A German Shepherd puppy

Decisions to Make when Buying a Dog

There are many articles on-line giving advice on the do’s and don’ts of buying a puppy. I wonder how many people actually read these articles before buying a dog. Some of them can be found here, here, here and here.

Buying a dog is the beginning of an investment in time, money, commitment, and relationship. It is as easy and convenient as going to the pet store and picking out the cutest puppy or reading the newspaper ads and picking the cheapest. But is this the best way to buy an animal who may live with you for the next fifteen years?

Dogs are living beings that must be tended to, cared for, and treated with respect. Commitment to a owning a dog is like the commitment to adopting a child. How much time and attention do you intend to devote to a new dog? Just like children, dogs need to be taught how to behave appropriately in the home and elsewhere, how to ride a car, how to behave with visitors and strangers, and when and where it is appropriate to relieve themselves. Dogs need food and attention. Most dogs will need medical and dental care. How much money can you afford to spend on the feeding and care (including veterinary costs) of a dog?

Before buying a dog, it’s best to know the difference between a mixed breed, a designer dog and a pure-bred dog.

A pure-bred puppy (particularly if the dog is registered with the national dog club) gives you some assurance of just what the dog will be like when it grows up. You will know how large it will grow up to be; what kind of temperament it will probably have; what genetic diseases it could have; whether it will have a long coat that needs a lot of grooming or be a short coat; and whether it will cause an allergic reaction to anyone in your family. Size, temperament and genetic diseases are predictable according to breed. All this information, on every breed of dog, is available on the internet. The best beginning resource is the national breed club.

With a mixed-breed puppy, you have no way of knowing which traits and genes the dog may have inherited. You may have bought a cute little puppy only to have it grow to the size of a mastiff. You may not have wanted to have a large dog in the house or apartment. The only way of knowing what a mixed-breed puppy will look like is to wait for it to grow up or to buy a full-grown dog. Seventy-five percent of the dogs in shelters are mixed-breed dogs that grew up to be a disappointment.

“Designer dogs” are expensive. They are a mixture, or genetic blend, of two pure-bred dogs. You have no way of knowing which genes the puppy has inherited from which parent. You do not know which diseases they will inherit or which type of temperament they will have. Beware the breeder selling Designer Dogs. It is a label created for the gullible to make money.

You need to know which breed of dog would best suit your family and lifestyle.

What is your lifestyle? Where you live, whether an apartment or a house, with a yard, should influence your choice of dog. How athletic are you? How much time can you give to dog care and exercise? Do you or a member of your family have allergies? How much time can you devote to a dog? How many hours in a day will the dog be alone in the house? (Do you expect a puppy to sleep the entire time you are gone?)

When you have decided that one or more breeds look suitable, go on the internet and read what they say about the predominant characteristics of these dogs. Become an informed buyer.

What else do you need to know before buying a dog?

You need to know something about the place where you plan to buy your dog.

There are several places where you can find dogs for sale: pet stores, local newspapers, backyard breeders, reputable breeders, local shelter or SPCA, local breed clubs and local breed rescues. The amount and quality of information about the dog you want to buy depends on where you buy a dog.

Buying a puppy from a pet store, from a backyard breeder (one who does not belong to a national breed club), or from the local shelter/SPCA limits the amount of information you will get about the dog you are buying. These places may sell you a pure-bred dog, but they may have no information on its parents or ancestors. Since there is variation even within a breed, you are still blind to the temperament or diseases this dog will have. You still have no way of knowing much about the dog or how it will fit into your family.

What you need to know about the genetic history of the dog you are buying is only available from a reputable breeder who belongs to the national dog club. They should know and should tell you about their particular breeding lines, including a pedigree. (They should also offer you a contract of sale that includes a replacement puppy or a money-back guarantee.)

From this information you can search the internet for the parents of the puppy you planning to buy. For example, if a particular breed is known for hip dysplasia, you can search the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals to see if they list the parents of the puppy as having been tested and found to be free of hip dysplasia. If the parents’ names are not listed, they were not tested or failed the X-ray examination. This way, you now know that your puppy has a good chance of growing up to have hip dysplasia.

All dogs carry genes for diseases such as bloat. Which diseases are you willing to live with? With pure-bred dogs, you can find out which diseases are common to that breed. With designer dogs, search two different breeds to find out which genes your puppy may carry. With mixed-breed dogs, there is no way to know the mix of disease-carrying genes your puppy has. Veterinary costs are high. Knowing which breed of dog will require long term veterinary care, such as diabetes, or cripple the dog, such as hip dysplasia, will help you decide which breed of dog is for you.

If you have decided to buy or adopt an adult dog rather than a puppy, you need to know the past history of the dog. Why is it for sale? Some older dogs are no longer part of a showing or breeding program and could use a loving home and personal attention. The local breed rescue group tries to find homes for pure-bred dogs who may have lost their homes from death or divorce. The local shelter may occasionally have the breed you are looking for, but may not know the circumstances behind the dog being given away.

If you are just looking for a dog for the love and companionship it will provide, you have a wide range of options to choose from. Any breed or mixed breed will do. You can find a loving dog at the local shelter or rescue organization. You can buy from a pet store, a reputable breeder of back yard breeder.

Dogs have a built-in love mechanism for their owners. Puppies will grow up knowing only the love and attention you give them. Another source is an older dog that has lived its entire life in a kennel. This dog will be desperate for a home and someone to love. Or you might call your local breed club to get a list of the breed-specific rescue groups.

Where you buy your dog is irrelevant If you don’t care how big a dog will be, what its temperament will be, what its medical issues will be—then any dog will do. But if these issues are important to you, then you need to consider buying a pure-bred dog.

You need to know your own reasons for buying a dog or a puppy. You need to assess your lifestyle and living arrangements to determine what kind of dog would fit in best. You need to decide whether you want to be surprised by what your puppy will grow up to be. You need to know that all dogs require time and attention, and all dogs will get sick. Dogs are a responsibility not to be taken lightly.