So You Think You Want A Puppy/Dog?
The Right Way To Start

by Steven P. Williams

1. First and foremost, DON’T GET INTO A HURRY !

2. You and your family should first examine: your lifestyle, the environment that you have to offer a dog, the family composition, and your financial resources. How many hours do you work? Do you travel a lot? How many hours will someone be home to be with a puppy and be able to provide ongoing human interaction with the dog even after it is grown? How many extra hours will you have to devote to brushing, washing, and grooming a dog? How much time will you have to walk/exercise the dog? Are you physically able to care for a dog? Do you have allergies/asthma associated with dogs? How is your health? If something were to happen to you, who would be able to take over the care of your dog and have they agreed? Do you live in an apartment? Do you live in a home with a fenced yard? Will the dog be kept indoors all/most of the time or will the dog be kept outdoors? Are you planning on relocating in the near future and if so, will you be allowed to maintain a dog where you relocate? If the dog has "accidents" before it is properly housebroken, is this really going to bother you? Are there other existing pets in the home? Are there infants or very young children in the family now or are any on the way in the future? Is your relationship with your significant other stable and if not, what would happen with the dog if you become separated? Do you have the financial ability to have the dog examined by a veterinarian at least once a year (sometimes more) and can you afford the vaccinations, other ongoing medications, monthly food and grooming expenses? Do you have the financial resources to care for a dog should ongoing health problems arise? Have you considered that you will be making a commitment to care for an animal which could last for up to 12-17 years?

Now, Stop right here. If you honestly have thought about all of the aforementioned and determined that: due to your current work hours or the demands of a family with young children that you don’t have the extra time to care and provide the human interaction for a dog; or you really don’t have the right home environment for the dog you think you might want; or you may not have the financial resources required to maintain and care for a dog; or you have not thoroughly thought about future events that may occur, then you should go no further. You should not get a dog right now. You should be proud of yourself for honestly evaluating you (and your family), your lifestyle, and the home you can provide ! At least you will not become one of the alarming statistics of someone getting a dog and ultimately having to give it up, or worse, maintaining the dog in a manner which is not adequate. If you think you may still want a dog, just wait until the time is right for you, your family, and the dog.

3. Once you have answered the aforementioned questions and determined the "framework" of how the dog will be maintained and with whom, your next step is to decide on a breed or at least limit the options. Begin doing your research based on the answers to the above questions. Start by looking at "general" dog books which list the various breeds. These BOOKS can be found at the library, online, or can be purchased at a pet store (which should not sell dogs !). Of course you can search the internet for this information and the AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB--"AKC" is a great place to start. You will be able to eliminate many dogs based upon the physical characteristics of the dog (you just don’t like the "looks" of the dog, you can not provide a home for a large dog, you don’t have the time for the grooming that the dog appears to require, etc.). Also, throughout this process, it is suggested that once you think you have determined the breed in which you are interested or have narrowed the number of breeds, you should obtain and read/study the "standard" for the breed. This information, with all of your other research efforts, will make you a more informed "buyer." In the United States the parent AKC NATIONAL BREED CLUBS determine a standard for a breed: AKC BREED STANDARDS (To view the standard at this site click on the "Name" of the breed after you have found the breed through an Alpha search) . This is what a dog is judged by at a conformation dog show. The standard is the "blueprint" of an ideal specimen of the breed.

4. Next, if at all possible, you should try to attend an All Breed dog show that is held in your area or at least within a few hours driving distance. You can find the club sponsoring the show and the dates/places for your area at AKC's EVENTS SEARCH (Search by State and Month of show. Search for "Conformation" shows.  All Breed Shows are indicated by an "AB."  Texas All-Breed & Bichon Specialty Shows)  All Breed Shows as well as specialty shows occurring everywhere by date are at AKC's EVENTS CALENDAR (or they can be found in the "Events Calendar" which is a supplement to the AKC’s monthly magazine-- "AKC Gazette") or you can search at a Superintendent's website: InfoDog (MB-F), Onofrio Dog Shows, Jack Bradshaw, Roy Jones Dog Shows (Sleeper), Kevin Rogers Dogs Shows, Jim Rau, Bob Peters Dog Shows, Garvin Show Services, McNulty Dog Shows or you can contact a local AKC ALL BREED CLUB or SPECIALTY CLUB, or you may already know a breeder who shows their dogs and you can ask him/her when and where the next closest all breed show will be. The cost to gain entry to these shows is minimal, if anything. At these shows, you will be able to see most of the breeds "in real life," which in many instances can change a person’s mind from what they thought the dog looked like in a book or on the internet. By attending these shows, you should be able to narrow the breeds in which you think you may be interested or it may actually make you consider another breed that you had not even thought about (This happens a lot !)  Also, at these shows you may be able to meet breeders of the breeds in which you are interested. It also may be possible to talk about the breed with them or at least get their name and phone number so that at a later time you can call and talk more extensively about the breed. Don’t get offended if a breeder (or handler) may seem a little "put off" by you asking questions. Sometimes they are very busy getting their dogs ready to show (and some are nervous !). The best way to approach someone is to say that you may be interested in the breed and would there be a good time to talk? Then, take your queue from there. Generally, a breeder is willing to talk after they have shown their dogs and not before.  Also, if you buy a "show catalog" at the show, it will list the names and addresses of the people owning, breeding, or handling the dog.

5. If you have narrowed your search to one breed or if you are still trying to determine what breed is suitable, you should continue your research by talking with breeders. You can call the breeders that you were able to contact at the shows (or were able to obtain names/phone numbers). You can also obtain a list of breeders in your area by contacting the AKC NATIONAL BREED CLUB of the breed in which you are interested. There is someone with each National Breed Club that can tell you the breeders in your area or send you a listing of breeders in your area. Some of the National Breed Clubs have a Breeder’s Directory on their websites. You should talk with more than one breeder… maybe at least 3 or more. This way you will hear more than one perspective on the breed. In addition, you will hopefully be able to start to discern differences between breeders concerning their breeding practices, the health checks they perform on the sires and dams, how they place their dogs, costs, availability of puppies, etc. You should give the breeder as much information about you, your family, your lifestyles, the environment which you have to offer, etc. This will help the breeder help you to determine if the breed is right for you. Don't commit to buying a dog yet.

6. Now, you should have quite a lot of information about dogs and more specifically the breeds in which you may be interested. It may even have taken you several months to get to this point. After obtaining and absorbing all this information about the breeds in which you are interested, go back to step number 2  and see if you still can provide the right home for the dog. If you are sure you can, then you can go forward and seek out and talk again with breeders. BUT, as you probably already know… DON’T GET IN A HURRY ! It is quite possible that you may have to wait for a puppy/dog from a reputable breeder. Although you may have already discussed this in your conversations with breeders, something that you should decide before going forward and talking about actually getting a dog from a breeder is whether you want a "pet" or whether you might be interested in, and have the desire, time, ability, and commitment for showing and breeding the dog.

{Note: Also, something that you might want to consider at this point (which also might have already come up with your research on the breeds or conversations with breeders), is the possibility of providing a home for a "Rescue" dog instead of getting a puppy. These are dogs which are usually older and which have been abandoned, obtained from a shelter, or which had to be given up by an owner who did not do the research that you are doing or who had a significant change in their life or lifestyle. Some of these dogs may have "special" needs or require more care and attention. But, maybe you will find that you are a "special" person and can provide that "special" home.}

If you went back to step number 2 and are not sure you can provide the right home, then once again, Be Proud ! You were honest and responsible enough to determine that it is not a right time for you to obtain a dog. One day there probably will be a right time and place. Also, you did not lose anything because of the time and energy you expended in your research. You are now more informed than 90% of the "Public." Please, share your knowledge !

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