Big brown eyes, shiny hair, floppy ears, wagging tail, wet nose – there’s no denying it, puppies are adorable …. but puppies grow up to be big noisy dogs. Before committing yourself to becoming a dog owner you should decide, realistically, how much time you can devote to the dog.
I am lucky enough to have two dogs and work full time, but I’m also lucky enough to have someone at home with them for 90% of the time.
Questions to Consider
A puppy will need as much care and attention in the first few weeks as a baby. It’s not fair to leave a puppy on its own all day when you are out at work. It’s probably not a good idea to get a puppy if you have young children. They should never be left alone with a dog.
- Can you afford to feed a large dog?
- Is your house and garden big enough?
- Are you prepared to make a fifteen year commitment to looking after an animal?
If you are unsure about any of your answers to these questions, then it is probably best not to buy a dog at this stage. If you can give a loving home to a dog then consider what type of dog you want: long haired dogs need lots of grooming, large dogs need lots of space, terriers need lots of exercise. Cross breeds may be hardier and cost less in veterinary bills than pedigrees.
Choosing Your Puppy
Buy your puppy from a reputable breeder – ask your vet to recommend someone. You need to see the puppy with its mother. Ask about the temperament of both parents. If you can, visit the litter of puppies on several occasions. Study their behaviour. The leader may be too self-willed and difficult to train. There may be one which is too timid. Choose an alert confident puppy. Puppies should not be separated from their mother until they are about eight weeks old. Check if the puppy has been vaccinated. Visit your vet as soon as you can to discuss a full vaccination and worming programme. Most puppies are born with roundworm and dogs will need to be wormed against roundworm and tapeworm at least twice a year. Your dog will also need regular flea treatment. It may be worth taking out a pet insurance policy to help with the vet’s bills. Shop around for the best deal.
Rather than buy a puppy you could consider rehoming a dog. A fully grown dog may be easier to deal with than a puppy, but it may have some behavioural problems. Go to a reputable sanctuary and insist on being told the full history of the dog. Contact the Dogs’ Trust, RSPCA or Blue Cross.
Puppies will grow dramatically during their first months. Their food intake will steadily increase. They will need several small meals a day including soaked cereal and meat. Most manufacturers produce special puppy food. Adult dogs need one meal a day. Make sure you do not overfeed your dog as obesity leads to many health problems.
If you start grooming and bathing your puppy from an early age it will accustom it to being handled. Invest in a special dog brush from your pet shop. Regular brushing and combing will remove dead hair and stimulate the dog’s circulation. A daily grooming is a good time to check the eyes, ears, nose and mouth for any problems. Your dog’s claws should wear down naturally as it walks on tarmac but if they grow too long they may need clipping. Special attention should be paid to the dew claws, which are small redundant digits on the inside of the front legs. If they are not clipped regularly they can become embedded in the leg.
Dogs need lots of exercise. Your dog should have access to a garden and should be taken out for a good walk at least once a day. This is a good opportunity to improve your fitness as well! If you do not have the time to walk the dog yourself, you will need to employ the services of a professional dog walker. The puppy must be trained to behave properly on the lead. There is no pleasure in having a dog that pulls you along. Socialisation classes provide a chance for puppies to meet new situations. They will become accustomed to other dogs and people. These classes should be followed up with attendance at dog training which will ensure you have a sociable and controllable dog who is a pleasure to own.
Learn, learn, learn
Broaden your knowledge of dogs – buy a good book or read about particular breeds on the internet, talk to other dog owners to learn as much as you can about the reality of owing a dog.
Dog owning should not be taken on lightly but if you have the time to devote to a dog, it is a truly rewarding experience.
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