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Nanaimo Veterinary Hospital

How to Choose a Puppy

February 4, 2014

Are you thinking of welcoming a new dog to your family? Here's some insight from Dr. Brett Hayward on what you should be thinking about and what to look for in a new canine pal.

The Usual Stuff

There are plenty of articles that go through the mental mechanics of finding a puppy that will grow to be the best match for you and your household. They talk about size, length of hair, ease of training, energy level, personality, and required daily care, such as grooming, exercise, nutrition and training. These are excellent aspects to consider.

The beauty of planning on a purebred dog is the predictability - you know what the pup will be like when he becomes mature: size, shape, color, and a little about the expected personality. There are specific diseases that affect some breeds more than others, and that could be good to know as well, but statistics don’t tell you what any one individual’s future will entail.

Crossbred dogs, also known as mongrels or mutts, can have increased genetic vigor, meaning they are less susceptible to diseases, both inherited and acquired, but of course, we do see diseases in them as well. When you look at a mongrel puppy, you really don’t know what he is going to turn out like since the genetics are often unknown.  Therein lies the best advice on getting a puppy: meet the pup’s parents whenever possible. This could be more important in the case of the mongrel, but you can learn lots about what the pup could be like by meeting its purebred parents as well - shy, hyperactive, aggressive, trainable, intelligent, etc. 

The Times They Are A-changing

The days of picking up a free puppy and then a bag of food on the way home are gone. Domestic pets are becoming increasingly integrated into humans’ lives and the standard of care that is expected to be delivered is going up too. There are people who were exposed to the dog on grandpa’s farm, and saw that the dog pretty well took care of himself and lived like wildlife. There are those of us who had pets as kids and can remember the standard of care then, too. Today, pets are becoming more respected as living beings than as toys or chattel, and having a dog is shifting from ownership to stewardship or complete care. This is undoubtedly a good thing for the pets, but it does come with a cost to us humans - we are expected to put out more energy, time, thought, and money to keep up with this standard of care.

This doesn’t mean that dogs need to be treated like humans, or pampered and spoiled like rich children. It means that, in this generation more than the last one (and much more than the one before that), the relationships between people and dogs has intensified, and that carries with it expectations of our social behavior. 

The Bottom Line

Dogs are leaving the realm of being like a car or golf clubs and entering the realm of friend, child or spouse, where the relationship is not so easily bought and sold. To this end, the key question isn’t what type of puppy to get, but does a dog fit into my life for the next 15-20 years? We need to consider the monetary expenses of food, equipment, training, housing and veterinary fees, the time expense, and the energy expense. Hopefully getting a puppy is a rich and rewarding experience for the long term, as most of us have found, but one of the considerations in choosing a puppy could be the timing - is now the best time?

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