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How to choose your puppy

Choosing a puppy for a family should seem very simple. One problem is that we are naturally attracted to young cute animals. We see this cute face and we go into a ‘must look after’ mode and come home with a little puppy sometimes unaware as to what it will grow up like. I think we have all seen the popular sign ‘a dog is for life not for Christmas’ intended to deal with the so many strays abandoned because that cuteness has gone. We also see so many puppies abandoned because they grew up into a breed that is unsuitable for the family. Many people may like the looks of a particular breed but find later that its characteristics were also not suitable for the family.

The first place to start is to agree with all the family that you will have a dog and that everyone will assist in looking after it within the family. You must agree the rules that you will all follow and all of you to teach these to the dog. It is unfair for one person to teach rules that others in the family countermand or ignore. Consider the cost between a mongrel or a pedigree breed and then all the other costs for over the next 10 to 15 years. Are you able to take it for training classes in its early years? You must also consider the veterinary fees you maybe have to pay. It is possible to take out insurance to cover these costs should you be unfortunate if your dog became unwell. There is also the cost of dog food and a large dog can cost a considerable amount. Do you want a dog to be a companion or are you interested in the dog’s ability to provide protection or training for fun or even competitions. Think where will you go most of the time with the dog and is your car big enough and do you need a dog guard or removable dog cage. Where is your dog going to sleep like a kennel outside or a dog basket or bed in the kitchen? No, it is not a good idea for any dog to sleep in the master bedroom. (My wife keeps saying that to me)

Having reached your decision the next thing is to look at your home and see how much space you have. If you have a big garden and have you many places to walk your dog, like in the countryside. You may live in town with no countryside nearby and consider where will your dog go to the toilet. Is your garden paved or is it lawn, as a large dog charging around will soon wear out the grass. Is the garden fenced so a dog is unable to escape if left there on its own? Do you live in a flat so there is nowhere for a dog to exercise itself and therefore the need for litter trays. Do you all work and go to school so is the dog left on its own in the home or garden for most of the day. How old are you as some large dogs are maybe too strong for the elderly or the young to handle. A large dog can so easily turn round and knock a child or the elderly clean off their feet. How much time will you have available to look after your dog. A longhaired variety my look good when groomed but this takes a long time to keep in such a condition and for Spain, long coats find the heat a little uncomfortable.

The three main categories are the mongrel, which is a mixture of different breeds, but it is difficult to know which breed these are. They usually lack the many problems associated with highly bred dogs but what a puppy will eventually grow up into is difficult to tell unless you go by the size of its paws or you have seen the mother and father.

Crossbreeds are where the puppies are from the parents of two different recognisable breeds. Again, it is difficult to know which traits and abilities will pass to the pup and again size maybe difficult to assess. The large size of puppies paws are an excellent guide to the resulting grown up size, as they usually have to grow into these.

We then have the pedigree where you should at least have a good idea of what your puppy will grow into and some idea of its inherited traits and abilities. One side effect is that many pedigree breeds do suffer from various medical problems not often encountered by the mongrel. One major problem often found in the larger breeds is hip-displacia so it is a wise precaution to have your pup X-rayed before you buy. In addition, with all the breeds it is usual that the breeder will have had the puppies wormed and vaccinated before your purchase.

Are you looking for a dog or a bitch is the next consideration and usually you find a dog a little harder to control. Unless you intend to breed and you only want your dog, as a family companion then neutering and spaying will probably make them more attached to you and less troublesome. Certainly, bitches though more loving than a dog the problem of a bitch coming into season every six months does cause problems that spaying will solve along with any unwanted puppies.

Whichever breed you are looking for that fits your criteria I recommend you obtain a book describing all the breeds with all the information that you need to help you to make a more informed choice. The Dorling Kindersley handbook on Dogs I find is very informative and helps you see the size of the dog in comparison to humans. Look around you and see the dogs that you like and approach the owners as they are usually very willing to tell you all about their particular pet with all the pros and cons. You can ask the vets and dog training clubs for similar information that will help you in your choice. If you ask the local trainers they will also have a good idea to where you can purchase well behaved dogs and point you in the right direction. If you see an advert for a litter do try to find out all you can about the breeders before you even consider making an appointment to view. Do ask if it is possible to see both the bitch and the dog so you can judge the characteristics of both dogs and how the pups may inherit these. You will also see advertisements from animal rescue centres but you will probably have no idea of the breeding or the dog’s characteristics in order to help you. On thing they usually do is vetting the dogs for character problems that may make them unsuitable dogs for a family. If you are not looking for a pup you may find some older dogs that you can then have some idea of the dogs true character before you buy.

Do try to adhere to your criteria as to the type of dog that ought to fit into your home. So often, we have prepared this extensive list and willingness for patience yet the sight of the first cute puppy face in the first litter we see we find we are unable to leave without taking one away with us and then spend many years regretting our mistake. Do this as a family then if someone likes one pup then someone may not so you move on. Do pay attention to the temperament of the bitch and if possible the dog with and away from the pups. Any sign of aggression then walk away. Ask to see the dog and bitches obedience ability as well as how they like grooming and being handled. Try not to be in a rush and take time at looking at as many litters as you can and then return home and discuss what you have seen. Try to make a short list to which you can all agree and return to see the litters again. Try to attract the puppies’ attention to come to you but please ignore those that appear shy and will not come and the boldest ones that push the others out of the way, as you will find such pushy or dominant dogs difficult to master if you are only looking for a pet. Ask the breeder to remove these dogs and leave you with only the dogs or bitches that interest you. Now you have your short list play with them and you will find one pup that appeals to you all. Do restrict your puppy age to no older than fourteen to sixteen weeks as this is too long a time without human contact and will create difficulties for you as a family integrating with an older pup.

When you finally chose a pup and if all the pedigree, vaccinations, worming etc are all in order you should then return home and prepare your house for the new arrival. If possible, have a blanket to give the breeder that the litter can use to lie on for the next few days to absorb the litter smell. A good idea is along with all the normal items like lead, collar, bed, bowels, brush, comb, and enough food as recommended by the breeder is a loud ticking clock. If you place this under the blanket when the puppy is in your home its acts like the heartbeat of the litter and may help to settle the pup where complete silence does not. Use the blanket also to let the puppy travel in a box in the back of the car as this is usually the first time it has ever travelled. Do play and be attentive to the pup on this trip as there is a lot of stress from leaving the litter, being alone and being in a car for the first time but do not allow it to run around the car or sit on the chairs as it may think this is the place it should always be. Start as you mean to go on so a dog guard is an important safety item for the car.

Once home show your puppy round the house and gardens and if you have an area defined for it to relieve itself then try to encourage it to use this area. If you have chosen the afternoon to collect your puppy, it will be time for its meal and then show it where it will sleep on the blanket that contains all the litter smells. Do keep an eye on the puppy as soon as they wake up or after just after feeding, as this is the time they usually need to relive themselves. At night, do not take your puppy to a bedroom. If necessary let someone sleep, near your puppy for one night just for it to settle in but try not to disturb it. Remember as soon as your pup wakes up in the morning take it to the designated place for it to relive itself and to clean up any mistakes in the house by anybody not just leave it to one person.

Next week I will go through how to play games with your puppy as some games have a different meaning to your puppy than they do to you. In addition, if space allows I have another and very common case of an incessant barking dog because it is alone in the house.

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