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Norwich Bulletin - 6/8/2008

Are You Really Ready For a Canine Companion Part 1

So you think you are ready to take on a puppy or a dog this summer. You watch television and see all those well-behaved canines having a great time with their owners. While it is true, that dogs make wonderful family members and animal companions, they do not come like that. It takes a lot of work and begins before your adoption does.

The first thing that needs to be done is for you to examine your lifestyle and the age and temperament of each family member. Does everyone in the family want a dog or are you just trying to placate a six year old, whining for a puppy? Do you live in an apartment or a house with a fenced in yard, because that will certainly play a factor in what breed of dog you decide on.

Do you work long hours, do you plan on putting your dog in a kennel outside day and night, or are you truly looking for a new member of your family? You have to know you are willing to train, socialize, feed and exercise your dog as well as be able to pay the vet bills. As an adult, you need to want the dog and once you decide that your family can provide a loving home, the next step is what kind of dog.

Size, age, temperament and breed are all important aspects to consider when choosing a dog. Remember that different breed groups have some common general personality traits. The Hound Group consists of active hunting dogs that can make good family pets, but need to be exercised well.

The Working Group such as Border Collies, have a strong instinct to work and expect and need to be given a job to do. There are breeds that are known for protection and they require a higher degree of socialization and obedience training than a smaller companion dog, such as a Pug. But even some of the smaller dogs can be stubborn and not always small animal or child friendly, such as that cute little dog everyone loves on Frazier - the Jack Russell Terrier.

So picking out the dog that is right for you involves some research to give you as much information as you can gather. This especially means that you do not simply walk into a pet store and pick out the first cute puppy you see!

Besides temperament, when considering a purebred puppy or dog, you should be aware of the genetic problems that run in some of the line in particular breeds so that you can ask knowledgeable questions of the breeder as to what tests they perform on their dogs, etc.

Knowing up front what major medical problems that could develop and the possible medical cost you might incur, are considerations in choosing a particular breed. This is proactive, responsible dog ownership. Choosing a purebred dog means finding a local respected breeder (which means within driving distance), where you can visit and meet dogs that have been bred and raised by the breeder and make sure you will receive a health certificate certifying that your puppy is free of known genetic problems.

This means never, never, never, buy a puppy from a pet store, no matter how cute or healthy that puppy appears to be. No responsible breeder would ever sell their babies to a pet store. Pet stores use puppy mills and local backyard breeders as sources for their puppies, and are not concerned about medical tests or lineage.

Remember this old adages, for it holds true today: "You get what you pay for" and "Good things come to those who wait." Although you may not have instant gratification in getting that puppy you want right away, you will end up getting a healthier and more socialized puppy for your family by waiting. And remember, you could also go through a breed rescue and take a young dog that may have been given up for financial or allergy reasons, rather than behavior problems.

Remember, purebred dogs are not the only way to go to find a good animal companion. Shelters and rescue groups have many mixed breeds as well as purebreds of all ages that can make wonderful family pets. Some of these dogs are already house and obedience trained. Some of these dogs need behavioral training because no-one took the time to show them what they needed to learn.

Some of these dogs were given up because the people picked the wrong breed or had the wrong reasons for getting a dog in the first place. The whining six year old who became bored after two weeks and the teenager who no longer has time for the dog he wanted more than anything, just a year ago. The new husband or wife who doesn't like dogs, or is allergic to them or a military family who is sent overseas and cannot take their dog with them.

There are so many reasons dogs are given up for adoption. Take a little time to assess the dog's reaction to small animals and children (even if you don't have either of these, your neighbor could). Test for food or toy aggression. Know what you are bringing home before you actually physically bring the dog into your home.

Next week - Picking out your puppy and Basic Puppy care 101.

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