Things to think about before getting a new dog
Now that it is turning nice out and becoming spring, I am sure many people are starting to consider adding a new pet to their family. But WAIT! Is it a good idea? Should you get a puppy or a rescue dog? What can you expect? There is a lot more to consider than what I go over here, but this is intended especially for first time dog owners.
Owning a dog can be a real fun experience and very rewarding. As a personal dog lover I think it is a great idea to consider adding a dog to your family, or even possibly a second one. That being said however you must not only make sure that the dog is going to be a good fit for your family and lifestyle, but also that you are a good fit for that specific dog. Let us go over some of the questions you should start asking yourself and your family members before bringing this new dog into your family.
There are a lot more questions to ask than what I am providing but here is a start of things to ask. What are your future plans? Do you plan to travel for extended periods of time and if so what is going to be done with your dog? Are you allowed dogs where you currently live? If you move and are renting are you willing to pay extra for a pet friendly place? Can you financially afford a dog now and in the future (Vet bills, shots, food, training, pet supplies…)? Have you considered the costs and looked into how much this dog is actually going to cost you? Have you talked to family members? Is there a big change about to enter your household like a new baby? Do you have the time to exercise your new dog? Are you prepared to take care of this dog no matter what for the next 10+ years? Hopefully this has got you thinking and talking. If a dog is a new concept for your family a great thing to consider is seeing if a friend, neighbor, or family member would let you take care of their dog for a week.
What breed is right for you?
So, you have now decided that a dog is going to be a great fit for your lifestyle. I am glad to hear. Next we need to start thinking about breed and where we are going to get this dog from. There are many different breeds of dogs out there and even more cross breeds. Some important things to consider is the size of dog you want, exercise requirements, grooming requirements, allergies… What exactly do you want to be able to do with this dog? Are you looking for a daily running partner? Do you only want to let this dog out in the backyard and take for short walks? Are there any dog sports you would like to get involved in? Something you might want to consider is taking some quizzes online to see what type of breeds you should start to consider and then start researching the breeds recommended further to see if they would be the right fit for you. One test to get you started can be found here. Don’t limit yourself to just the breeds you have heard of, surprisingly the popular breeds are quickly becoming bad choices due to poor breeding leading to health problems. Looking for some extra help? Talk to a dog trainer about what breeds might be right for you and let them do some research for you.
By this point I hope you have now started to consider the breeds of dogs you would be interested and are starting to be confident that this pet will become a lifelong family member. The next thing to think about is if you are going to get a puppy or a rescue dog? A lot of this choice comes down to the training you are willing to do.
Puppy or Rescue
Let’s start by talking about getting a new puppy and the training that is involved. With a new puppy it can be much like having a new baby added to your household. This puppy needs to be taught the rules, needs to be potty trained, socialized, and shown what this world is about. A puppy requires much patience and you should be prepared to spend a couple weeks at home with this new dog. Make sure to discuss what the rules are for this dog before bringing it home. Remember that although your puppy may be cute now, will it still be cute doing this same behaviour when full grown? Accidents happen and it’s a fact of life so don’t get mad if your new puppy takes a pee in the house. This is something you need to teach and not just punish the dog for doing. You need to teach this dog basic obedience like sit, down, stay, not pull on the leash, come… Socialization is key for puppies. This dog needs to learn how to interact with humans, other dogs, people in uniform, walk on weird surfaces…and you need to help make sure that these situations are kept positive and under your control. All in all a puppy can be a lot of work but can also be very rewarding. A puppy is not for everyone, so let’s talk next about rescue dogs.
Rescue dogs can be an excellent companion but don’t bite off more than you can chew. This new dog should not become part of your family just because you feel sorry for it. There are many dogs on death row and saving one of these dogs can be rewarding, or a nightmare. One great thing about a rescue dog is you are usually able to know what this dog is like already. Is it trained, does it mark in the house, does it have aggression, does it get along with other dogs or cats… You do need to teach a rescue dog the rules of your household and help transition the dog into your home but generally the dog knows quite a bit including not to pee in the house! Take some time to look at the temperament of the dog before getting it to see if it would fit into your family and look at the issues it has. Are you willing to work with these issues?
Many people I meet have gotten a dog and say that they will love it unconditionally even with its faults. They blame the faults on past experiences and deal with it when they should be helping the dog to overcome these pitfalls. Is the dog overly scared of something or aggressive? We wouldn’t let our family members live in constant fear so start working with the problems at hand or don’t take them on. Hire a professional who can help guide you and make both your lives a whole lot easier.
Where to get this new dog
No matter where you go to get your new dog consider bringing someone along that is neutral in the selection process to help you keep your emotions from getting involved in the dog selection process. Emotions can be good but can also lead to ending up over your head. Let them know what you are looking for in a dog. A pet professional like a dog trainer can help give great insights and help with choosing the exact right dog for you and your family. Consider bringing them along to meet your possible new dog.
Rescue: If you are looking for a rescue dog start checking out the rescues and what they have. Don’t jump at the first dog you see but keep your emotions in check and find the dog that is going to be best for you and the dog. Many pet stores allow rescues in to adopt their dogs out either during events or have a space for a couple of rescue dogs. Be patient!
Getting a new puppy is a bit different in the options of where you can look. Some pet stores still sell puppies, there are many breeders out there, and there are some dogs you can find in the classifieds or online. If you haven’t ever heard of a puppy mill before, look it up. You do not want a dog from a puppy mill so learn what to look out for and report them if you come across one.
Pet Store: Personally I will never recommend buying a puppy from a pet store. Very little information is given about the parents or breeder if any. Most employees selling the puppies are brainwashed as to where the puppies come from (I used to be one of those brainwashed employees). Some people do have positive experiences with their pet store puppy however many others have problems especially with health problems or training. Buying dogs from places like this will just encourage them to keep bringing more dogs in to these not so great conditions (Small glass cage with multiple others and if lucky 30 min of exercise in a play pen a day).
Breeder: Probably my first choice place to look if you are getting a puppy. By going to a reputable breeder you can find out information about the parents. You can meet the puppies a few times before getting them. A good breeder is going to want to know about you and make sure that these puppies are going to good homes. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, find out more about the breed, common health problems… Many breeders give guarantees of one type or another with their dogs. Read your contract, ask questions, and don’t hesitate to go to a different breeder if you don’t feel comfortable with the first one you meet. There are many bad breeders out there as well so use caution.
Online/Newspaper: A lot of the time you won’t get as much information about the parents of the puppies in this scenario. Sometimes it will be just a breeder, and other times it is more of an oops situation where their dog ended up pregnant. Use caution and be smart. Don’t be afraid to walk away and keep looking.
Found the perfect dog, what next?
If you have found the perfect dog for your family, really thought about the decision to get this dog, and asked for some outside help than you are ready for this dog. If you already have a dog, make sure to try to introduce them on neutral ground before going forward and getting this dog. Go home and prepare your house for a dog. Think about what they might be doing(ie. chewing things, peeing on carpet, chewing cords…) and prepare to start training. Make sure you have toys, somewhere to sleep, food…do some research.
Congratulations on your new dog, we look forward to meeting him/her and helping you out in any way that we can with this new endeavor.