Getting a dog is one of the most exciting decisions you will ever make - and one of the biggest! Like all important decisions, doing your homework before taking on a new pup will make sure that you're choosing the right dog for you and your lifestyle.
It's important to carefully consider what dog you would like before taking one home. It can be very easy to be swayed by big brown puppy dog eyes or a fluffy ball of energy, but remember that a dog is a long-term relationship, so it's best for you and your pet that you're compatible. Your dog will be a part of your life for a long time to come, so it's important to research ahead to know what to expect.
Getting a Dog: Key Considerations
A dog should suit not only your lifestyle, but your surroundings too. For example, if you live in a smaller home with little outside space, then a little dog may suit you better.
As well as breed, age is another important thing to consider when getting a dog. As puppies require a lot of work to train, you may want to ask yourself “would I be better off adopting an adult dog?” if you do not have enough time to dedicate to keeping a cheeky puppy in check!
Choosing a Dog: Top Questions
Puppy or Adult Dog?
They don’t call them ‘puppy-dog eyes’ for nothing - there’s something about puppies that makes them absolutely irresistible! They might be cute as a button, but that doesn’t automatically mean a puppy is the right choice for you and your home.
If you’re thinking of getting a puppy, you’ll find that they’re naturally curious and keen to learn, so having time to train them is an absolute must. With your love, care and training you can turn their enthusiastic blank canvas into a masterpiece! Training is great fun but hard work – you’ll need to teach them everything from toilet training to walking on the lead. If you have the time and the patience, you’ll find their transformation hugely rewarding and all the effort you put in will help build a great bond between you and your puppy.
Alternatively, another option is to get a adult dog, typically >1 years old. If you’re a first time dog owner, you may find an older dog to be a better fit for your lifestyle.
Most adult dogs will come to you with some training and socialization. That doesn’t mean the job’s done however - there’ll still be plenty for you to do, and there’s no reason why you can’t build a bond that’s as strong as with any puppy.
Male or Female Dog?
Another thing you need to think about when getting a dog is whether you want a male or female. Opinion varies enormously, and ultimately the decision really comes down to personal preference.
Some owners say that female dogs are easier to train and tend to be more loving, while others say that females are more independent. Males are often said to be more assertive, but neutering can make them a little easier to handle if they start out a bit too bold and over-confident (although this varies with the age of neutering and from one dog to another).
There’s no simple answer, and you’ll need to remember that a lot of your dog’s character and behaviour will simply come down to individual personality and the amount of time that you dedicate to training and socializing with them.
What to look for when choosing a puppy?
By six weeks old your puppy should be interested in you and their environment, keen to sniff your hands and explore the world around them. They should be playful and almost certainly up to mischief! Here are a few things to look out for
- Bear in mind that the smallest puppies in the litter can have health problems, and that nervous, withdrawn or overly excitable puppies may need more training and socialisation.
- Your puppy should be plump, but not fat, and be free of any lumps or bumps.
- The perfect puppy should also have clean and bright eyes, clean ears and a clean bottom.
- Coats should be soft and clean with no bald or sore patches and the puppy shouldn't be scratching.
- Place your potential pup on the floor. They should be interested in their surroundings straight away. Clap your hands, or make a high-pitched squeak and notice how they respond.
- Deafness can be a problem in some breeds, like Dalmatians and other white breeds, so make sure your puppy reacts when exposed to obvious sudden noises.
How old should the Puppy be when adopting them?
As a general rule of thumb your pup is recommended to be from around eight weeks old (or a little later with certain breeds). Any earlier isn’t recommended and it may be a sign that the breeder isn’t following high breeding standards. It's worth noting that some insurance policies don't cover dogs that leave the breeder before eight weeks of age.
Sometimes a breeder will ask you to wait until 12 weeks to pick up your puppy. If that's the case, check that it's going to be a busy household where your new pup can be well socialised during those all-important weeks.
The time you take your pup home will also influence what vaccinations they will have received - so check with the breeder, who should provide documentation of vaccinations (along with worming and other treatments).
If after choosing a puppy you are asked to collect them much later than the usual 8-12 week period, there may be a reason why the breeder has held them back - so ask why.
Finally, make sure you're familiar with what food your pup's been fed on and the breeder's feeding regime. It helps your puppy settle in if you can continue this at home, at least initially.
Getting your Pup from a Breeder or Shelter?
If your heart’s set on a pure breed pup, then your best bet is to find a reputable breeder. Search up any breeders online or you can locate these pure breed dogs at your nearest pet stores.
Alternatively, it can be incredibly fulfilling to adopt a dog from an animal shelter and offer them a second chance in life. There are many dogs waiting for a loving forever home. Each dog has its own story and many have lost their first home through no fault of their own, and would love to become a part of yours.
Not surprisingly, there are more adults dogs looking for new homes than puppies, and when there are pups looking for adoption, they often get snapped up pretty quickly. If you're determined to rescue a puppy, you may have to take your time contacting several shelters and rescue centres or have to travel further afield to find one that's right for you.
Whether you buy from a breeder or adopt a dog from the local shelter, you can look forward to a fulfilling future of adventures with your new friend!