By: Pat White
When a family decides to start the process of getting a puppy/dog, they should do so with a happy heart and sustained equal commitment. You need to be brutally honest with each other so you can get through the early sleepless nights, housetraining, chewing of everything, babyhood and teenage, training hiccups, inappropriate barking and other behaviours, having to exercise the dog no matter what the weather, expense, etc. because you both/all genuinely see the dog as part of your family. This is never an easy decision and should not be made borne of big brown eyes looking at you, or a fantasy of childhood memory of dog ownership when the real work was mostly done by your mother.
Time allocated to the puppy and its mental and physical growth is very important. Making the right relationship, on which all successful training is based, is paramount. Having a dog can be limiting – you will no longer on the spur of the moment be able to decide you want to go to Rome for the weekend. Finding a good home boarder is very important, so the dog has a second home and you have the peace of mind that your dog is being well and appropriately looked after. Please do not consider doggy day care, so often run by people with little real dog experience and often the cause of a lot of behavioural problems which never needed to happen. What you also do not want to do is just leave the puppy with any friend who says they love dogs. Consistency of commands, expectations, adhering to existing boundaries (who lets or doesn’t let the dog on the bed/sofa, etc.) need to be extended to everyone who is in loco parentis. Virtually no dog is born loving cats. They can come to accept them (mine sleep together, but there can be moments when the dogs’ prey drive kicks in as well) but this takes vigilance and time on the owner’s part. Introducing an adult cat to an adult dog seldom successful. Adult dog to a kitten better, but needs a real behaviour programme to be implemented.
Puppies grow into their personalities so what is now, at 8 weeks, mellow and docile may not end up that way, which is partly why it is important to see particularly the mother and to pick a puppy from the middle of the litter –not the shy one at the back of the pack nor the one who insists you only pay attention to him.
Discover Dogs is a great way to find out about all the different breeds. The event is held yearly and there are about 200 breeds on show and the people who own them are there specifically to talk to potential owners about what they’re looking for, their lifestyle and what breed would be suitable to their needs. Remember, selecting a dog by what it looks like seldom the right criteria – always think about what a dog is bred to do before deciding on a breed.