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Adding a New Dog to your Family

November 2, 2011

So, your family has talked about it and decided that what you want for Christmas is a new best friend for everyone, a cute adorable puppy or dog. But where do you begin looking for one and more importantly finding the right one? There are a few questions you need to answer first. Keep in mind there are no wrong or right answers to these questions, they’ll differ for everyone.

Probably the first decision to make when adding a new dog to the family is purebred or mix breed? Purebred dogs have the advantage of knowing exactly how big your doggie friend will be and what they’ll look like when grown. You’ll also be more likely to have an idea of what type of temperament it will have and what type of activity level as well. If you need a dog for a specific job, such as search and rescue or obedience shows, a purebred might be a better choice. So what are the advantages of mixed breeds? Since most mixed breeds often come from shelters or humane societies, odds are you will literally be saving your dog’s life. Mixed breeds are unique. Except for color variations, most pure breeds of dog look exactly like every other dog of the same breed. Your mixed breed will stand out in a crowd. The initial cost of a mixed breed dog is often considerably less than that of a purebred dog as well. This week we’ll concentrate on how to find the best purebred dog for your family and next week we’ll talk about some of the ways to find a good mix breed family member.

Before you go about deciding which breed of purebred dog might be best for you, first take a moment and decide whether you are interested in a puppy or an adult dog. Both have advantages and disadvantages. There’s not much cuter or many things more fun than playing with your new puppy.  If you pick a puppy, you can have more of an influence over its socialization as it grows.  A puppy is a clean slate, you won’t have to worry about retraining any bad habits or behaviors as you might in an adult dog. You can meet (and should meet) your future puppy’s parents. This is one of the best ways to get an idea of your new puppy’s temperament. There’s also more of a chance that you will have a puppy longer than an adult dog, since you’re getting him as a baby.

And what are the advantages of an adult dog? Many adult dogs will come already housebroken, you won’t have to worry about cleaning up puddles or where you step in the morning and if you work long hours an adult dog can “hold it” all day long, where as a puppy might not be able to. Adult dogs are usually calmer and more settled than a puppy as well, the chewing and destruction stages of puppyhood are in the past. Adult dogs are just as trainable as puppies and often learn faster as they’re less distractible and tend to have longer attention spans.

Next of course, you need to decide on a breed! There are numerous books and websites that describe the different breeds available. Considerations of course are size, hair coat, energy level and compatibility with other animals. There are numerous dog selectors online that you can check into if you’re not sure where to start.The Dog Breed Selector at Animal Planet is just one.

So, you’ve decided to get a purebred dog and have chosen whether to get a puppy or an adult, now you just need to know where to look. There are three main options; breeders, rescue groups and animal shelters. Let’s look at breeders first.

Purchasing your dog from a reliable breeder will almost certainly cost you more initially than the other two options, but from a good breeder, you’ll be getting what you pay for. What should you look for in a breeder? They should be knowledgeable about the breed. They should not only be willing to educate you on the good points of their particular breed but also on some of the negatives as well. A good breeder may have as many questions for you as you have for them. They love their dogs and want to make sure they get into good, forever homes. You should be able to meet your puppy’s mother and possibly the father.  If you are buying an adult dog, they should be able to fill you in on the dog’s history. Your puppy should have already had its initial vaccinations and been checked by a veterinarian. Adult dogs will be up to date on their shots and will often already be spayed or neutered. Their dogs will have been screened for any genetic diseases that their breed suffers from and they’ll often be willing to accept your puppy or dog back if for some reason it doesn’t work out, often for the life of your dog.

What about rescue groups? Breed rescue groups are usually started by a group of people who have a love for a particular breed. They are almost always nonprofit and any adoption fee you pay will go to helping other dogs in the future. The dogs in rescue can come from a variety of backgrounds. Some have come into rescue when their former owners were no longer able to keep them. Some are strays or gotten from animal shelters or humane societies. The rescue may be able to provide you with the dog’s complete history or know nothing at all about his background.  Most dogs in rescues stay in foster homes. There the dogs can be screened for any obvious behavioral issues, they can start housebreaking if the dog isn’t already, and they can often find out how the dog gets along with other pets and children. Most dogs from rescues will be checked by a vet and vaccinated and spay or neutered before being available for adoption. Rescues often require you to sign an adoption contract and usually require that the dog be returned to them if you are unable to keep it for any reason. You can search on the web to find different breed rescues or Petfinder is a good resource for finding rescue groups.

Finally, we come to the third way to find a purebred dog: local animal shelters and humane societies. Many people think of animal shelters having only mixed breed dogs, but purebred dogs are to be found there as well. The more common the breed of dog, the more likely you are to find it in a shelter. Even some of the less common breeds can be found in shelters, you just have to be willing to wait. Shelters may have little to no information on a dog if it was found running stray, or they may have its history if it was turned in by its former owner. Depending on the shelter, the dog may come already spayed/neutered and vaccinated, or it may not have had any medical care at all. While not knowing a dog’s behavioral or medical history should definitely be a consideration, it can often be balanced out by knowing that you literally saved your dog’s life.  Petfinder is a good resource if you are looking to adopt a dog from a shelter.

Whatever breed you decide on, puppy or adult dog, taking your time to research your breed and considering all your options as to where to get your pet from will help insure that you have many happy years with your new best friend.  And for those of you who are considering a mixed breed dog, we’ll have more to talk about next week!