Deciding to get a puppy is the first step toward a lifetime of reward. There are many factors to consider, however, and, rather than making your head spin, they are designed to help you choose the puppy that will fit in best with your family and lifestyle.
It is easy to look at a cute little ball of fur and want to take it home, but it is important to remember that the cute puppy will grow up and become a dog with an average lifespan of ten to fifteen years.
There are over four hundred breeds of dogs, all bred with specific behavioral and physical attributes in mind. There are dogs with varying hair lengths, temperaments, sizes and activity levels; choosing one is a daunting task! Some breeds have hereditary medical problems which must be considered, others require patience and special training or activities to make them good companions.
First, consider what you are looking for in a dog. Do you, for example, spend most of you free time outdoors, and so require a jogging companion, or do you tend to stay home and want a lap dog? Do you have time to give your dog a daily brush or take it to a professional grooming parlor? Do you mind having pet hair on your couch and carpets? These are all factors you need to decide before looking into soft, melt-your-heart eyes.
Other things to consider are:
- Do you live in the city, suburbs or country?
- Do you rent or own your home?
- Do you live in an apartment or a house?
- How long is your work day?
- Do you frequently have obligations after work?
- Who will care for your dog(s) in your absence?
- Do you have any other pets?
- Are there restrictions on the number of pets you can have?
You need to decide as a family who will be responsible for the chores associated with looking after an animal i.e.: feeding, exercise and water. Many parents decide to get a dog to teach their children responsibility, but it is important to recognize that even the most responsible child will need help from a willing parent. It is also important that the whole family be involved in training your new puppy so that it will recognize all of you as authority. There is nothing more frustrating (and sometimes dangerous) than trying to get a dog to do (or not to do) as you say and have it completely disregard you.
Puppies require extra time and effort in house training, socialization play and exercise. Puppies younger than six months require three meals a day to keep their blood sugar levels constant and keep up with their energy requirements, since they do most of their growing in these few months. Feeding them a good quality food at this point in their lives is vitally important as it sets the groundwork for future years and will affect the way bones and joints develop.
Once you have decided on the breed of dog you think will fit in best with you and your family, talk to your veterinarian about any genetic problems as well as vaccination schedules and the costs involved. He or she will be able to advise you on any screening tests the breeder will have to carry out prior to selling the puppies. Use this opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of sterilization, too. Some veterinarians may even know or know of breeders for your particular breed, and may be able to vouch for the health of the parents of prospective puppies.
Getting a puppy is not a decision to be taken lightly, and the time and effort you put in to raising it will affect not only you and your family, but your puppy as well, and will make the difference between a happy, well-adjusted family and misery!