CHOOSING A NEW PUPPY !
The weather is warming up, the days are longer, and school vacation is right around the corner. Seems like the perfect time to think about that new puppy that was promised for the family pet this year. So, off to the local pet store or puppy place and pick the cutest one, right? WRONG!!! There are lots of things to consider before bringing home that squirming bundle of fur.
Let’s start by considering just a few things – big dog or little? Short fur or long? High energy or laid back? Purebred or mixed? This last one is a big one as it covers the previous topics as well. Most people have an idea that purebred means expensive, possibly inherited health problems, unfair to get a purebred when there are so many mixed breeds in shelters, etc. Well, let’s consider the purebred for what it truly is. This is a dog that has been selected for generations for certain traits, coat type, size, and behaviors. This means when you select a purebred, you pretty much know how this dog will turn out. There are several recognized categories for dogs:
Working (examples: Akita, Doberman, Husky) these dogs were selected for a specific job such as protection or pulling sleds. Some traits that were selected for included strength, sense of wariness, more dominant personalities, and often aggression/defensive behavior.
Herding dogs (examples: Shetland Sheepdog, Australian sheep dog, German Shepard) these dogs often have intense watching, following, circling, heel nipping, barking traits even expressed to kids or family members. These dogs are usually high energy dogs and do better with a job or continuous challenging training like agility.
Hounds (examples: Beagles, Coon Hounds, Blood Hounds) these dogs are intensely scent oriented. They follow scent trails and often ignore all else. They will usually vocalize when excited or on a trail. They can be stubborn, difficult to train and loud.
Sporting (examples: Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shorthaired Pointers) these are dogs bred to point or retrieve game for hunters. They may combine scent and visual cues, freeze to observe or ‘point’ something, have a strong ‘retrieve’ drive (play fetch for hours!), and boundless energy as they are bred to be dogs working long days in fields and brush on a hunting trip.
Non-Sporting (examples: Lhaso Apso, Bichon Frise, Bulldog) this is a diverse group of many personalities, shapes and sizes. These dogs are often considered ‘lap dogs’ and generally make good companions without the need for excessive exercise or room to run.
Toy (examples: Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian) these are a group of low to moderate energy, compact dogs that often make good apartment pets and companion animals. This is another group of ‘lap dogs’ that do well with out needing lots of exercise.
Terrier (examples: Cairn, West Highland White Terrier, Wire Haired Fox Terrier) these are feisty, often high energy dogs that were originally bred to kill vermin. They may be aggressive towards other animals, including other dogs. Coats are typically stiff or wiry and coat care requires stripping (pulling) to keep thin and short.
Each breed or category have often been selected for energy level – high drive, work all day, strong protection, etc. This is in the genes as much as coat color. This means the chances of a lazy Labrador Retriever is pretty slim, so not a good selection for an apartment dweller that works long days. The coat associated with a breed is another consideration. That little puppy may look cute and fuzzy, but that coat will get longer, may need frequent brushing or trips to the groomer or special baths. Higher energy dogs may need more room to run, or more frequent exercise to keep them happy. A frustrated dog may bark excessively, or develop destructive behaviors that may not be endearing.
Selecting a dog should take some time to make sure you are making the right decision and know what you are getting in to. Good places to get information are at web sites like the American Kennel Club or Info Dog. Both sites have breeder referrals and information on all breeds. Great places to actually meet dogs are at dog shows. On the Info Dog website, there is information on upcoming dog shows in Massachusetts. At a dog show you can meet many breeders, handlers and dogs of all shapes and sizes. If you are interested in rescuing a pet, try Pet Finder. Remember, pups from a private home are generally healthier, you can usually meet at least one parent, and private breeders often have health information going back generations.