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Adding a New Dog to your Family: Part 2

December 26, 2011

Last week we discussed some of the things you should consider before adding a canine family member and where was the best place to find a purebred dog. Some though prefer a little mystery in their lives and for them, only a mixed breed will do.

Just as you first need to decide whether to get a puppy or an adult when considering a purebred, the same holds true for adopting a mixed breed dog. The main difference is that if you adopt a mixed breed puppy, you can’t be certain of how large it will be as an adult. If size is an issue for you, but you still want to adopt a puppy, there are some things you can do to help guesstimate your new pup’s potential size when grown. If the parents were different purebred dogs, odds are the puppies will be similar in size to one of them. If just the mother is known, her size can be used as an estimate of how big the puppies will be. Keep in mind though that there is always the chance that even though mom is small, without knowing how big the father was, there is a chance the puppies could be quite a bit larger.

Sometimes though, there is no way of knowing how big either a pup’s mom or dad were. If your heart is set on a puppy, and size is a major concern, your best bet is probably to adopt a slightly older puppy. A general rule of thumb is that a puppy’s adult weight will often be twice its weight at four months of age. While not a guarantee, you should at least be able to get an idea of whether your puppy will grow up to be a small, medium or large dog.

So where are some good places to find a mixed breed dog? There are several. Animal shelters and humane societies are the most common source, but mixed breed dogs can also be found from private owners, and there are people who breed “designer” mixed breed dogs.

“Designer” mutts are usually dogs that have been bred from two different breeds of purebred parents. Some examples are many of the poodle mixes, such as cockapoos, schnoodles, labradoodles, and goldendoodles. Some more recent ones are puggles, a pug/beagle mix and jackchis, a Jack Russell/Chihuahua cross. There are many more to be sure. You will often pay as much as you would for a purebred dog for many of these mixes. Since they are mixes of only two breeds though, you will have a better idea of what size they will be and of what their temperament and activity level will be like, although again, there is no guarantee.

Private owners are also a common source for mixed breed dogs. Accidents happen, and if a female dog isn’t spayed and happens to get out when in heat, puppies are usually the result. Some advantages of getting a puppy from a private owner is that you can often meet the mother, which may help you judge your future dog’s size or temperament. Also someone may have an adult dog that for a variety of reasons they may no longer be able to keep. You can often get a full history, and these dogs are usually already spayed/neutered and vaccinated.

Suppose you’re interested in a pound puppy though. There are no shortage of wonderful dogs at local animal shelters and humane societies in need of homes. If a dog was turned in by its former owner, you may be able to get a history on your future pet. Many dogs there will have been picked up or brought in as a stray though, and little is known about their background. If you’re interested in a dog with no known background, talk with the shelter personnel, they may be able to give you a general idea of the dog’s temperament. Often times they may also have seen some indications of prior training or whether the dog may already be housebroken. See if they have a separate area, be it another room or outside for a walk on a leash, where you can take the dog you’re interested in. A shelter can be a noisy, stressful place for a dog and spending some time with them in a quieter setting may help you get a true feel for the dog’s personality. Everyone in your family should get the opportunity to meet the dog you’re interested in, but be careful you don’t overwhelm them with too many people at once. Adopting a dog from a shelter can be a truly rewarding experience, but take your time to make sure you get the right dog for you.

Whether you decide to get a purebred or a mutt, puppy or adult, adding a dog to your family is a commitment, so be sure to take the time to pick the right canine companion for you and you both will have many happy years together.