Thinking about getting a new dog or puppy? Generally it’s better to plan an adoption from a shelter or the purchase of a pure bred dog. But, you never know when you will happen upon a stray that tugs on your heart strings. I was surprised once. I said I would never have a new puppy again – not at my age. And then it happened. Discarded and left under a car at a nearby auto dealership, a little 8 week old black lab puppy entered our lives last August. Who could turn away this little cutie? Certainly not my wife! We named him Sammy. Now it was time, once again, to practice what I had preached all these years. You know, the midnight and two o’clock a.m. potty walks, those razor sharp puppy teeth and the list goes on. All of this is, of course, very manageable with proper instructions on training and raising a puppy.

A dog is hard work, there’s no getting around it – pure breed or otherwise. Make sure you don’t get a dog for the kids, your wife or the family, without remembering the old saying, “Dogs are not just for Christmas, Dogs are for a lifetime.” A dog is a living breathing being that needs as much love, care, attention and training as a child. You can’t just put a new puppy out in the back yard while you are at work all day. Getting a new puppy or dog requires much thought and should include the whole family not only in picking out that new dog or puppy but in the responsibility of raising this new family pet.

And deciding to get a dog congers up all kinds of questions. Should I get a puppy or an older dog? What breed will fit into my or my families’ lifestyle? Should I get a male or female? And, where should I get my dog? The list goes on.

Let’s explore these questions:

Puppy or older Dog?
Puppies are cute, highly demanding of your time with house training, not biting, chewing on proper chew items and more. It’s probably not wise to choose a puppy with children under the age of five. Adult dogs on the other hand are often housetrained and out of that “intense” chewing stage that puppies go through. Sometimes however, they come with unknown or questionable behavioral history. But don’t rule them out. You can teach an older dog new tricks; and, they will fit in with their new family as well and sometimes better than a puppy.

Breeds have been created by man for the express purpose of accomplishing certain tasks whether it’s a sporting breed to retrieve game or a working class for specific tasks like herding. It’s generally better to get a dog that has been bred to work closely with man and not a breed that has been bred for their fighting and aggressive proficiency. I personally have had golden retrievers while my wife has enjoyed the company of retired racing greyhounds. But Boston Terriers, King Charles Spaniels, Beagles and Poodles, just to mention a few, are great dogs as well. Other things to consider are care and maintenance. The Greyhound has minimum coat care while the Poodle (standard or otherwise) requires maximum coat care. Poodles, however, don’t shed, are extremely intelligent and are great for people with allergies. As a matter of fact poodles are being bred with golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers to produce “Goldendoodles” and “Labradoodles” that are also great for those with allergies.

Male or female?
I have owned and loved both. My take on this is, regardless of gender, have your dog neutered or spayed. They stay healthier and live longer. And, whether they are male or female, all dogs are individuals with their own temperament which can range from very docile or submissive to extremely dominant.

Where do I go to get a dog?

Reputable Breeder
If a pure bred dog, go to a reputable breeder. The breeder I have gotten my golden retriever from require that I return the dog if it doesn’t work out (whatever the reason). Their best interest is for the dog. And, to the extent that they can at that young age will guarantee eyes, heart and hips (if a large breed). Of course their guarantee is that if the young pup does develop an eye, heart or hip problem, they will exchange it for another one. I personally have never been able to just “trade in” my dog to which I have bonded for another. But at least the willingness to do so is indicative of a good breeder. Our black lab Sammy developed hip dysplasia in both hips. The day we decided to take him home with us he was ours and our responsibility – in sickness and in health. So we had him fixed up and we go on down the road.

Pure-Breed Rescue Groups
These are dedicated individuals that have banded together to help foster and care for dogs of their particular breed of choice. They often times have an established website and have set up a not-for-profit organization to raise funds for medical expenses so that you will adopt a healthy disease-free dog.

Animal shelters
Great dogs can be found in your local shelter. Here in Houston we have the SPCA, CAPS and the Humane Society. A example of a great shelter dog is Radar the weather dog on KPRC-TV who was adopted from the Humane Society. The folks at the shelters are more than willing to lend a hand in helping you to determine which dog is right for you. They care for them every day and know each dog.

Word of Mouth
Sometimes people have changes in their lifestyle and professional status and can no longer care for their pet. Knowing that their pet will go to a loving home that will give them as much love and care as they did can be comforting for all concerned. Often times folks will notify their veterinarian, groomer, trainer or boarding facility of their need to re-home their beloved pet. So it pays to network as much as possible.

(C) Jim Burwell 2010