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How to choose the perfect puppy for you

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By Sarah Liddell, owner Day Care 4 Paws

Once you’ve made the decision to acquire a puppy, the excitement of impending puppy ownership often takes over and people make rash decisions about what type of puppy to get.  Of course, ALL puppies are cute, but some are more suited to certain owners than others.

For instance, if you live in a small first floor flat with no access to an outside area, a Great Dane or St Bernard may not be the most sensible of breed choices.  Equally, if you live on a smallholding in a remote part of the Shetland Isles and want a dog to follow you around the fields 365 days a year, a Chinese Crested Powder Puff may be just as, if not more so, unsuitable.

You should consider what type of breed and what personality traits would suit your own personality and lifestyle the most.  Of course, each and every one of us has a favourite (or two, or three!) and a large reason for this is based on aesthetics.  For me, I find the beauty and grace of a well-bred German Shepherd to be largely unbeatable but like anyone considering purchasing a puppy, you must consider the practicalities of your favourites.  Some dogs require an awful lot more training, exercise and therefore more time than others.  Don’t assume small dogs require less exercise, this can actually be wholly incorrect and indeed many small breeds require more exercise than giant breeds.  Coat type and colour should be considered too for some require a lot more grooming than others.  Some short coated dogs shed an awful lot of hair so don’t assume that dogs with flowing locks will clog up your vacuum cleaner any more than a Labrador (Labs are infamous for shedding a LOT!)

Your income should of course play a part in the decision making process as no one can quibble that a giant breed will cost more to upkeep than a lapdog.  They of course require more food, worming and flea treatments are inevitably more expensive the larger the dog you have and even trips to the vet can be more expensive as anaesthetics and surgery costs can vary greatly between a tiny and a giant breed.  Even boarding kennels often charge higher fees for dogs requiring bigger kennels.  Indeed everything you buy for a large dog will be more expensive than for a small breed – collars, leads, Kong toys, rawhide bones – everything. 

Breed size also tends to dictate the life expectancy – with giant breeds often only living to 8 or 9 years while small breeds often live to 15+.

If you have your heart set on a particular pedigree you should of course research the breed, its normal requirements and of course the potential health problems associated with the breed.  There are very few breeds out there that don’t come with the potential of some form of congenital problem.  Some breeds are so over-bred (often by back-yard breeders with no experience of genetics or any desire to improve the breed standards) that they come laced with all manner of health problems.  English Bulldogs are a prime example of this – fetching over £1000 per pup, it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to work out that these dogs can bring in large incomes for those choosing to breed them, which can lead to very ill-bred litters.  They have been so over-bred in recent decades that there are few remaining that don’t come with congenital limb defects, massively oversized heads, poor breathing capabilities, skin problems, eyelid problems and they are indeed incapable of giving birth naturally as the mothers birth canal is too small due to the frame of the adult dog compared to the size of the puppies heads.

You should not let one member of your family make the sole decision, even if they really, really want breed A, B or C.  It should be a family decision and must be one based on the practicalities and overall suitableness of the breed to your family and lifestyle.  It isn’t fair to assume that the rest of your family will come to love the dog – each and every member of the family ought to play a part in the puppies upbringing (even getting the youngest child to help pet and groom the dog) and, as such, the puppy should grow up to be a suitable size and temperament that it will be a much loved member of the family also.  The age-old adage of “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas” must be remembered as, for the next 8+ years your puppy will spend its life with you and you with it.

As a prospective puppy owner, you should ask yourselves the following questions and keep them in mind when researching what type of puppy you should acquire:

Do I really lead a life that is conducive to giving a dog a lot of exercise?

How much time do I have spare to dedicate to grooming?

How big is my house – can it really accommodate breed A, B or C?

How long am I out at work each day and will this suit our chosen breed or type?

Can I really afford this breed?

Once you have thoroughly researched, spoken to current owners of the breed and been to see a few litters, only then should you acquire your puppy.  It is then that the fun really can begin!  Enjoy, for your new puppy will soon become your best friend!

Sarah runs Day Care 4 Paws, which is a fully licensed Dog Day Care Centre near Consett in County Durham.  The business has recently celebrated its second birthday and now caters for up to twenty dogs per day.  She also runs puppy training and socialisation classes and will be starting agility classes in the near future.  For further information: http://www.daycare4paws.co.uk / http://www.facebook.com/DayCare4Paws.


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