Choosing a puppy seems easy enough. You just decide if you want a male or female, go to the local pet shop, spend several hundred dollars, and pick the cutest puppy in the window. You take it home, provide it nutrition, love, and regular veterinary care. It never gets sick and lives to a ripe old age. Ah, if only life were so easy.
Choosing a puppy is a difficult job. Unfortunately, so many people make an impulse buy based on emotion, only to find out the puppy is sick, has behavioral problems, or costs a lot in upkeep. These poor puppies, chosen on the spur of the moment, often end up euthanized before their third birthday. It is estimated that 12 to 20 million dogs and cats are euthanized in animal shelters each year. Careful planning for a new puppy can prevent many of these needless deaths.
Pets are not disposable items. It takes time to evaluate your reasons for wanting a dog and then decide on the right one.
Ideally, you should choose and then visit with a veterinarian before purchasing a puppy. Veterinarians are trained to help you.
decide if a puppy is for you and can help you decide which breed may best suit you. Finally, the veterinarian can give you a realistic idea of the care and the expense involved in caring for this pet over the next 10-20 years.
Why Do You Want a Puppy?
This is an extremely important question all potential puppy owners should ponder before buying their puppy. What are your reasons for wanting a puppy? Companionship? Status? A playmate for the kids ? Do you want a “pet quality” puppy or a “breeding” or ”show” quality puppy?
What Breed to Choose?
What breed you pick is dependent upon several factors.
If you live in a small space such as an apartment, obviously a large breed such as a Doberman pinscher or Labrador retriever is not for you.
If you like a lot of physical activity, such as jogging, a lap breed like a Maltese would not fit your lifestyle.
If you want a breed that doesn’t shed, a poodle or Bichon frise is better for you than a retriever or cocker spaniel.
If grooming is something you don’t want to deal with, a Bichon frise or poodle is not for you.
Purebred dogs are prone to breed-specific problems. That’s not to say that every member of that breed will develop a problem, only that dogs of a particular breed have a higher chance of contracting a specific problem than the general dog population. As a rule, mixed breeds (muts) are usually sturdier and less likely to develop problems than purebred dogs.
It is beyond the scope of this book to mention every breed and its problems; your veterinarian can assist you with that, as can the American Kennel Club (AKC) dog book found in most libraries. Some generalizations can be made:
Large dogs, such as golden and Labrador retrievers, collies, Great Danes, and German shepherds, have a higher incidence of musculoskeletal diseases than smaller breeds.
Poodles and cocker spaniels have a higher incidence of ear and eye diseases.
Retrievers and terriers have a higher incidence of allergic skin diseases and eye diseases than other breeds.
Small breeds of dogs are commonly afflicted with alular heart disease as they age; large breeds are more prone to cardiomyopathy, a serious illness, leading to failure of the heart.
Puppy or Adult ?
Okay, so you’ve decided a dog is definitely for you. After careful study and discussion with your veterinarian, you’ve even made a decision about which breed may best suit you. Now you have to decide if a young puppy or older dog is what you want.
While puppies can be fine pets, so too can the older ones. Remember that puppies require a lot of work and expense their first year. If you don’t have the time or don’t want to go to the trouble and expense of puppy care, you should seriously consider adopting an older pet, especially one that may be at the local pound. Many of these dogs are purebred pets (although without papers), and most if not all of them will make excellent pets.
Breed rescue clubs (ask your veterinarian for names and telephone numbers) also have purebred dogs available, usually for a very low cost. These dogs are placed in foster homes prior to adoption and usually make excellent pets, as dogs with diseases are not offered for sale or for adoption.
Here are some points to ponder when deciding between a young puppy or older dog.
Puppies must be house-trained; older dogs usually are already housetrained.
Puppies must be vaccinated, deformed, and spayed or neutered; many older pets have already had these procedures performed (although all dogs need physical exams, vaccinations, and other veterinary care annually).
Puppies bite and chew everything in sight; older dogs do not have destructive chewing problems.
Most puppies have not developed behavioral problems (other than biting and chewing); some older dogs may have behavioral problems.
You can train your puppy the way you want; you and you alone will determine what kind of pet it will become. An older dog has already been trained by another owner. It may have been left at the pound because the owner mist rained it as a puppy and now it is an older dog with behavioral problems that its former owner could not handle.
Many puppies have medical problems including worms (parasites), fleas, ear mites, or kennel cough; most older dogs are healthy (although they may harbor intestinal parasites or
Puppies go through a “teething” phase, just like children. Until 6 months of age, when most or all of the adult teeth have erupted, your puppy will gradually lose his baby teeth. Unlike in children, the procedure is usually not painful and often goes unnoticed. Puppies usually do not act irritable, get diarrhea, or develop a fever as new teeth erupt. However, teething puppies usually need to chew on something. You can help them out by offering a variety of chew toys as suggested by your veterinarian.
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