So, You Want a Dog?
By Lynn Whittaker
There are several ways to acquire a dog and many questions and concerns that should be met before even bringing Fido into your home. What breed you desire, health issues, temperaments, training, veterinary costs, pet sitting while you vacation, proper nutrition, life span, and geriatrics are all topics that should be discussed within the family.
The age of the dog should be the first consideration when you begin searching. This can either broaden or narrow your focus. If you decide that a puppy is the only kind of dog for you, there are a few things to consider. Puppies are generally sold at eight weeks of age. During that time, they require a lot of care. They are not housebroken and will have accidents if not taken out in a timely fashion. If they are purchased from a pet store generally they have been taken from their own litter at an even younger age and may have some issues of separation already. A reputable breeder generally does not let their puppies go until they have reached 8-10 weeks of age.
There are several critical developmental periods a dog goes through in life and many of these take place at a young age. If a dog is placed too early, it may suffer from improper socialization, and therefore lack a sense of pack hierarchy, and not receive the proper corrections and guidance from its mother that will enable it to grow up into a well-adjusted dog.
A new puppy in the home might whine at night, causing you to lose sleep. They also have the insatiable urge to chew on things. It is a physiological urge to do this and they are not able to control themselves.
A puppy’s body, when you think of it, grows at an amazing rate. The bones are shifting, adult teeth are pushing through, and many times the growth is somewhat uneven. They generally require three or four feedings a day to keep up with their growth.
You should consider if there will be someone staying at home to care for the puppy, and it is advisable that if the house is unoccupied during the day, that a qualified pet sitter come in to let your puppy out, to feed, and to allow for play time and socialization.
Another important factor is breed. It is somewhat difficult to visit a pet store that sells puppies, because they all look so cute; that fluffy ball of fur in the cage on the right will someday grow to a 150lb St. Bernard. That puppy on the left has the saddest face, and will grow up to be a mischievous clown like boxer, or that beautiful brown and white dog with one blue eye will grow to be a Siberian Husky that is an oversized pulling machine.
When looking at these puppies, look into the care required for such breeds. Are they going to need regular grooming? It might be best to contact a local groomer to find out how much grooming and maintenance you can look forward to later on in the dog’s life.
What are the feeding requirements of such dogs? Feeding a premium dog food to any breed may save you more money at the vets.
Answering some of these questions early on can prevent a lot of headaches later on and will allow you and your pets to have a better life long relationship together.
If an older dog is an option, there are many wonderful organizations out there that place older dogs, such as your local SPCA, Humane Society, or breed rescue. It is important to remember that older doesn’t mean that the dog is going to be a geriatric dog, though there are those too that need good homes and still have lots of life to give. The age range of an older dog can be five months and up.
Consider a breed; ask questions of other dog owners, breeders, and the internet. Nowadays, there is a breed specific rescue for almost all dogs. Some of these dogs may enter rescue because an owner has passed away, a breeder has chosen not to breed a particular dog, a family may have fallen on some hardships, or that the dog was in an abusive situation. There is a dog for everyone out there.
Some benefits of an older dog might be that the dog might already come with some training, might be housebroken, great with children, and travels well.
If you have decided to adopt from a rescue, look for the reputability of the rescue. Is it a 501c3 non-profit organization? Are the dogs in a kenneled environment or fostered in a home? Do they temperament test the dogs for suitable placement? This test should be performed on all dogs in rescue to be certain they do not have issues with food, possessions, children, etc.
Once you have made the commitment to adopt, be prepared to fill out an application, have a home check where a rescue representative visits your home to help prepare you for a dog, and to wait a bit. Some rescues are inundated with dogs or have long waiting lists for adoption, or they may not have any dogs that are suitable for your lifestyle.
Be prepared to sign up your new dog for training. Many rescues require this as per their contract, but overall it is best for you to attend regardless. Bonding, socializing, proper care, support and guidance can be found while in a training facility.
There are many ways to obtain an animal and where you go can determine what lies ahead for you and your four-legged friend. Always remember that dogs are like children, they need proper nutrition, health care, attention, training, guidance and have the greatest desire to be loved unconditionally.