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How to Choose your Dog

There are so many things to think about when you decide to get a dog that you can become swamped by the number of choices you have and the equipment to buy.  Then your children pick out a dog and you can't say "no" to their choice and before you know it you have a dog!
This checklist is designed to help you through the process beforehand and give you points to consider so you get the dog that best suits your needs.

  1. Are you ready for a dog?
    This may seem like a silly question but have you really considered what owning a dog means?  Apart from the obvious benefits, you have the chewing, house-training, digging, barking, vet bills - the adults must be prepared for all eventualities and the cost could come as a shock!
  2. What breed of type of dog do you want?
    Large or small?  Long or short haired?  Male or female?  Puppy or older dog?  From a breeder or rescue?  How much exercise will the dog need?  Are there medical issues with your chosen breed?  Are there behavioural considerations - what was the breed designed to do?  Is the dog neutered or will you have to pay for this?
  3. What is your lifestyle?
    Do you want an active dog or would you prefer a couch potato?  Will the dog need to be home alone at all and if so, for how long?  Do you have children, cats or other small animals?  How would you describe your personality - calm, shy, vibrant?  BE HONEST!  All these questions will serve to narrow your search and if you have already gone through this process you will make the job of matching you to your dog much easier.
  4. House Rules
    Where will the dog sleep?  Who will take the dog for walks?  What toileting routine are you planning?  When will the dog eat?  Who will groom the dog?  Which vets will you register with?  What equipment will you need?  Are you prepared to attend training classes?

If you are still keen to get a dog then you will need to find a reputable breeder or rescue centre.  Any good breeder or rescue will have several key procedures in place to ensure good homes are found for their dogs.
  • An interview process - to find out as much about you and your lifestyle as possible to match you to a temperament tested dog or puppy.
  • A home-check - this will be carried out by someone who is experienced with correct ownership of dogs and will be used to assess any improvements to your property or in your living arrangements to allow you to accommodate a dog.
  • A contract - a breeder contract should set out your rights and obligations as a purchaser of the puppy and the breeder's obligations as a vendor.  It should include all health checks and results as well as a clearly defined return policy - this states that the breeder will take the dog back if you are unable to keep it at any time.  Any breeder that does not carry out health checks and does not offer a return clause cannot be relied on to provide a good service.  Rescue contracts set out your rights and obligations as an adopter and will include a very strict return policy.  They will also include a clause permitting them to inspect the dog at any time in the future to ensure you are taking good care of your pet.

All these legal hoops are designed to make the life of all dogs better.  If all breeders were required to health test the dogs they want to breed from and obligated by contractual provision to be responsible for returned dogs, backyard breeders and puppy farms would be unable to function.

Now you have been through your checklist, been interviewed and filled in your forms, you are ready to take your dog home.  Good luck and enjoy your new best friend!

Authored by Kathleen MacNaughton-Hughes, SpiritLink Communication
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