You dreamt about it, you pondered it at length and you finally decided that the time has come to welcome a new bundle of joy into your life… the furry, fuzzy kind that is!
As exciting as it is, making the commitment to invite a canine companion into your home is a decision that should not be taken lightly. A true member of the family and a living, breathing creature, dependent on your love and care, should not be purchased online, sight unseen or from a pet shop in an impulsive moment of weakness. The process of buying a puppy should be a systematic and strategic choice based on care and thoughtfulness, catered to the canine’s specific needs. Whether you are purchasing a dog from a trusted breeder or adopting from a shelter, there are crucial considerations to keep in mind from start to finish. Here are a few cardinal rules…
PAQK Rule #1: Do your due diligence!
From dog shows to dog parks to other miscellaneous dog events, find and/or create opportunities to meet the breeds. You may be surprised which canine captivates you! Ask questions and learn about each breed’s exercise needs and their development history. Many dog breeds were developed over centuries ago, with specific jobs in mind, so many are genetically wired and built to fulfill these roles. It is inherently ingrained in them, from their physical build to their mental capacity, to carry out these tasks. Which brings me to my next rule…
PAQK Rule #2: Do your homework, study and learn about the breeds to find what canine group fits you and/or your family best (here’s a little bit of info from a veteran dog trainer to get you started)!
The group known as herding dogs, also known as guard dogs, are wonderful in regards to protecting both people and livestock. They are highly intelligent and extremely athletic. While this makes them incredible workers, it also typically causes them to chase small animals or children, biting at hands and nipping at heels. In addition, they are very vocal dogs and love to bark. As incredible of a breed as they are, these dogs do not necessarily make the best happy-go-lucky family pets, as they constantly need firm leadership as well as a ‘job’. All in all, if these demands are not enforced, then they become wonderful biters, often get very protective and aggressive (not to mention the incessant barking) and can ultimately become dangerous. Needless to say… not typically a great choice for a first time dog owner!
Sporting or field dog groups are bred to chase and find game, from nonstop retrieving to incessant searching. They are incredibly athletic, smart and very busy. They are wonderful dogs for very active individuals or families who also socialize their canine companions and provide them with endless environmental enrichment. These dogs will fail when confined to apartments, fenced in yards or live with nonactive or first time inexperienced owners. They need consistent leadership, exercise and mental stimulation. Without these things, they become award winning chewers, develop anxiety issues that stem from frustration and they can be extremely destructive when forced to live a sedentary, boring life.
Hounds were developed to pursue warm-blooded quarry. Sight hounds are sleek, athletic and use explosive speed and keen vision to chase prey. Scent hounds rely on their powerful noses to track and trail animals. Most members of the hound group will stop at nothing to pursue their game. What does this mean for a dog owner? Simply, what makes them amazing at persistently catching their quarry parallels a significantly challenging trainability factor. A hound’s main objective, inherently bred, is to chase by eyesight or attach their noses to the ground to track scent. They are genetically predisposed to react with these behaviors than listen to human leadership. They tend to be very independent dogs, making them a difficult family pet for most.
The working group, as labeled by the AKC, are the dog versions of the ‘punch-the-clock, blue collared worker’ and they include some of the most ancient breeds. Ancient meaning that their genetics are very strong and their nature ingrained in them deeply. These breeds were developed to assist humans in a working capacity, from pulling sleds and carts to guarding flocks to protecting homes or farms. They are known for their imposing stature, strength, alertness and intelligence. Just as the AKC group explains, they are a working dog! This means that if you fall in love with one of these breeds, then it is crucial that you ensure they are on the family payroll with a specific job(s) in mind. Oh, and by the way, obedience IS A JOB… so train them well!
Moving on to the terrible terriers… Just kidding, they are great little dogs! Feisty and fast, these dogs were bred to go underground in pursuit of rodents and other vermin… did you know that terrier actually means “burrow”? They are extremely energetic and known for their distinct personalities often described as ‘eager for a spirited argument’. These dogs can make great companion dogs, but their energy level, determination and stubbornness needs to be matched and surpassed by their owners. Again, all boiling down to proper and consistent training and leadership!
And let’s not forget the toy group of dogs… meaning small (‘toy size’) enough for apartments and human’s laps, making for a great, all-around companion dog. They are still active and intelligent, requiring training and exercise, but their smaller size can truly make them manageable for many owners and children. The downside to these pups is that they have strong protective instincts, so a life upon the sofa or their human’s laps can easily morph into aggression when they decide to also own those spaces as theirs. Like all dogs, regardless of their diminutive size, they still need adequate exercise along with plenty of rules and boundaries. Oh, and TRAINING!
After really learning about these dog groups, it becomes apparent that there are only a handful of dogs that were truly bred to be ‘companion’ dogs, and even those breeds still have many training and exercise requirements. If children go to school for nearly 17 years to become educated, socialized and proficient adults, then why shouldn’t your dog equally be held accountable for rules, structure and training as youngsters are, in order to mature into well-behaved adult dogs? (Rhetorical question, of course)! In dog years, the intense ‘schooling’ should be the first two years of life and then continuously maintained into adulthood thereafter.
PAQK Rule #3 – Meet your dog before committing to it for life!
Would you marry someone after seeing a few photos of that person on the internet? Or after the first date? The answer should be… NO! The same goes for dog ownership. After you settle on the breed or rescue that ‘sings’ to you, your lifestyle and your goals, the next step is to not only meet your dog, but get to know him or her!
If you are interested in a pure-bred dog, be sure to visit the AKC website and look for AKC approved breeders in your area. The next step would be to call the breeder and interview them as compassionately and intensely as they interview you. The breeders who are most investigative about you and your family are the ones who care about the best placement for their dogs. These breeders want to ensure a quality life for their dogs as well as the new families who are welcoming them into the home.
Also, read about the AKC CHIC (Canine Health Information Center) database, as each AKC breed now has specific CHIC health requirements. This means that the BEST breeders take the time and spend the money to carry out a variety of genetic health tests to ensure that they are breeding dogs to meet the physical and health standards of the breed. Simply, a true conscientious, responsible breeder breeds for consistency regarding HEALTH, TEMPERAMENT and TRAINABILITY. While you can expect to pay $1200 upwards of $4500 for a properly bred pure-bred dog, the old adage is true… you get what you pay for.
If you are convinced that a designer dog is your match, then there are a few things to keep in mind. Most of these dogs come from puppy mills, back yard breeders or ‘professional’ breeders. These dogs often lack consistency. An example of this would be Doodles, who range in size in the litters from toys to giants and no two look alike. They take breeds with extreme known genetic health issues (Poodles, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Golden Retrievers, etc.) and most neglect to do any health tests. Often, and unfortunately so, breeding is a business for them and they are not doing what is in best interest of the dog and/or the future individual or family that is searching for their new canine companion.
More often than not, we see these dogs with all kinds of skin, eye & intestinal issues, hip dysplasia and more. Had health testing been done, then these diseases could have been screened out. However, these breeders, which we refer to in the industry as puppy mills, sell very expensive, genetically disastrous and mentally unstable dogs. They breed for ‘weird’ colors like creams, brindles, merles, blues and silvers. As you breed for color specifically, you begin to see more skin problems, visual and auditory problems. While buying a unique dogs for an exorbitant price might seem enticing, the result is often a dog (and it’s owner) who will suffer from the mental and physical challenges that accompany its poor breeding.
If you decide you still want to pursue a designer dog regardless, then be sure to at least meet the breeder, visit their facilities, check for cleanliness and humane conditions, and most importantly meet the parents of your puppy! If you do not love and appreciate the characteristics of the parents, then do not buy that puppy. When a puppy is born into abuse, neglect, overcrowding and was not thoughtfully loved and handled by humans to receive imprinting from birth to 7 weeks, it is very difficult as a trainer to fix these ingrained behaviors.
If adopting a rescue is on your radar, please spend time with him or her and get to know the dog BEFORE committing to the pup permanently. Do not just meet a van on the side of the road filled with rescue dogs of unknown temperament, origin and health and expect this abused, neglected, scarred canine to magically become a safe, reliable family companion. This is much of the source today for unsuccessful dog adoptions. Unfortunately, most are unaware of what they’ll be dealing with once they get the dog home and all too often the pup is too much for the unsuspecting family.
Also be cognizant that this ‘rescue’ pup was most likely born into unstable conditions. The hormones from the mom fed the puppy’s body and these puppies may have had to fight for their lives. From starvation to a lack of proper medical care, they experienced neglect and had to fight to survive. These dogs take a lot of time, compassion, training and care. They are not always the best choices for first time owners, families with children, or other pets that could be hurt. However, anyone that can take a puppy or dog of unknown origin and provide a structured, nurturing, loving and disciplined home for a rescue and allow the dog to blossom with confidence, happiness and stability… is a HERO in my books!
There’s a lot to think about, but with the guidance of these three PAQK rules, let the exciting journey to find your canine companion begin. The team here at Quinebaug Kennels is here to help you and your family however we can, and look forward to being on this new adventure with you and your new dog for many years to come!