Getting a Dog

Research dog breeds, and remember that they won’t stay puppies for very long. (By: jasontucker)

If you are interested in a purebred dog, pick up a book on dog breeds and do some research with the above questions in mind. Seriously consider attending a dog show, where you can not only potentially contact breeders, but also see adult specimens of the breed you are considering.

It’s important to remember that cute puppies remain cute little puppies only for a matter of weeks. There is a long period of ungainly and rebellious adolescence, finally followed by mellow adulthood.

If the dog’s breed is not important to you, still consider the above list when choosing the dog. You do face a few more unknowns because a mixed-breed puppy may or may not clearly exhibit what the adult characteristics will be.

Many people have strong feelings about purebred dogs, especially the characteristics of the breed. Other people feel that the “stereotypes” are overrated.


The bottom line: If you get an Newfoundland, it is highly likely that that dog will be a good lifesaving dog. It is also possible, although less likely, that this will be a great lifesaving dog. And it is also possible, although also less likely, that this dog will show no aptitude for lifesaving.

Similar statements hold for “typical” traits of sight hounds, rottweilers, poodles, GSDs, goldens, Irish setters, and pretty much any other breed you can think of.

If you use this “stereotype” information to inform your choice of a dog, and make some effort to determine how “typical” a given dog is likely to be of its breed (by looking at parents and siblings, by observing the dog, by asking the caregiver, etc.), it’s innocuous and can be quite useful. If you use it blindly to make blanket judgements of breeds, use of stereotypes can be foolish.

In the extreme, if you don’t understand the meaning of the characteristics, or have misidentified or mis-measured them, use of stereotypes can be positively evil, such as when “all pitbulls” are identified as dangerous and banned.

What Are My Responsibilities?

There are responsibilities that go along with being a good dog caregiver.

A dog will live from 10 to 20 years, depending on breed, size, and general health. This is a long-term commitment, and you must be ready to provide the dog with a home for that duration. You must make provisions for it when you go on vacation. Your pet needs attention, love, and respect from you: Merely providing food and water isn’t enough.

Consider the dog part of your family. This is no joke as that is exactly what the dog thinks you are.

You are responsible for their health.

An essential part of caring for a dog is making sure that they get good medical care. Check the veterinarians in your area and pick out one before you even get your dog.

Take your dog to the vet immediately after acquiring your dog and take them in regularly thereafter. You will have expenses for yearly shots and, in many areas, heartworm preventive. Puppies and dogs routinely die without adequate veterinary care.

If you get your dog for protection, you are obligated to make sure that your pet is safe, reliable, and trustworthy around people.

Never chain your dog up in the backyard, or encourage your pet to snarl and bite other people. Never try to make a dog “vicious.” Such irresponsible treatment results in tragic stories of children and adults being mauled or even killed, the dog being put down, and various dog bans being enacted.

A dog can protect you just fine by barking at suspicious noises and allowing you to investigate. They do not have to be vicious. A good protection dog is always well trained, properly socialized, and has a relationship with its human that encourages them to be protective.

Higher levels of protection (such as attack dogs) require considerable training and experienced handling, and they are most definitely not for everyone.

You are responsible for your dog’s reproduction.

You must either get your dog neutered, or make provisions for keeping your female away from dogs when in heat. If your male is intact, you need to keep him under control when he smells a dog in heat.

If you breed, you are responsible for making sure that your dog is suitable for breeding (i.e., good health, good temperament, good specimen of the breed, and free of genetic defects), and making sure that all resulting puppies are placed in good homes. The millions of dogs that must be put down annually in the United States are the result of human irresponsibility about their pet’s reproduction.

You are responsible for your pet’s behavior.

This means keeping your dog under control. Do not let them roam; do not let them become a nuisance to others in your neighborhood. Keep them on a leash when walking so that they don’t run up to other people or dogs and bother them.

Clean up after them or curb them (meaning, make them go in the gutter) when they eliminate, especially in public areas. Many parks, beaches, and lakes are closed to dogs because of irresponsible humans in this regard.

You are still responsible for the dog when you “get one for your kid.”

Unless your child is old enough, at least 13 (and highly variable at that), she or he will not have the sufficient maturity to take responsibility for the dog. A dog can be a good way to teach children about responsibility, but the dog is still your main responsibility.

Dogs acquired for this reason often wind up in the shelters when the parents find out that they are the dog’s primary caretaker.

You are responsible for becoming more knowledgeable about dogs.

Find some good books and read up. Enroll in puppy and dog classes where you can learn much from the instructor; attend them even before you get a dog or puppy for firsthand knowledge of what you can expect.

Many dogs are in animal shelters with a note that says “Couldn’t be housebroken” or “Couldn’t be trained.”

You are responsible for being prepared for the new dog.

Never get one as a “surprise gift.” All members of your family must agree on having a dog.

Have food, water and food dishes, bedding, collars and leashes, chew toys, and a veterinarian lined up before you pick up your dog. Many “Christmas puppies” are found in the shelters by New Year’s Day.

Next, in Part 3 of this article, we move on to where to get your next dog (and where not to get one).

Part 3: Where to Get One »

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