Am I Ready Emotionally?
If you read nothing else on this site please read this section. It could save you from making a decision that can hurt yourself, a friend or relative, and an innocent animal.
The purchase of a puppy is a very emotional one for many of us, sometimes conjuring up memories of our own childhoods. The emotional connection to your new arrival is almost immediate, especially with children. We will try to go over all those areas that you need to address and will include a special emphasis on dealing with children and the decision to get a new dog.
Don't buy on impulse!
This animal is going to be a part of your family for the next 10 to 20 years. Give that choice all the consideration it deserves.
It's very easy to fall in love with a warm, snugly, licky-faced puppy, especially when it is staring out at you with those big brown eyes from a cage in the pet shop. But unless you have considered all of the consequences of that decision you are already off on the wrong foot. The entire family or household should be consulted. And if you find yourself with one holdout that doesn't want to have to take care of a dog or puppy, respect that decision and don't force them, even if you choose to go ahead.
Don't buy pets as gifts
As breeders, we won't sell a puppy unless the person that will actually be responsible for the care of the animal has an active part in the final choice. We also feel that, with children, giving a living, breathing animal as a gift sends the wrong message about the value of life. A puppy is not like other toys that can be put aside and forgotten when the children are tired or want to go out and play.
Often you will find that people will purchase a puppy for a friend or relative for one of the following reasons. After each of those reasons we will describe our response to it.
1) That person recently lost a beloved pet.
While they may be lonely and miss having a dog around the house, that doesn't mean they are ready for a new dog. Everyone grieves differently and some may need months or even years before they are really ready to take on that responsibility again. When they are ready, they may want a different breed to avoid comparisons to their old dog. Some people, while grieving the loss of their beloved friend, may also welcome the freedom of not having to care for a pet. Also, with children, think about the message you're sending when a beloved family member dies and a couple of days or weeks later you're out getting a "replacement."
2) The puppy is a gift for a child. (We want them to learn how to be responsible.)
On a number of levels we, as both breeders and parents, are against giving dogs as gifts to children. We wholeheartedly believe that children can gain enormous benefits in terms of learning responsibility, compassion and empathy from helping to care for another living being. We are just against them being gifts. Dogs are thinking, feeling creatures with likes and dislikes that are strictly their own. What happens to the child if "their" puppy becomes more strongly attached to another member of the family? If there are several children in the family your idyllic picture can easily turn into all out war with the puppy caught in the middle. The dog should be looked at as part of the family. He does not belong to any one member.
Many parents also buy puppies for kids hoping it will teach them responsibility. Cleaning up accidents is a job that even most adults dislike. Expecting a child to do it willingly (for more than the first few days) is asking for trouble. Also, don't expect a child that has shown little or no responsibility in other areas to buckle down for the puppy.
Other things to consider are what will happen to the dog once the kids leave home to go to college or raise their own families and may not be in a position to care for the dog. With the dog having a life span of ten or more years this is something you need to think about even if your children are only six or seven years old. Also, what will happen to the puppy if after a few weeks or months or even a few years the child's interests in extra curricular activities keeps them away from home? Are the parents willing and able to care for the puppy or dog? And what happens if the puppy you purchase has a problem? An adult can reason that if a puppy has a problem they need to return it, but that can be heart breaking for a child. Not to mention that any number of children have worried themselves over whether their parents will "take them back" too if they get sick. If in writing this book we can stop one person from making a wrong decision then we have done our job.
Another important thing to consider when you bring a puppy into your home is that puppies chew and jump. Toys will get destroyed, as well as socks, shoes, hats, gloves or any item left within the puppy's reach. If you have small children, an exuberant puppy jumping up to kiss their faces could scare them silly. With either of these situations you could very easily find yourself in the position of having a child that dreads the sight of the dog. Plan ahead. Make sure the children know to pick up the toys when "Puppy" is around. Set up a "toy-free" area for your puppy to live in during the housebreaking period (which we believe to include learning not to chew). Make sure the puppy is confined to a small "child-free" area, unless it is supervised, until it learns how to behave around the children.
We, as breeders and parents, believe that it is the rare child that has the maturity and patience to completely assume the responsibility to properly train and care for a dog. But children can learn a great deal by helping to care for the family pet in a manner appropriate to their age. If the parents aren't both fully behind the decision and willing to help care for it, we won't sell them a puppy and they would be wise not to even consider buying one.
3) The puppy is a gift for my father/mother/friend/etc.
Before you buy someone a puppy, make sure that they really want it and are physically and financially able to care for it. Some people will daydream about getting a dog but when it gets down to it they aren't really ready. You would be doing a great disservice to everyone involved by not making sure they really want it. Because if they don't, you could be looking at another unwanted dog that will have to be euthanized at the pound while that same dog could have lived a happy and healthy life with a family that was really ready.
Please think about that decision before you buy. You don't want to add to the numbers of dogs ending up in the pound.
Special mention needs to be made regarding Christmas puppies. Let us assume, for the moment, that the puppy is to be a gift for the entire family and that the entire family has made the decision together. This is far enough removed from the usual idea of a gift as to be acceptable at just about any time of the year except Christmas. A puppy under the tree with a red bow around its neck may seem a fine image straight from Norman Rockwell but the reality is far different.
The puppy will be taken from the comfort and the familiarity of its litter and dropped into the chaos that is Christmas Eve. The puppy will be competing for attention with the newest and fanciest toys that the stores have to offer. The children will be flitting from toy to toy to puppy to toy. When the children are playing with their toys the puppy has no "off" switch. When the puppy's batteries run down it must be left alone to recharge.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is little better. There are parties to host and to attend, friends visiting and long trips to see relatives, all of which makes for a difficult transition to your home.
For an eight week old puppy, the transition from being part of a litter to being a member of your family comes right in the middle of one of their critical developmental stages. Many specialists in canine development call the period between eight and ten weeks the fear period because negative events can have a lasting impression. This is, however, also an ideal stage for the puppy to bond with its new family. You don't need to coddle the puppy but every thing that can be done to ease the transition should be done. So the idea of bringing a puppy into a new home in the midst of the holiday uproar goes against the best interests of the puppy's emotional development.
A far better idea is to arrange with the breeder to put a photograph of the puppy under the tree. The entire family can then go and pick out the bowls, collar, leash, crate, etc. The family can also prepare the home to receive its newest member. Then, after New Year's, after the toys are all broken and the parties a hazy memory, bring in the puppy.
Am I Ready Financially?
Most people are primarily concerned about the purchase price of the puppy. And while for some breeds or from some breeders this could be a formidable obstruction, with most puppies you should be more concerned about the cost of supplies and follow-up care. If you take the time to locate a responsible, caring breeder, you could also easily save your self considerable money and heartbreak in the long run over a "bargain" puppy from a puppy mill.
When you call breeders, ask what the average price for a good quality pet puppy of their breed is. Several words of warning here: the first question out of your mouth should not be how much a breeder charges for their puppies. For us at least, this question sends up all sorts of red flags as to the person's motives and reasons for buying the puppy. Secondly, beware of "breeders" that sell their puppies, especially the older ones (over 10 or 11 weeks ), or even young puppies unsold after the holidays, for ridiculously low prices compared to the normal for that area. These people's motives may be more financial, than really in the best interests of the puppy. It may be far easier for them to sell a puppy at a low price than have to feed and care for it until a good home comes along. This doesn't mean there aren't some responsible breeders who breed occasionally and don't charge a large fee, but you need to be cautious. Finally, if after exhausting your options for "responsible breeders," you find that you simply can't afford a puppy you might want to consider adopting or rescuing an older dog. Most breed clubs offer some sort of "Rescue" programs where the fee is usually nominal and mostly goes to cover the cost of spaying or neutering.
In addition to the purchase price you should expect the following expenses:
Routine puppy shots -
DHLPP - At 8,12 &16 weeks. Parvo booster at 6 months
Rabies shot - Between 4 and 6 months
Lyme shots - Optional
Other routine puppy bills
Fecal exam for worms,
medication as necessary.
Annual exams which should include all of the following:
Rabies and Lymes boosters as needed.
Also remember that as our canine friends get older, they, like we humans, will need more visits to the doctor.
Check in your area for routine costs.
This will vary depending on the breed, size, and activity level of the dog. Ask the breeder what brand they use and how much it costs them to feed an average adult of their breed.
Equipment - Crate (cage), bowls, leashes (preferably leather), collars, combs, brushes, nail clippers, scissors, chew toys.
Licenses - Check with your local town hall for costs in your area.
Replacement cost of chewed and soiled items if not using a crate.
Boarding fees if you like to take vacations which you can't bring the dog on. Again, these vary on the area in which you live and the size of the dog. Check in your area.
If you live in an apartment or condo, you may need to provide an additional security deposit in order to keep your pet.
Am I Ready Physically?
Do you rent? If you do, check your lease or with your landlord to see if pets are allowed and for any size restrictions. Don't buy the puppy or dog first and hope they don't find out or will change their minds because he's so cute. Please note that there is legislation pending to allow elderly people to keep pets in federally-funded housing.
If you live in a condo or in some housing developments, there may be some restrictions as to whether or not you can have a dog and, if you can have them, as to the size. Look into these things first. You do not want to be put in the position of having to choose between your dog and your home.
You should plan on some sort of secure area for your puppy to stay when it is outdoors unless it is on leash. We prefer fully fenced yards, especially when there are young children (that tend to forget to close doors). If you can't fence your entire yard a fenced pen can work well.
Am I physically able to meet my puppy's needs for feeding, walking, and companionship?
Puppies, especially very young ones, need to be fed and walked frequently. Is there someone to take care of this? If not, expect housebreaking to be a long, drawn-out process.
Dogs need a certain amount of daily company. Do you work long hours and then spend the evenings out partying? If so, you would be best off with a cat rather than a dog.
Does anyone in the family have allergies or problems with mobility that would limit their ability to keep or care for a puppy? If you or someone in your family has allergies, a dog isn't out of the question but your options are considerably more limited. If someone in your home has physical limitations, you will need to be very careful about choosing a breed where the adult dog will be able to adapt to their needs.
A responsible breeder is going to ask you about your lifestyle and the physical arrangements for the care of the puppy. It's to your advantage to have thought of these things before you talk to the breeders.
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