Do you really want a dog?

There are many reasons why people decide to get a dog (or any other pet). It is important to think it through before making a decision. Although this article focuses on dogs, it applies to any type of pet.

Consider the following:

  1. Do I have the time to care for a dog? Training, housebreaking, exercise, grooming and daily interaction.
  • Can I afford the cost of the dog throughout its lifetime? Costs include purchasing or adopting the dog, food, veterinary bills, grooming, spay/neuter, boarding, possibly fencing and space for the dog.
  • Do I have time for the extra housework a dog will cause? Some breeds shed a great deal, muddy paws, accidents.
  • Is it OK to have a dog where I live and will live in the future? Does my job require frequent moves, if I rent, am I allowed to have a dog, do I travel a lot, what about vacations?
  • Are any family members willing to help care for the dog? Are there family members who would be hindered by a dog running around the house?
  • Am I willing to make the commitment to care for the dog for its lifetime? Nothing is worse than abandoning a family pet, isolating the dog or neglecting its needs. Dogs are social animals and suffer mentally the same as a person would if they are neglected.
  • Be sure you understand the type or breed of dog that you want. Not all dogs will fit into your lifestyle or home. Know what training requirements, grooming, exercise, and medical issues that are involved with that type of dog.

If you decide to add a dog to your home, it is important to be educated about where to get the dog.

  1. Animal shelters or rescue groups

These are often the first place a person will look for a dog. Keep in mind that neither of these agencies may know the history of the dog(s) that they have for adoption. A dog that is housed in a shelter or rescue group will not behave the same as when it is adopted. It takes about six months for a dog to adjust to a new home. The first six months is the “honeymoon” period and the dog’s behavior may change after six months. Also keep in mind that some people do not tell the truth about why they have given the dog up for adoption. They believe that someone else will be able to fix the dog’s behavior issues. That being said, it is possible to get an excellent pet from these agencies.

  • Friends, neighbors, newspaper ads, pet shops or the internet

These are the riskiest places to get a dog. A good, quality breeder will not allow their puppies to be sold through these venues. Most breeders have waiting lists for puppies. The above-mentioned sources are often backyard breeders or commercial breeders who have little or no knowledge about breeding quality dogs. Pet shops and newspaper/internet ads often get their dogs from puppy mills where the dogs are bred at every heat, forced to live in horrible conditions, receive no socialization or handling by people, are not tested for genetic diseases, are malnourished, are not true to the breed and are often not purebred.

That means the dog may not behave or look like it is supposed to. The latest trend are designer dogs which are cross-bred dogs. These do not adhere to any standard and there is no proof other than a DNA test to ensure that they are the mix advertised.

Some of these sources will provide AKC or other types of “papers” with the dog but papers are often forged or misrepresent the dog they are issued with. No registry organization guarantees that the dog is a quality dog or even that it is pure. Often pet shops purchase their puppies from a broker who is a middleman. The price is inflated and the poor-quality puppy may cost more than a well-bred dog from a reputable breeder. The other disadvantage of getting a dog from these sources is that the seller is in the business of making a profit, therefore they will sell a puppy to anyone without discussing the characteristics of the breed or try to match the buyer with the right type of dog.

What about papers?

         Many people think that if the dog is registered that the papers ensure that the dog is top quality. The reality is that few dogs bred by quality breeders are show quality. Some breeders only produce working lines but even then, there is no guarantee that the dog will perform as expected. Some people can falsely report the number of puppies in a litter and then give an unrelated puppy registration papers. Unfortunately, there are registries that specialize in registering puppy mill dogs and dogs that did not have papers to begin with.

These registries help breeders that cannot meet the national registry requirements or have been banned from registering dogs because they are puppy mills. Papers on a dog are only as good as the information reported to the registering body, the registering body does not check the breeder or dogs.

Puppy Mills

         Some people do not understand that puppy mills exist throughout the world. All puppy mills operate under the same basic conditions.

  1. Dogs are bred indiscriminately without regard to health, breed characteristics, temperament, and physical type for the breed. Often the puppies are not pure. Many of these dogs are inbred for many generations causing severe health issues.
  • After a lifetime be being bred every six months in horrible conditions, such as overcrowding, poor shelter, living in their own waste, lack of good food, water and veterinary care, these dogs are killed when they cannot produce puppies.
  • Many of the puppies are shipped through a broker and suffer the stress of a long trip, often in the back of a hot or freezing truck/van, and suffer physical and mental health issues as a result.

Getting a purebred puppy

         Be sure to research the breed or type of dog that you want. Understand the physical aspects of the breed, (for example some breeds drool a lot), the health issues, exercise requirements, training requirements, and grooming needs.

         Once you have narrowed down the type of dog you want, find a good quality reputable breeder. Nationally recognized registries are a good place to start. Some breeds such as the Australian Shepherd and Border Collie have their own internationally recognized registries. Each country has its nationally recognized registry such as the American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club, and so on. Some states have a Federation of Dog Clubs which is another excellent source of information. (If anyone wants a free brochure that I have written about how to select the right dog and breeder please feel free to contact me for a copy).

         It would be to your advantage to hire a certified canine behavior consultant (iaabc.org) to help you evaluate a potential litter/puppy. It is true that puppies go through developmental stages, but a good behavior consultant can often pick out potential problems if any exist.

         Be wary if a breeder has multiple litters at the same time or the dogs live in a kennel and do not receive much attention. These breeders may keep their dogs in better conditions than a puppy mill, but the dogs are still neglected in a number of ways. Also avoid situations where the dogs are bred by people who put out a handmade sign advertising puppies for sale. There are religious groups who run puppy mills as a source of income.

Getting an adult dog

         Some people do not have the patience or desire to go through the first year of raising and training a puppy. The advantage of getting an older dog is that what you see is what you get for the most part. Many adult dogs are in need of a good home because of their owner’s situation, not because the dog has a major problem. Often breeders retire dogs after their show career and when they are too old to breed any longer. A good breeder may retire a bitch after two or three litters. That means that the dog is still young. A potential show dog that did not make it may also be available for adoption.

In many cases if a dog’s owner cannot keep their dog, they will return the dog to the breeder to be placed. And again, a shelter or rescue group may also have wonderful dogs for adoption. It is a great kindness to adopt a senior dog who may have been given up because the owner had to retire to a facility where they could not have the dog. This will ease the pain of separation for both the owner and the dog if the dog finds a loving home.

Contracts

         It is not unusual for a breeder or an organization to require that you sign a contract to purchase or adopt a dog. Make sure that you read the contract carefully and better yet, take it to a lawyer for review. Some commercial breeders will give you a bitch at no cost if you promise to let them breed the dog a number of times. Often the dog’s owner must pay for all of the expenses and then they cannot have a puppy from the breeding to sell to recoup the cost of birthing and raising the litter. What happens is that after the dog’s owner has met the required number of litters, they will breed the bitch themselves to make some money. At no time is the bitch evaluated to be worthy of breeding or are the puppies judged to be a good quality. It is simply a way to mass produce puppies and claim that they are “home raised.”

         Another clause in a contract may say that the breeder will withhold registration papers until the dog is either neutered or spayed. This is to ensure that non-show quality puppies are not bred. This is actually a good thing to promote the breeding of quality dogs only.

         Be careful when reading a contract and look for empty guarantees. They will look something like this: “We guarantee that this puppy (fill in the blank).” There is no statement as to what the breeder will do if the puppy does not turn out as it was guaranteed. While it sounds nice on paper, it is an empty guarantee. Or the guarantee will require that you return the dog to the breeder for another puppy. The breeder knows that most people will be too attached to their dog to give them up, therefore they get out of their guarantee. If the dog develops a severe problem, would you want another puppy from that breeder? I would hope not. The bottom line is that no breeder can honestly guarantee anything about a puppy since genetics is not that exact and the breeder has no control about how the owner has treated or taken care of the puppy/dog. The breeder can guarantee that at the time you receive the puppy it is healthy. Make sure to take the puppy to a veterinarian within days after bringing the puppy home.

         Almost all shelters and rescue groups will require an adoptive owner to sign a contract that guarantees that the puppy/dog will be neutered or spayed and often, if you cannot keep the dog, that it will be returned to the agency that adopted it to you. This is a good thing.

Training the dog

         Regardless of how old your dog or puppy is when you bring him home, you should take him for training. If you have adopted an older dog, the training may not be necessary for the dog, but it will help you and your dog bond and learn to understand each other. Everyone handles a dog differently so your dog needs to learn about you as much as you need to learn about the dog. Puppies of course, need training. The best time to start a puppy is about two weeks after you bring him home. You can start teaching a puppy basic rules until he is old enough to go to a puppy kindergarten class. Do not wait until your puppy is six months old to start training. Even if you do not formally train your dog right away, your puppy/dog will be learning anyway and often he will make up the rules to suit his own needs and desires. 

With careful thought and consideration, getting a dog can be one of the most enjoyable things in your life. It would be wise to review this article each time you want to add a pet to your household. Feel free to ask me any questions.