long but important
Owning a dog should not be undertaken lightly. A dog is not a piece of furniture or a decoration to bring out and show off to company. A dog is, and should be treated as, a family member. You should plan for a new dog as you would plan for a new child in the family.
DO YOU HAVE THE TIME TO SPARE?
Adopting a new puppy, or even an adult dog, will make a huge demand on your time. It takes a lot of time to properly feed, train, play with and care for a new puppy. New puppies don't always sleep through the first few nights and you may find yourself getting out of bed several times to take the puppy out to potty. If the puppy is quite young, you may have to come home at noon from work and give the puppy it's lunch.
First thing in the morning you'll arise, take the puppy out to potty (and wait until it does and praise the heck out of it), fix it's breakfast, take care of any clean up needed and, hopefully, have a few spare minutes to play with the puppy before you leave for work. (Hey, if you don't work, so much the better!) At noon it's home again to give the puppy lunch, (let it out to potty if it's been crated) and another play time and clean up. Evenings it's the same routine except that now the puppy should be allowed to follow you around as you do your chores. More play time and loving, and hopefully the puppy will sleep next to you whether or not it's in a crate.
Puppies need a great deal of socialization. This means that you need to expose the puppy to all kinds of sights and sounds within it's home. It should meet children, men and other animals. Once a couple permanent vaccines are given, it's time to take the puppy out in the world and introduce it to all kinds of new Sights and sounds. Puppy kindergarten classes are wonderful first experiences for a puppy. Here the pup will learn basic obedience in a gentle, fun way. He will learn to interact and socialize with strangers, both human and canine. Your new puppy should accompany you as many places as possible.
If none of this seems like too much to fit into your schedule, then you're probably ready for a puppy.
DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT FACILITIES?
A well-fenced yard is an absolute MUST for anyone who owns a dog. First and foremost this is for the safety of the dog. Dogs allowed to roam free, or contained by one of those underground 'electric' fences are in danger. Any stray without the proper receiving device on it's collar can enter the dog's territory. Loose dogs get hit by cars and can pack together and cause havoc in the neighborhood. Dogs who roam loose and get in trouble are not at fault. The owner is.
There should be some kind of shelter provided when the dog is left outdoors. Proper heating and cooling should be available depending on climate and season. The dog should first be a house and family dog.
If you don't have a large yard, or live in an apartment, can you take the time to provide proper exercise for the dog?
TAKE TIME TO RESEARCH THE BREED OF INTEREST
If you've decided that you're ready for a dog, you probably have a few breeds in mind. It is very important to learn about these breeds before you make a final decision. A breed that you find very appealing physically, may not be temperamentally suited to your personality or lifestyle. For instance, you probably wouldn't want to keep a Greyhound in an apartment or own a Rottweiler if you know nothing about guard dogs and training. It is often those people who buy on impulse, with no intimate knowledge of the breed, who later decide that the dog has to go. This is not fair to either the dog or the breeder from whom the dog was purchased.
Take time to read books on your breeds of interest, 'chat' with knowledgeable breeders/owners on the on-line services and the Internet, seek out and talk to breeders of each breed. Attend a few dog shows and ask lots of questions. (The first question to ask is if the person has time to talk. Often exhibitors are about to go into the ring, have a dog in the ring at the moment, or are just plain too wound up to talk to you. Talk to them later when they have time or get their phone number and call them). Visit the breeders and spend time around the adult dogs of the breed. Often the puppy is charming but the adult is not at all what you had envisioned.
CAN YOU AFFORD A DOG?
Be sure you're aware of what costs are involved with the particular breed you want. I remember one person on the Great Dane bulletin board who had four Great Danes and kept complaining about how expensive the top quality foods (which is a must for a healthy Dane) cost. All they did was bitch and moan about this food's price and that food's price. It was difficult for me to restrain myself from asking why they had so many dogs if they couldn't afford to feed them properly! This is a valid point and one you need to consider. Some breeds, the Great Dane for one, have a lot of health problems. Many are preventable by the way we feed but others are emergencies which can cost a few thousand dollars. Danes are prone to gastric torsion and the corrective surgery usually costs about $2,000.00. If you can't afford this, you shouldn't own this breed.
What about special grooming needs? It's not fair to the dog to allow it's coat to become dirty and matted because then it's the DOG who suffers when grooming time comes. If you can't afford a weekly or bimonthly session at the groomers, you might reconsider your desired breed.
RESPONSIBILITIES TO THE BREEDER OF YOUR DOG
Conscientious breeders have worked for many years to produce the puppy you're about to take home and love. Such breeders don't lose interest in you and the puppy once they cash your check. They are always available to you at any time to answer questions and reassure you when you're worried about the dog. Most breeders will provide a contract which contains health and temperament guarantees. However, the best bred dog in the world will never attain it's full potential if the owner doesn't live up to his responsibilities, too.
If you have purchased your puppy as a pet, you owe it to both the puppy and the breeder to follow all care and health instructions. You must be sure that your puppy has his health checks, vaccines and any needed wormings on schedule. You must properly socialize the puppy and attend obedience classes so that your puppy grows into a happy, outgoing and treasured family member who is a pleasure to have around.
If your puppy has been purchased as a show potential puppy, you need to do all of the above and then some. Your puppy will never become a champion if he's not prepared for the show ring. This means taking him to handling classes, puppy matches and training him how to stand for examination and gait properly in the ring. If you are not going to be doing the handling, or if you are not good enough at it to be competitive, then you'll need to hire a professional handler. This can be expensive and you need to know what you're getting into before you commit to a show dog. It means making a reasonable effort to finish his championship if he is of championship quality. Nothing is more disappointing to a breeder than to sell a promising show prospect to a home that then doesn't follow through! If you've purchased this pup as a show dog, you owe the breeder the effort.
RESPONSIBILITIES TO YOUR DOG IN HIS OLD AGE
If you're lucky enough to have a dog that lives into old age, the chances are that you will be faced, one day, with having to make the decision to end his life. This is one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do. You must be able to think of what is best for the dog, not what hurts you the least. I hate having to make this decision. It hurts so much to hold your dearest friend in your arms and see him leave you. But it's selfish and wrong to allow the same dear friend to suffer if there's nothing more to be done to make his life pleasant. If you cannot bring yourself to be present, then at least make sure that there's someone who will help ease his end in the kindest way.