Are you sure you are ready for a dog?
Most importantly, take a brutally honest look at yourself as a prospective home for a new dog. Do you really have the time to care for the dog properly? Dogs are pack animals and crave interaction with their human pack members. When deprived of this interaction, they can become destructive. The ideal home for a dog will allow the dog enough “inside” time to be a real member of the family.
Can you provide the dog a safe place to run and play? Chains or tie-outs do not allow the dog proper exercise and leave it vulnerable to attack by other dogs and children. Electronic fences may not work with some breeds and also fail to protect your dog from being attacked by neighbor dogs. Every dog deserves a good, sound fence around a sufficiently large area for that size of dog.
Can you really afford a dog? Some expenses, such as food and some medications are proportional to the size of the dog. Others, such as most veterinary care, will be dependent upon the health of the dog, making it less expensive in the long run to own a healthy dog. Moreover preventive veterinary care is less expensive over the life of the dog than treating the diseases and conditions caused by neglect. The cost of obedience lessons will likely pay dividends throughout the life of the dog.
Research Your Chosen Breed
Once you narrow your choice down to one or a few breeds, research the breed in depth. Meet as many dogs of this breed as you can. Words on a page describing the breed can only tell you so much. Interacting with members of the breed can tell you a lot more. Attend dog shows in your area to see dogs and meet breeders. If you go to an all-breed show, get there early, buy a catalog, and see what time the breed you are interested in will be showing. At least once a year, most breed clubs sponsor “specialties”, which are shows for only that breed of dog, and they attract more dogs of that breed than the all-breed shows. Specialties are an excellent place to see dogs and meet breeders. The American Kennel Club lists all upcoming AKC dog shows and performance events on its website.
When you find people who know the breed, ask questions. Find out about the typical personality of the breed. What are the common health problems of the breed? Even the most careful breeder will sometimes encounter health or temperament problems in their breeding program. Are the common health problems of that breed something you can live with? Breed clubs usually have a health committee that may be able to provide you with more health information about the breed’s special health concerns. You can locate the national breed club contact at the AKC’s website.
The AKC website also allows you to search for individuals who breed specific breeds of dogs. You can get a more complete list from the national breed club. Even if you are not ready to buy a dog, a good breeder will be glad to spend time talking with you about their breed so that you can make an informed decision about whether this is the right breed for you.
If all this hasn’t deterred you from getting a puppy, continue to Step 3.