Who doesn't love a puppy? They may be the cutest little creatures on the planet, but don't let that sway you into making a rash decision.
A pet dog can transform the lives of any person or family for the better; but deciding to become a dog owner is not something which should be entered into likely – this is especially true when buying a puppy.
There are important factors you should be aware of in order to make sure that you know what you're getting into. If you do this, then you're bound to find the perfect puppy for you and your loved ones.
With this in mind, here are 5 things you should look for when buying a puppy.
This really is the starting place on your journey to finding the best friend you'll ever have. Unfortunately, it's all too common for people to fall in love with the idea of having a dog without taking into consideration the time and commitment such a decision entails.
Keep in mind...
Dogs are pack animals, and while some breeds need less attention than others, all dogs will need you to be around. This can affect your freedom to go out and do what you want to do.
If your schedule prohibits you from spending a lot of time with your pet, then it might be best to look at getting an animal which doesn't require your attention quite as much.
A dog left on its own can suffer from serious detachment anxiety which will affect its mental and physical health.
Being a dog owner is incredibly rewarding, but in order to properly care for an animal, you must put adequate time aside to do so. Every dog will require daily walks. Some breeds will differ in how long those walks will need to be.
For example, a greyhound does not require a 2 hour walk every day, but a Collie might. Many of these walks will need to be first thing in the morning before work and in the evening as well.
This is a serious commitment of time and one which should not be underestimated. If you are dedicated, however, the reward of walking your pal every day is worth it.
Owning a pet doesn't just require time and effort, it also requires money. In the case of a dog, especially a puppy, significant finances may be required. A puppy, especially if it is from a breeder, can cost hundreds, in some cases thousands, of dollars, depending on the breed.
Regular check-ups at a vet can quickly mount up, and there is the question of insurance payments to cover more costly events such as surgery. This is without taking into consideration a daily budget you'll have to put aside to feed your pet.
It's important that a potential dog owner understands the costs which can accumulate before deciding to buy a puppy.
Okay, so you want to be a dog owner, but does it have to be a puppy?
Owning a puppy will mean that you will have to house train your dog, which can take a while and not an inconsiderable amount of effort.
If you can put the time aside for an adult dog, but not a puppy, then it may be best for you to rescue a dog. Each year thousands of dogs are abandoned and need a new home.
While research and careful planning must be taken when rescuing a dog, often providing a new home for an abandoned animal can suit both owner and pet, while being one of the most rewarding experiences an animal lover can have.
Choosing the right breed is the most important decision you can make when buying a puppy.
The breed of dog you buy should best suit your routine and needs, but you also need to think of the animal's well-being and ensure that the dog is going to be homed in the correct environment with all the care and attention necessary for that breed.
When choosing a breed you should consider the following.
Most breeds have specific behavioral tendencies. It should be noted that this doesn't always follow and that every dog has its own individual personality, but often breed tendencies come to the fore.
Some breeds are more energetic, requiring constant exercise to avoid problem behavior, while others might be difficult with strangers. If you have children in the home you might want to focus on breeds which are naturally affectionate and protective of children such as the Newfoundland or Rottweiler.
Some breeds are naturally boisterous like the Jack Russell, others docile like the Great Dane. The temperament of your dog will be defined often by training and nurture, but these urges can still be dominant.
It's therefore important to ensure that you have researched the temperament of your breed, keeping in mind the types of environments you will be taking your dog into.
This is a huge consideration. An Afghan will need constant grooming, perhaps including daily baths. A short haired breed like a Border Terrier will almost never require brushing.
Again, this ties into how much time you can dedicate towards your animal, and how much effort you are willing to put in.
Remember, a dog's mental requirements also must be met and this is a form of maintenance in of itself. This can include training, walks and games in order to stop your dog from becoming anxious, depressed or restless.
It's a tragic part of being a dog owner, but some dog breeds live much longer than others. Some Terriers can live into their late teens, while larger dogs like some Mastiffs sadly tend to pass away at a much younger age.
While this shouldn't necessarily be the main driving factor behind your breed choice, it's important that you recognise the lifespan of any breed in advance.
Some dogs suffer from different issues such as hip dysplasia while others like the Poodle might be prone to periodontal disease.
As a conscientious dog owner it's important to know the early signs to look for in a breed, to try and help with these medical issues.
It's also worth noting that if you live 5 stories up and there is no lift access, that this can have a detrimental affect on many breeds and their ability to walk correctly.
If you are buying from a breeder you should ensure that they are accredited.
Depending on your location, breeders are normally required to have specific papers proving that they are qualified to breed animals. This helps to ensure that future generations of dogs are looked after properly.
If you buy from someone who is deliberately breeding dogs but isn't looking after the animals, then this vicious cycle will continue. Ask to see their accreditation.
If they cannot show you them, then report them to the relative authorities. It should be remembered that there is a difference between an illegal breeder and someone whose dog fell pregnant. The latter is a perfectly common and legitimate way to buy a puppy.
You've now found a legitimate breeder and you know the type of dog you are looking for, but there are still some important questions which need to be asked of the seller.
These will help to ensure that you are not being defrauded in some way and, more importantly, to guarantee the required care for each animal.
When meeting the seller, ask the following.
A good breeder will ensure that their puppies are not sold on until a minimum of seven weeks, perhaps even as long as 12. The reason for this is that puppies should never be taken away from their mothers until they and their parents are ready.
This is usually around seven to eight weeks. If a breeder is willing to give you a puppy younger than this, you should refuse, as it can cause real emotional and physical damage to the animals.
It's essential that the breeder can show that their puppies have been weaned off of their mother's milk. If they are still feeding then this means either that the puppies are younger than the breeder claims, or the breeder does not know what they are doing.
Looking at the parent can give you a good sense of the temperament the puppies are likely to have. Any bitch might be defensive of their pups, especially if they are still feeding, so this should be acknowledged; however this is still a great opportunity to gauge temperament.
It is also important to see the mother with their young. If the breeder refuses to show you them together, then this could mean the older dog is not their mother.
There may then be the possibility that you are being deceived in terms of where the puppies have come from. The mother should never be younger than a year old, and she should not be elderly.
It is cruel to breed animals too many times. This puts real pressure on their bodies and can result in pain and other medical complications. In most countries it is illegal to breed a bitch more than six times.
A conscientious breeder will often limit this to four. If the breeder is breeding an animal more than this, you should contact the relevant authorities as their animals may be at risk.
Every puppy has worms from when they're born. They should be wormed from the age of two weeks and then every two weeks after that by the breeder and then the dog owner. It's also important to know if all vaccinations have been carried out and when you'll need to procure them the next dose.
This will protect the animals against disease. Usually puppies are vaccinated from six to nine weeks of age and then again from ten to twelve weeks. If the breeder has not done this, you will have to ensure they are inoculated, which could affect your budget.
Puppies require different levels of socialization depending on how the breeder has handled this. If the puppies have been brought up in doors with a family, exposed to the usual noises of an average house, then they will adapt much quicker to similar circumstances.
If they have been reared in a kennel, then this will be more difficult, though not impossible – it just means the puppy will require more time to adapt.
You should also learn if the puppies have been around other dogs and children, as this will mean they will be more ready to enter into a new home which has other animals and youngsters.
Most conscientious breeders will take the animal back if you find yourself unable to take care of it. Have the puppy checked by a vet within 48 hours, then if there are any problems you can take the animal back to the breeder and ask for an explanation.
Bringing a puppy into your life is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. If you take some time to find the perfect pet for you, both you and your loved ones will have years of happiness with your new best friend.
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All images courtesy of Public Domain Pictures