· “Will I be sharing ownership of my pet with someone else?” If you’re purchasing a puppy with someone else, ask the above questions of all parties involved. If you’re home more, expect to get more of the load of puppy training. On the other hand, if you’re on the road more, expect the puppy to bond more with the person he is around more. You don’t want to shortchange yourself on the loving commitment of pet ownership, so having the right amount of time to spend with your dog is critical. Also, ask yourself what would happen if the other person moved or if you broke up. Would you be able to take on full-time care and training of your dog? No one wants the future to change that much, but you must take the situation into account. Also, if you will share ownership of your dog, be sure that you are both ready to take on the same training model. There are many of them and the last thing you want to do is confuse your pet. Consistency is key with training, so everyone taking a hand in training your dog must use the same tools and have the same requirements.
· “Can I afford a pet?” Pets cost money. There is food, veterinary care, boarding, treats, supplies and even clothing. To cut down on the cost of veterinary care, you can get pet insurance. This definitely can help if any surgeries or emergency care are needed. Shop around, though, because all insurances are not created equally. You want a comprehensive plan that will grow with your pet. In general, the older the dog, the higher the premium, so getting insurance early can substantially cut down on the monthly costs. You should also consider whether you will need boarding or doggie daycare. Factor these costs into your projected pet budget and then ask yourself whether you’re comfortable spending this on your dog. You want to know what you’re getting into when getting a dog, and that includes being ready for the financial commitment. Also keep in mind that if you have a larger breed, food costs can be much higher than for a smaller breed. This is particularly true if you want to feed your dog a special blend of foods or organic foods. Estimate the costs and see if it works for you and your budget.
· “Do I have family or friends who will provide support in case of an emergency?” The reality is that things come up with children and with pets. You may find times when you need extra help in both instances. Even the most prepared pet mom or dad needs help sometimes. This is when a good friend or family member who can rush to your house and let your dog out for play time and to go to the bathroom will be invaluable. Discuss your plan to take on a new responsibility with your closest friends or family to see if they can lend any special time to your pet. Speaking of special time, you can also ask your friends and family if they want to puppy-sit a few hours a week. This is something that super-busy people need sometimes. The reality is that your puppy will have a lot of energy and finding ways throughout the day for him to get it out will cut down on destruction of your house. Make sure you have activities for him to do so you won’t have to worry about house issues. If consistency is followed, you’ll find that the added experience helps your dog develop skills quicker.
· “Do I already have pets?” This is a biggie. If you already have pets, think twice about bringing a new one into the fold. In particular, remember that puppies are energetic busybodies as well as annoying attention-seekers. If you have other pets, you might think that they will give your pup something to do. What if they aren’t so willing? Be sure that your current pets won’t feel uprooted when you bring home your puppy. A good trick is to “borrow” a friend’s puppy and see how your current pets acclimate. If they are okay with a puppy nipping at them and stealing their toys, you may be fine. On the other hand, if they show signs of aggression or are territorial, you may want to think twice about the decision. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a puppy. It just means that you must schedule time into the process for your pets to get used to making room for the puppy. Plus, you’ll need to schedule time to lavish on your current pets so they don’t feel pushed aside. This could take days, weeks or even months, so in the meantime it is important to schedule monitored time with them.
· “What is my goal for the relationship?” Think about what your true goal is for having a pet. If you want a pet to give you the encouragement to get more active physically, don’t pick a teacup Chihuahua. Or, if you want a pet to be a couch-potato companion, don’t pick a baby Boxer. It is important that you know what your lifestyle is and what your desires are with a pet before you choose one. Once you have that down, you can pick the right temperament for you. Remember, though, that all dogs are unique so even if a particular breed is “supposed to” be one way, that doesn’t mean all the puppies in the breed will be the same. This is where patience and flexibility come in…again! When you visit a breeder, spend time with the puppies to see what each one is like. Remember, too, that within a litter puppies can be vastly different from each other. Your breeder can usually point you to the pup that is right for what you want…if you know what you want. Typically, your breeder will ask you some pointed questions prior to setting you up with a dog. The breeder knows each puppy’s temperament better than anyone and can give you the right dog for your lifestyle.
· “Can I handle mishaps and destruction?” All puppies chew. All puppies have accidents in the house—on the most expensive rug. All puppies nip. You can count on all three the same way you can count on a toddler crying, wetting his or her diaper and getting food all over his or her face when eating. It’s just the way it is. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can muster the patience to manage it and get over it when it does happen. It is always important to remember that puppies grow out of it if they are given the right discipline and consistent training. Here is where your effective training will be critical to minimizing mishaps and destruction. The best way to manage these, though, are to remove potential issues. If your puppy may reach your new shoes before you notice, put them out of his reach. If your puppy may start chewing your end table’s leg, spray it down with bitter apple every day. Many of the mishaps in a puppy’s life can be avoided with some aforethought. Yes, it takes time and planning, but having a dog is an activity that requires time and planning, so you might as well get used to it!
· “Do I have children?” If you have children, you may have perfect visions of your youngsters frolicking through the snow with their new puppy. Delightful, isn’t it? Reality? Nope. Yes, there will be fantastic times when your children and your puppy get along and look picturesque, but there will also be times when they will need completely different things at the same time. Ask yourself what your children are like. Toddlers are naturally curious and grab for things without the skills to understand that grabbing too hard hurts. You will naturally have to put more time into the relationship by watching them and making sure they are all playing nice. On the other hand, if you have older children, having a puppy may be a good way to help them learn responsibility. Always keep in mind, though, that if they don’t take on that responsibility, it will fall on you. Regardless of whether your son remembers to take the dog for a walk, the dog needs to go for a walk. Dogs are a great mix with children as long as you understand that your attention will have to be intense with both.
After you have asked yourself these questions, you will likely have some vision as to the type of dog you want. According to the American Kennel Club, there are hundreds of options when it comes to breeds. That’s not to mention the mutts out there, too! You have thousands to pick from. Do some homework and find the one right for you.
Now that you know the answers to the above questions, pick a few breeds you like. Look them up and get to know their temperaments. The best thing to do is find a breeder and visit the next litter. Ask the breeder about the dogs’ energy levels, the parents’ sizes, the training they most readily respond to and the time they need for training. Some of the answers may be more general than others because dogs are unique. Breeders should still give you a good place to start at when you’re deciding on the right pet.