What to look for and what to look out for in buying a dog
In buying a young puppy, it's impossible to predict with any accuracy, or even with a crystal ball, what kind of looking dog he's going to be when he grows up. His mother and father may have been championship beauties and grandma and grandpa knockouts, but it might just be your luck to have your puppy take after his old Uncle Rover, his mother's brother, who was never considered much in the way of looks. Such minor disappointments occur every now and then and it's nobody's fault but Nature's.
However, when you've raised a dog from puppyhood, I don't think it's going to make any difference whatever to you if it turns out that his ears are a trifle short or his hind legs a little long or whether he sprouts a fashionable crop of feathers or not. I doubt if the average dog owner would care even if his dog grew up to look like an anteater. If you want perfection, you'd better not gamble on a puppy. Buy a grown dog.
In buying a young puppy, it's likewise hard to tell what his health is going to be like. He may be constitutionally sturdy or delicate and only time and development will determine which. By close examination it is possible, however, to tell something about the dog's immediate health and his general condition at the time of purchase. There are several symptoms that even the amateur should be able to recognize and be on the lookout for.
First of all, insist on having the dog's temperature taken in your presence and look at the thermometer yourself. The normal temperature for a dog is from 101 to 102 degrees. In dogs, as in humans, this point varies slightly in different individuals. But anything over 102 should be regarded with suspicion. It may be excitement and it may be fever. If a puppy's eyes and nose are discharging a mucous matter, or if he has a cough, or if he has diarrhea, and if he is running a temperature, whether you are buying a dog from a pet shop, from a kennel, or from your own mother, don't let anybody tell you that the dog is suffering only from a slight cold.
He probably has distemper. If a dog is generally listless and dull-eyed, don't fall for him out of pity, and don't accept the explanation that he has been playing hard and is tired out. If the dog has patches on his coat, it may mean mange, ringworm, or eczema. If his legs are crooked and the joints quite enlarged he probably has rickets. Examine the inside of his ears. They should be pink and smooth and free from inflammation. Look at his teeth. They should be white and the gums pink and firm. Discolored teeth in a young dog mean, as a rule, that he has had some former sickness, notably distemper. Look at his abdomen.
If it's abnormally distended, it may merely indicate worms or improper feeding, or it may indicate some malformation. Watch out for hernias. They are small swellings, usually protruding from the navel. Also examine the skin of the abdomen and the insides of the legs for possible rash which may be eczema or skin distemper. Always test a dog for deafness. Congenital deafness is fairly common, and it can be detected at a very early age. Stand back of the dog and snap your finger, whistle, or make some kind of noise to attract his attention.
If you fail to get his attention after two or three efforts, the dog is probably deaf. It is not likely that he just doesn't care. Another thing. Almost all dealers will tell you nowadays that all of their dogs have been inoculated against distemper. This may or may not be true and there's no way of proving it, so the safest assumption to go on is that the dog has not been inoculated. Have him inoculated again. It won't hurt him.
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