MILLIONS OF HEALTHY DOGS are needlessly killed each year. People flood into humane societies to discard pets they chose haphazardly. Occasionally, allergies, moving or sudden illness do necessitate getting rid of the dog. But, typically, these are only excuses given by frustrated owners who dump dogs because they are unwilling to provide for the dog physically (exercise, training), financially (supplies, veterinary care, food) and emotionally (companionship).
SELECT A TOPIC BELOW (or scroll down) for information you can use to help make a more informed decision on choosing a dog.

BREED SELECTION

DECIDE WHICH BREEDS best fit your lifestyle by answeering the following questions:

HOW MUCH TIME can I devote to daily exercise?

0 – 15 minutes? 15 – 30 minutes? 30 – 60 minutes? Some breeds don’t require much exercise. Others, like English springer spaniels, are generally very energetic. Even with a large fenced yard, athletic dogs need daily, vigorous exercise (e.g. running or swimming) to get rid of pent-up energy.

HOW MUCH TIME can I devote to weekly grooming?

0 minutes? 30 minutes? 60 minutes? 3 hours?

SHORT COATED BREEDS like Chihuahuas or dalmatians require only occasional toenail trimming, ear cleaning and rubdown with a towel. On the other hand, Afghan hounds and Old English sheepdogs need hours of patient brushing each week to keep their flowing coats beautiful. Outdoorsy folks who enjoy hiking through the woods and muddy fields or who enjoy taking their dog for frequent swims should consider shorthaired breeds that clean up and dry off quickly and don’t attract burrs, twigs and leaves.

CHOOSE A BREED that likes the seasons you do. A husky is generally sluggish in summer; in the winter, a husky is eager to frolic outside whereas a Mexican hairless prefers semi-hibernation in winter and is prone to sunburn in the summer.

DO I LIKE A VOCAL DOG? A good reason to own a dog is so you’ll be alerted to intruders. Some dogs are natural watchdogs while others tend to bark excessively unless trained to be discriminating. If barking annoys you, choose a quiet, laid back breed.

DO I HAVE VISITORS FREQUENTLY? If the answer is yes, look for a non-territorial breed that is accepting of strangers on its property.

HOW MUCH AFFECTION do I want to give? Some dogs are aloof and undemonstrative and others are demanding and want to play all day. The latter is a good choice for considerate children.

AM I OVERLY CONCERNED about the cleanliness of my house? Immaculate housekeepers should choose a very low shedding, beardless breed which doesn’t drool. Even some short coated breeds like Labradors and Shar Peis shed a lot.

WHAT SIZE DOG is compatible with my house? Don’t buy a Newfoundland if you live in cramped quarters. Although they’re docile, 200 pounds of dog will get in the way. Even an active, medium sized dog may be too much in the average sized house. When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is to buy a smaller rather than larger dog. You won’t be sorry because small dogs are easier to live with, pick up after and less physically demanding to groom, train and exercise.

HOW MUCH CAN I AFFORD for veterinary care? Although any dog can be plagued with bad health, some breeds are more prone to disease than others. Read Medical and Genetic Aspects of Purebred Dogs by Ross D. Clark, DVM and Joan R. Stainer (Veterinary Publishing Company) and consult a veterinarian to discuss whether the breed you’re considering is generally hardy.

CAN I AFFORD to feed this dog? Professional foods recommended by many veterinarians are expensive. Before considering a large breed, make sure the food bill fits your budget.

AFTER ANSWERING THESE QUESTIONS, GET PERSONALITY PROFILES of your breeds of interest from the Internet and books. Don’t be impressed by the use of terms such as loyal, trust worthy, devoted, good family dog; and don’t base your selection on glowing, biased descriptions.

Personality profiles should expose favorable and unfavorable traits. To locate a dog, buy a copy of Dog World magazine at a bookstore, check the classified ads, search the Internet, and get references. Write to them for information and ask if they have sold puppies in your area that you may meet. Dog shows are another excellent resource for investigating both common and exotic breeds.

FINDING A REPUTABLE BREEDER

ONCE YOU HAVE CAREFULLY NARROWED DOWN THE BREED, it is just as important to choose a breeder of quality stock.

A CONSCIENTIOUS BREEDER:

  • Screens buyers to ensure that this particular breed is compatible the buyer’s lifestyle, and that they can properly care for the dog.
  • Tests breeding stock for hereditary defects and presents documentation to buyers.
  • Guarantees pups against hereditary defects and will take the pup back for any reason.
  • Explains bad and good characteristics of the breed (preferably in that order).
  • Encourages buyers to see and touch the sire and dam. If the sire is not on the premises, the breeder should offer to show photos.
  • Only breeds dogs which have sound, family-oriented temperament.
  • Supplies information on feeding, house training and grooming.

REGISTRATION PAPERS:

American Kennel Club registration papers are no indication of a quality or a concerned breeder. AKC registration simply means the dog is a product of a registered purebred sire and dam of the same breed. Unfortunately, many breeders of AKC stock have no concern for health, appearance or temperament of dogs. Determine the credibility of a breeder by the attention he pays to the six important points mentioned earlier rather than the boast of AKC registration.

ADOPTING AN ADULT DOG

MANY PEOPLE OVERLOOK BUYING AN ADULT DOG because they fear it won’t bond to them as well as a puppy and that bad habits are permanent (a.k.a. you can’t teach an old dog new tricks). Nonsense!

SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES you may enjoy if acquiring an adult dog include:

  • Seeing exactly what the dog will look like fully mature.
  • Avoiding the first months (or years) of rambunctious puppyhood and possibly the time consuming process of house training.
  • The ability to more accurately evaluate and handpick temperament traits (independence, clinginess, laid back, active, etc.)
  • Knowing the dog’s health history (eyes, hips, skin, etc).
  • Saving money. Even when the initial purchase price is more (buying a trained dog), adult food costs less, vaccinations and veterinary visits are less frequent and you can avoid expensive damage from chewing.

EVALUATING ADULT DOGS DIFFERS GREATLY FROM PUPPIES. Once mature, many breeds need to bond before freely giving affection. German shepherds and poodles are usually this way but, once bonded, are very loyal. When considering an adult,do not roll it over or take an object away. Even if the dog is of sound temperament, he may act defensively if your movements are awkward. If you are buying from a source other than the humane society, demand a trial basis of two weeks to a month. A reputable party will automatically offer this because they want the dog in a home where he is completely welcome.

A TRIAL BASIS will prove that:

  • The dog’s temperament is compatible with yours.
  • He doesn’t have a defective character trait like shyness or aggression.
  • He wasn’t sold because he was impossible to live with.

HUMANE SOCIETIES generally have a “no refund” policy. Be prepared to return the dog and forfeit your money if you really can’t work with him. Some problems such as excessive barking, running away and house soiling are all very correctable. If you like everything but his bad habit, consult a professional trainer to assist you in correcting the problem.

MIXED BREEDS

IF YOU PREFER TO ADOPT A MIXED BREED from the humane society, use the answers to the previous nine questions in Breed Selection to determine which category of dog suits you best: retriever, herder, spitz type, etc.

EVALUATING WHICH BREED or breeds a mixed puppy will resemble as an adult is, at best, a guessing game for even the most experienced dog professional. The puppy may have the body of one breed and the mind of another. But, even when buying a purebred dog, there is no guarantee the individual you pick will be temperamentally typical of its breed since environment plays a crucial role in shaping personality.

SO, DON’T NECESSARILY RULE OUT A MIX. You take your chances, to different degrees, either way.

THAT’S THE ONE

WHETHER YOU BUY FROM A BREEDER OR ANIMAL SHELTER, the pup should be quietly friendly. To test people orientation, kneel down, clap your hands and enthusiastically call, “Hey, puppy, come on!” He should return your enthusiasm by coming merrily to lick your hands, regardless of what he was doing when you called. Test the pup individually and among its litter-mates. The two situations should have similar results.

IF MOST OF THE TIME THE PUPPY DOESN’T COME, DO NOT BUY HIM! There are a lot of dogs in the world and you are going to have yours a long time. So for ease of training, choose a sociable, responsive puppy. If under 14 weeks, test submissiveness by rolling the pup on his back and placing your palm on his chest between his front legs. Don’t look at him or laugh or talk. If he struggles, just continue to restrain until he relaxes. If you have perspiration dripping from your brow, and he’s still resisting furiously, find a more subdued puppy.

AVOID:

  • Overly-possessive pups. You should be able to approach and remove anything the puppy is eating, chewing or playing with no matter how delicious or intriguing. Silent and confident, walk over and remove his prize, opening his mouth if necessary.
  • The bully who struts stiff-legged, attacking his litter-mates at every opportunity. This dog will need ongoing, careful training.
  • Timid or very inactive pups. Your puppy should be alert, curious and happy. Always schedule a veterinarian exam immediately after purchase to confirm that your puppy is as healthy as he seems.

MORE TIPS ON SELECTING A DOG

THROUGH RESEARCH AT THE LIBRARY AND CONVERSATIONS WITH VETERINARIANS AND BREEDERS, you will probably feel knowledgeable enough to evaluate and select a lifetime companion. But, sometimes, the more you know the more questions you have.

FEEL FREE TO CALL AMIABLE DOG TRAINING with questions about breeds, breeders and dogs in general at (414) 289-7785.

THE DOG MUST FEEL WELCOME by every member of your household. The dog will sense resentment and suffer unfairly if he is unwanted by a family member.

DON’T BE CHEAP WHEN IT COMES TO PURCHASE PRICE. Over the dog’s lifetime, vet bills, food, supplies and training will likely be a substantial amount and far exceed the purchase price. Investing hundreds of dollars or more initially will be money well spent to get the dog you want from a breeder you trust. Never get a dog simply because he’s cute or because if you don’t take him the dog will be put to sleep. Buy him because he is absolutely the right dog for you.

FINALLY, OBEDIENCE TRAINING IS ESSENTIAL for the perfect puppy because a submissive, responsive dog will become headstrong, dominant and possibly dangerous if rules are not set and consistently enforced. Environment plays as big a part in shaping temperament as genetics.

BEST WISHES and enjoy your new addition!

AMY AMMEN’S FAVORITE DOG BREEDS

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