat are you looking for?
The longer the coat the more the upkeep. The longer haired pets tend to shed more noticeably and the bigger the dog , the more hair there is to shed. Also consider ‘non-shed’ breeds of dogs if there are asthma / allergy problems in the home. Dogs such as maltese, yorkies, soft coated wheaten, kerry blue and standard poodle etc are low shed (no true ‘non shed’ dogs exist). Bear in mind that many dogs are bred in such a way that they need regular professional grooming to properly maintain their coats.
- Other breed traits need to be considered
Other breed traits need to be considered such as aggression towards other dogs, determined personality, habitual barking, copious drooling etc. There are also certain medical conditions which are more predominant in particular breeds.
- Male or female?
Generally male dogs are larger than females. Much of the decision is personal preference as many opinions are held concerning sex based traits, none of which are truly reliable. Tendency for increased dominance aggression or urine marking in males is largely mitigated by neutering.
- Pedigree or mixed breed.
Buying a pedigree will enable you to predict more closely the final look, size and temperament of your new dog. There will be a higher degree of unpredictability when you take home a mixed breed pup due to the genetic mix. However it is also true that pedigree pets can be more vulnerable to specific breed related medical conditions. The conformation of some breeds can cause medical issues, for example dogs with a foreshortened nose can be more prone to respiratory, dental and ocular problems. Adopting an older pup or adult can take a lot of the guesswork out of getting a mixed breed pet but also consider the fact that the social skills which have not been picked up by that stage, may prove to be difficult to achieve.
→ Breed Selection Chart
→ How big will my puppy grow?
- Where do I get a puppy?
If you are getting a pedigree, you should make sure where possible that the breeder is on the list of breeders registered with the Kennel Club. No pup can be verified as pedigree without its papers. It is a good idea to visit the breeder before a purchase so as you can get a feel for the quality of care and maybe get a look at and assess the character of the breeding dam and sire. Mixed breed dogs, or dogs without a verifiable pedigree, are available from a variety of sources which range from local adverts to pounds and sanctuaries. So called ‘mutts’ can make fantastic and original pets.
- Make sure your pup is healthy.
Eyes should be bright and clear with no discharge. Ears should be clean. Nose should be cool and moist with no sign of discharge, coughing or wheezing. Look at the bottom to make sure there is no evidence of diarrhoea. The pup should not be too thin or have too much of a potbelly (can be a sign of heavy worm burden). Teeth should look even with a good bite. Coat should be clean, without patches of hair loss or redness and free of fleas, lice and ticks. The pup should look robust with no sign of lameness or injury. They should be attentive, active and not afraid to approach you but should show no sign of dominance or aggression. There should be evidence of vaccinations and worming to back up the breeders claims. You will need to bring this documentation when visiting us for the initial health check as it will help decision making concerning the completion of the vaccine course.
- If you are not completely happy, don’t be rushed into a decision.
Pressure from a breeder, a pleading child or a guilty conscience could cause you to make a snap decision which you may regret later. It is usually a good idea to postpone a final decision until a second visit. Happy hunting!