Fantastic! You’ve decided to buy a puppy, something that most people never regret. To give yourselves and the puppy every chance, there are certain considerations to take into account…
How much time will a puppy take up?
Ok, so let’s see, how much time you can devote to a puppy will point towards it’s size. Generally speaking, the larger the dog the more exercise is needed. Also, those dogs bred for specific jobs, i.e. working or gundogs, tend to be more intelligent and need more stimulation to keep them fit both mentally and physically.
Now then, how much time or inclination do you have towards grooming? Have you got the patience to tease the burrs out of your beloved spaniel’s ears or are you house-proud and can’t bear the mess as you Old English Sheepdog shakes and sprays your walls with wet mud? Although I hasten to add, small dogs shake themselves as well, they just don’t carry as much mud and water.
Then there’s moulting, which in my experience, seems to vary from year to year or maybe I’ve just gotten used to it! There are dogs, such as Poodles, that have wool rather than hair, and as a result don’t moult. Ok, so maybe you don’t like the look of Poodles but you only have to have them clipped for the show ring. I personally have quite a soft spot for Poodles, especially the Standard Poodle, though I have never owned one.
Costs of Owning a Puppy
Right then, we have thought about sizes and coat lengths, now we also have to take into account our budget. The cost of purchasing the puppy is on the first of many. Larger dogs eat more food (and produce more waste!), need bigger beds, take up more space in the car (new car?).
Don’t get excited, we are talking about dog gender.
Should I buy a dog or a bitch, do I plan to breed later, would I like to show the puppy at some stage? If the answer to each of these is no, then this would point towards neutering the puppy, this traditionally has been more expensive for the bitch than the dog because of the nature of the surgery.
I believe that neutered animals can be shown but this is not the norm. Neutering should not affect competing in obedience, working trials, tests etc.
Neutering is a decision most people can make relatively easily and is encouraged by various associations.
Bitches come into season every six months or so, they are in season for around three weeks and are more likely to conceive during the middle week, although it varies and can only be taken as a very rough guide. These three weeks can be very inconvenient and messy. The bitch herself slows down and seems quite contented throughout, but if you or the neighbours have a dog, then this is quite a different kettle of fish altogether.
Bitches tend to be more docile than dogs, though there are always exceptions to the rule. They usually look prettier and are less aloof than dogs. Having kept both dogs and bitches of various breeds, I think my own preference would be towards dogs. I know I am biased but my GSP dog has always been a great dog to have around and a fantastic loyal companion. He is rarely flustered (season times excepted) and totally reliable inside and out. That said, our GSP bitch has all these attributes as well, although she tends to be a little more excitable.
Of course if you have your bitch spayed, you have to consider her food intake. Spayed bitches put on weight easier and if yours is greedy then you have to be especially watchful. I’ve never had a neutered dog, but I believe this is less of a problem for them.
Choosing a Breed
Once you have decided on size, coat length and group of dog you can look to choosing a breed. There are lots of books out there and your local library will have plenty of information. Alternatively there are various internet sites.
Having decided breed and sex you’ll need to think about where to buy from. I would always advocate contacting the breed society. You can get information from the kennel club or just Google the breed, avoiding the more lurid adverts that will come up.
The breed club or association can put you in touch with breeders who have litters and you can get advice from them on the suitability of the breed for you.
Transporting Your Puppy Home
Once you have contacted your breeder and agreed a purchase you need to consider transportation. I would always recommend a crate in the back of your car. This ensures that the dog is contained and can’t cause an accident by jumping about the car. You know the dog is safe, and can be a more relaxed driver. The dog will feel more comfortable within the constraints of the crate. My own dogs travel much better in a confined space.
We purchased a Lintran box with a divider (to stop the big dog squashing the puppy) and found our adult dog travelled much better in a more confined space. I always found whe we arrived at shows that his coat would be scurfy and moulty. I put this down to stress when travelling. This problem has been all but eliminated since travelling in the smaller space.
I would also advocate using the crate indoors for a while. My dogs slept in their crates for about a year. They always had their own space and seemed to feel more secure. When we went out they were shut in the crate (with water) and never for long. As a result when we returned home they’d never got up to any mischief and we were as pleased to see them as they us. As a consequence our dogs have never got into bad habits around the home and are not destructive. We have always felt confident about their behaviour in both ours and other peoples’ homes.
Some breeders will give you a small piece of bedding to take with the puppy. This has familiar smells on it and will help the puppy to relax in its new home. If it isn’t offered, it may be worth asking for a piece!
Terry Devonald has had pet dogs for as long as she can remember. She has also been fortunate enough to show dogs at Crufts, enjoyed agility training and obedience training. She believes that dogs behave in the way you expect them to behave.