Tips on Buying a New Dog
Bringing home a new dog is an exciting, albeit monumental, decision. A common misconception is that the process is as simple as going to a pet store and picking out the puppy that appears most playful; however, more often than not this approach can lead to owners that are unprepared for the stresses of puppy parenthood. There are many steps an owner should take before buying a new dog, which are outlined below.
Research the Breed Before you decide to purchase a dog, research the breed that you are considering bringing home. There are numerous factors that should be taken into account such as house size, the amount of time you are home during the day, how much exercise you can provide, and potential health problems of the breed. If you are an apartment dweller with a busy schedule and little time to devote to your pet, a Siberian Husky would be a poor choice, but a pug may be a good option. Similarly, if you are looking for an exercise partner to join you for 20 mile runs, a German Shorthaired Pointer would be a much better companion than a Bulldog. No purebred dog is without health issues, so it is important to consider the potential health of the breed you are considering, as well.
Create a Budget Dog ownership is not inexpensive. Before you contact breeders spend time looking over your finances and determine how much money you have to spend on your pet. The first year of ownership is typically the most expensive due to initial purchase price of the dog as well as veterinary visits, vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, and the cost of dog supplies. If you are considering a large dog breed, consider the cost of feeding a 100 lb dog versus the cost of feeding a toy or small breed dog. If you are planning to purchase a breed of dog that is known to suffer from health issues, make sure you have enough money saved in order to cover unexpected vet visits, or look into canine health insurance plans. Additional items to budget for include bedding, toys, treats, preventative medication, yearly exams, boarding, a dog walker, day care, and emergencies.
Contact a Breed Association Once you have determined the breed of dog you would like to buy and have settled on your budget, contact a breed association and ask for breeder recommendations in your area. Recommended breeders have agreed to a code of ethics and are less likely to be “backyard breeders” that produce puppies for profit instead of the bettering of the breed. A breed association is also a great resource for helping with any questions or concerns you may have along the way.
Expect to Wait After you contact a reputable breeder, do not expect to be able to purchase a puppy the same day (or even that month). Breeders that produce high-quality, healthy dogs are in-demand, meaning that their litters are often already claimed. The breeder will likely also have a series of questions and safeguards in place in order to ensure his or her puppies are going to safe homes, so a background and /or home check may also be part of the process.
Ask Questions While you are in the approval process, be sure to ask plenty of questions about the dogs that the breeder produces. You should inquire into the specific health problems of the breed, as well as the health issues that the breeder has seen in his or her puppies and what is being done to avoid those problems. Ask about the parent dogs and their lineage, as well as what the breeder will expect from you in order to purchase one of his or her puppies.
Expect to see OFA and CERF Documentation Purebred dogs suffer from a number of health problems which primarily affect their joints (i.e. hip and elbow dysplasia) and eyes (i.e. glaucoma, juvenile cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, etc.). Fortunately, there are tests that breeders can perform on their dogs in order to determine the likelihood of puppies developing these disorders. Ask the breeder to see documentation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) for the dogs that will be producing your puppy. If the breeder cannot, or will not, produce these papers find a different place from which to purchase your puppy.
Take a Facility Tour Backyard breeding and puppy mills are two major concerns when it comes to the health and welfare of animals. Not only are breeding pairs often mistreated in these facilities, but the puppies that are produced are often in-bred and have a host of congenital disorders. Ask for a facility tour of the kennel you will be purchasing your new dog from. Look to make sure the area is cleanly and that the dogs are well taken care of. If you are denied a tour, look for a new breeder.
Ask about a Health Guarantee The majority of reputable breeders will include a health guarantee with the purchase of one of their puppies. These guarantees often vary from breeder to breeder, but in general a guarantee will protect the new owner should the puppy develop a congenital disorder within the first 1 – 2 years of its life. These guarantees are extremely important, especially for high-risk breeds such as Bulldogs or Great Danes.
Be Prepared to Pay for Quality If you think the price of a new puppy is expensive, consider how much the bill for an emergency vet visit costs. Simply put, purchasing a quality pure-bred dog is not cheap. Potential owners that try and cut cost by looking for an inexpensive puppy often regret this decision, as the likelihood of the dog developing a serious health or emotional problem (such as inherited aggression) is much higher. The typical purchase price of a puppy includes the stud fee, pre-natal care for the mother, veterinary bills, the cost of covering the first 8 – 10 weeks of the puppy’s life, genetic testing, health screenings, and the work that goes into ensuring the right person is matched with each puppy. For a healthy birth with no complications, the total that a breeder spends per litter is often upwards of thousands of dollars. When a backyard breeder offers puppies for low prices of $200 – $400 per puppy, you can expect that little care was taken towards ensuring the health and well-being of both the parent dogs and their offspring.
Plan for your Dog’s Arrival Once you have been approved by the breeder you will likely have a few weeks or months to wait before your new family member arrives. This is a perfect opportunity to plan ahead and start making necessary changes to your home and lifestyle. In order to make as smooth a transition as possible, discuss with your family who will be in charge of common puppy chores such as training, housebreaking, exercising, and feeding the dog. Where will the dog sleep? Who will come home at lunch to let the dog out? What method of training will you use? Which veterinarian will you take your dog to? There are many decisions that must be made before the new puppy comes home.
Schedule Obedience Training Obedience training is one of the most overlooked aspects of owning a dog. In fact, the majority of reasons that dogs are abandoned every year in shelters stem from behaviors that can be easily trained away, especially when the training begins early in life. Do not procrastinate training your dog. During the time you are waiting for your new puppy to arrive you should research training facilities and find puppy preschool classes nearby so that you can begin the socialization and training process as soon as possible.
Schedule the First Vet Appointment Regardless of what the breeder says about the health of your new puppy it is important to take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible in order to double check that everything is sound before you become too attached to your dog. The veterinarian will check for any common health problems for the breed and verify a clean bill of health.
Schedule Spay/Neuter Appointment Finally, when purchasing your new puppy it is important to schedule the spay/neuter appointment after you take your puppy in for its first checkup. The majority of ethical breeders will require that puppies be spayed or neutered, unless the dog is intended for the show ring. This step is important because it not only prevents unwanted pregnancies that could diminish the blood lines of the breed, but also can improve the health and behavior of your dog. For instance, spaying a female eliminates her chances of developing numerous cancers of the reproductive organs, while neutering a male eliminates the risk of testicular cancers. By spaying a female you also eliminate her bi-yearly heat cycle which can lead to heavy shedding, bleeding, and mood swings. Male dogs that are neutered also exhibit less aggression, territorial behavior, marking, and escaping in search of females in heat.