Before you buy a puppy, be sure you're ready to bring a puppy home. It's easy to fall in love with a cutesy fur-kid, but impulse adoptions and purchases aren't fair to you or the puppy.
For lasting love, look beyond that pretty face. The chosen puppy must not only fit YOUR requirements; you must be a match for the puppy's needs as well. Ask yourself these 7 questions before you buy and bring a puppy home.
Research Dog Breeds
When I worked as a vet tech years ago, a sweet elderly woman who lived in a one-bedroom apartment purchased a gorgeous fluffy white puppy from a pet store. He grew and he grew…and he GREW… until she became concerned and asked when he’d stop growing. She hadn’t researched the Great Pyrenees breed and had no idea he’d grow to 150 pounds! Attend dog shows, talk with exhibitors, and research dog breeds so you know what to expect.
Good breeders do NOT sell to pet stores or offer a smorgasbord of breed choices the way puppy mills often do. Pet product stores do partner with shelters or rescue groups, though, to offer adoptable puppies. Furry waifs rescued from the side of the road can become outstanding companions, but a good beginning gives pups a better paw up.
Will you be active in showing or canine sports, or want a couch buddy to share your lap? Good breeders give you honest information about both the positives and negatives (health, temperament, care) of the breed to help you make a perfect match.
Your Lifestyle, His Lifespan
Do you work at home, or are you gone for many hours during the day? Are you single, enjoy jogging with a dog, a retired couple wanting a lap pet, or a family with kids needing a furry playmate? The purchase price or adoption fee is only a small part of what you’ll invest in time and cost. Depending on the size, dogs can live eight to 20 years.
Puppies require socialization, and extra care such as vaccines and spay/neuter add to the cost. Puppy supplies (food, bed collar, crate and more) can be expensive. Do you have the funds, time and patience to properly socialize the youngster and train him as he matures?
The Perfect Puppy Environment
Do you live in a high-rise apartment, have a house with a yard, or live on a farm with acres to roam? Does your lease/rental contract or insurance policy restrict certain breeds? Will the fence keep pole-vaulting (or climbing/digging) puppies safely contained? Is the indoor space puppy-proofed and safe, with no chewable electric cords or other tempting puppy hazards?
All dogs need exercise to stay healthy, but some are more active than others. Labradors, Border Collies and Jack Russell Terriers demand entertainment or resort to gnawing furniture, or herding other pets and kids. Big dogs require more space than little dogs, cost more to feed and leave bigger messes in the yard. Know your limits, and choose a puppy that fits your home now and in the future.
Your Other Pets
If you already have a pet, will he accept a new puppy? Some resident pets welcome Junior to the family, but others take offense. No matter how cute and worthy a new pup, your first loyalty must be to your old-fogy beloved companion.
Grooming A Big Hairy Deal
Puppies come with long fur, silky hair, and curly coats that vary from slick and short to fluffy and thick—or even bald. More fur means increased coat care. The Bichon Frise’s white powder puff good looks don’t magically appear. The flowing tresses of the Afghan Hound and Pekingese or thick double coat of the German Shepherds and Chow Chow become a matted mess without lots of work. Can you devote the time or expense to comb, brush, pluck, strip, clip, and/or bathe on a regular schedule? Grooming includes ear care, eye care, teeth cleaning, toenail trims and (ahem) anal gland expression.
Choosing A Vet
The puppy needs several well-care vet visits during the first year. Look for office hours and location convenient to your schedule; a fee and payment structure you can afford; emergency services either through their clinic or shared with other facilities; and a knowledgeable and personable staff.
Some practices include boarding, grooming, or training facilities. Ask other pet owners for recommendations to find a practitioner that best fits your pets’ needs. Consider making an appointment to visit a potential veterinary clinic ahead of time. The doctor’s office is a busy place, so avoid times when the staff must deal with regular appointments or surgery.