Great – you’ve decided to get a dog. But first, you need to do some homework.
Ask yourself these questions:
• Can I afford the price of this pet and all the equipment I will need to make it happy in my home?
• How much will routine worming, grooming, pet insurance, feeding, neutering and vet fees cost to keep my pet healthy?
• Can your lifestyle make allowances for the time your puppy will take up?
• Is my home suitable for my choice of breed?
• Does everyone in the family agree with my choice? Do you know if your choice of breed is on the control of dogs list and what the law requires of you?
• Does anyone in the family have an allergy that may be aggravated by my choice of dog?
Choose the breed wisely. You have to take into consideration your lifestyle and where you live. Great Danes don’t do very well in one-bedroom, sixth-floor flats. Nor does any breed when their owner is out at work all day. Dogs don’t need space, they need time. Your puppy needs to be taught how to live with the humans in their life. He will grow into an adult dog and may be with you for up to 17 years, so you need to make sure your dog is the one for you.
It is important that you see both the parents and where the puppies are living, and the breeders’ set-up. This will give you an idea of the adult dog you are inviting to live with you and your family.
Be aware of the breeder who meets you half-way if you have to travel a distance to choose your puppy, no matter how nice they sound. Are they trying to hide something? This is especially important if you are to trust your dog with your children. Is the breeder selling lots of puppies and breeds? Do they have the parent dogs on-site? If so, this may be the sign of a puppy farm, in which case, walk away.
Some breeders churn out litter after litter from their brood bitches, without a thought about the dogs, puppies, environment, health or behaviour. These puppies and their mothers are usually kept in barns or sheds, without social human contact, so they are usually fearful and shy around people.
Some puppies remain nervous all their life and many become aggressive and will bite. Don’t feel sorry for this puppy and take it home, as you are putting your children at risk. The puppies are taken from their mothers at a very young age, without any thought about socialisation with people or children. They are often quiet and fearful, they can be aggressive as they have not been taught about the outside world. Your puppy will have to be safe around your children.
Behavioural issues and not infections are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age. Dog pounds and rescue groups are full of dogs that have been given up on by their owners because of aggression and other behavioural problems.
Rescue groups and reputable breeders will provide support and help if you need it and will take the dog back if things break down. Make sure the puppy is clean and happy, a home environment is best, as a puppy will be used to all the noise and smells that may also be in your own home. Socialisation and habituation is very important, not just for the puppy but also for the safety of the family.