How to Choose the Right Puppy
Think Through Long Term Relationship
Filling that nagging void in your life is something millions of people do around the world every day. Doing it with forethought is less likely and may end up with a bad ending for both the dog and the owner. Making a good decision up front can lead to a friendship that cannot be matched.
If you have a pulse, it is very hard to look at the face of a sweet little puppy and not want to pick them up or give them a big hug. I know there are people out there that don't like or are scared of dogs. I know there are people out there that hate cats. I'm not trying to moderate or even get into that argument. I just want to help those who have decided there is something missing in their day to day and might be considering a dog to fill that need.
I've had a dog around me since I was born. My parents had a German Shepherd for my older brother and sister and apparently they say it was a great dog. Later we had a Dalmation named Pete. He was around until I was about 8 and he was hit by a school bus. He had a bad habit of jumping the fence and running around the neighborhood. Pete was replaced by a puppy from a friend of ours, a chihuahuah-toy terrier mix named Pixie. Pixie lived forever and was one of my mother's favorites. Pixie would sleep in the small of your back and shake like an earthquake if a storm was coming. She was very protective - and about the size of a quart jar.
Mom and Dad went on to have a couple poodles, tea cup I believe, that filled that niche in their lives for many more years.
My wife and I adopted a dog from a pound not long after getting married. Yogi was a black lab for the most part, but grew to enormous size well over 100 pounds. He was smart, very protective, and very friendly. If he knew you, you had no enemies. If he didn't know you, you had a big potential enemy. We lived in a country setting with few neighbors along a lake at that time. Yogi had the run of the place and could go swimming or exploring just about all day while we were at work. When more people started moving into the neighborhood I sought and found a friend with a farm for him to move to. A couple of months later the farmer called to tell me Yogi had bred every female dog within 2 miles of the farm, he had been cow-kicked while chasing some cows and one more story. Apparently at night, the farmer would tie his little dog and Yogi up to an open garage. One night, a particularly cold night, the dogs started barking and just would not stop. The farmer, with a very bad cold, got up and went to the door to the garage, opened the door and yelled for them to shut up! This was just enough to make the skunk they were barking at to spray the farmer. The farmer didn't notice with his bad cold...but his wife sure did as he climbed back in bed with his wife. Sleeping with the windows open wasn't a plan with it so cold!
Since Yogi, we have had Golden Retrievers, Brittany and Boykin and King Charles Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, and a few "walk ups" that visited for a while before moving on. Some of our dogs were chosen for ability and some for just companionship. But making the decision for a puppy begins even before whether it will be for companionship, vocation, or a working dog.
Why you want a puppy is a personal decision. There is something special about that relationship, and if you grew up with a dog, you know that feeling. Having truly unconditional love from a friend like a dog can be has a lasting implant on anyone. But if you never had a dog, or a pet for that matter, deciding to get a puppy should take some thought.
Puppies do things that puppies do. They chew on everything, literally everything. They poop and pee a lot. Keep in mind, they are just puppies at this time. When they get bigger, they have bigger poop too. It can be a lot bigger. Gross to talk about, but critical for you to understand and keep in mind. Those land mines can mess up a backyard game of badminton or flag football in one false step.
Companionship doesn't require a large breed but may. Companion dogs generally live indoors. If one is going to keep their dog inside, think of things like dander, hair being shed, need for handling poop and urine, odors, exercise and safety.
Dogs Have Purpose
We had a beautiful Brittany Spaniel. Clementine was as most spaniels, full of energy. We moved from Georgia to a neighborhood setting in North Carolina. In doing so, Clementine's activity level had to be reduced. We had a small fenced area for her during most of the day, then I would walk her across to a big open field in the afternoons to let her run to her hearts content - and her heart took a lot of running to be content. She could point or flush quail in that field and just enjoy running and sniffing. Our neighbors had cats that were allowed to run freely. Trying to be a good neighbor, I noticed they would bring in their cats at night, usually by 9:30 or so then all their lights would go out. I would then go to the back yard and let Clementine out and off she would run - to the end of the block and back two or three times fast as a bullet.
One night, I looked at the clock and saw it was 10:00 so I got up and noticed all the lights were off next door. Assuming they were, as usual, asleep, I let Clementine out. Just as I settled back into my easy chair, I could see headlights pulling into the driveway next door. I raced to the door to watch Clementine chase one of their huge cats into the neighbors garage. The neighbor woman picked up Clementine meeting me as I was running across her front yard. She was screaming, "....get your &^%^&** Viscous Killer Hunting Dog away from my precious cat!" I did, pointing out to her she was holding my viscous dog in her arms inches from her face. Clementine moved soon after to a farm near Dublin, Georgia to live out her days there. Unfortunately that may have been too fast a move on my part as the over-reactive woman next door moved about two weeks later back to Pennsylvania.
My point being that just because a breed is known to be a sporting/hunting breed doesn't make them any more of a "killer" breed all on their own. Oh there is a lot of instinct by breed, and ability, by breed. But all sporting breeds are not aggressive.
I have seen my share of sporting dogs. I was a rep for Ralston Purina for about 15 years and had an outdoors television show where we included duck, quail and other hunting using dogs in the show. I've talked to dog people about their hunting dogs for decades. Choosing one for your needs becomes very much a personal preference, but choosing one and trying to get it to do something it isn't intended for can be a mistake for both you and the dog.
Bred for the Job
There are pointers that retrieve. There are retrievers that point. There are water dogs that are also good flushing dogs. Few breeds can do it all well. Many breeds are very good at what they do well, but are not sociable, either to other dogs or people - particularly children. Keeping all of this in mind, along with the need for exercise, space, handling their biological duty, and ways to feed and water them. Size is an issue as well with some little spaniels doing a lot of work and not needing nearly the space as larger breed pointers or coon hounds.
What do you want your dog to do? If your idea of the right dog is based off of how it looks more than what it does, you may be in for a problem. What makes good energetic, strong hunting stock may not fit to being a model citizen in a small apartment or neighborhood.
If you want a pointer because you intend to hunt birds that hold to flush - like quail, grouse or maybe prairie chickens, then there is a list of great breeds to consider. German Shorthair pointers, English, Gordon and Irish Setters, are all known good breeds for pointers. No, this isn't a complete list - it goes on and on, but these are very common and ideal for pointing breeds.
If you want a retriever, does it need to retrieve on land, water or preferably both? Some breeds are less water worthy, but some are just perfect due to their coat and web toes to be great swimmers and stay warm even in very cold water. Color is often a personal preference, as in Labrador Retrievers, as the quality question is not related to their color phase - black, yellow, white, chocolate or silver. Labs are also good flushing and even can be schooled as pointing dogs.
Size being a concern, and all around good buddy being a part of the description, smaller parent stock should lead to smaller offspring so getting a smaller lab can fit that bill and they are, generally speaking, pretty good around children and other pets.
If all around is important but you don't want a lab and you have plenty of opportunities for exercise, consider a spaniel breed. Hunting Cocker, Brittany or my favorite the Boykin Spaniel are all potentially good choices. Just be sure you are aware of potential bi-polar puppies in this group! Going from sweet as chocolate to grouch in a snap.
It is Personal
Choosing the dog of your dreams is something to be considered very personal. Don't chose the puppy or dog based on someone else's needs. You are the one that is going to feed this animal, take it to the vet, pay those bills, find a place to sleep and put up with its chewing and destroying everything. If you don't love this puppy don't bring it home.
There is a temperment test available and I suggest you consider this prior to choosing your dog. The link was suggested by another hubber below, click here as well. The information is not just for rat terriers.
Make sure you have given a lot of thought to this new relationship. Breaking it off isn't good for the dog for sure, and you too may feel some anxiety as well. But if you do commit to bringing this young pup into your life - make it special all around. Give them the time and attention they deserve and it will be paid back to you 10 fold. Unconditional love and someone to share your most inner feelings with - and won't ever rat you out!
Occasionally a great female is bred to a top notch male which should lead to a very high quality pup. Ok, wait, look around, genetics happens - in people too. Two brilliant people marry, have 3 kids - not all 3 are brilliant and don't blame the milk-man, well maybe anyway. So goes it with pups, two high quality animals bred with the express purpose to have a very good chance genetically of high potential puppies. Bloodlines do help - and if the breeding is done very carefully not left to random attempts and open gates, the "milk-man" won't have his opportunity too, so to speak, and all the pups should be of good stock. Take your time in evaluating them when you go to pick one up. Make the right choice then take great care of the pup.