Responsible Pet Ownership. The First 5 Steps of Getting a Dog.

Rottweiler at Dog Show in Dixon, CAThinking of getting a new dog? Our household just brought home a new puppy, a 10-week old Portuguese Water Dog named Cupcake. We already have a 10-year old Yorkshire Terrier so this isn’t our first time going out to find a dog that fits in our home. It is the first time we have done it together as a married couple and with children to think about so it was a whole new adventure. More on our puppy in a later post. For now we want to share the five steps to starting to look for a new dog.

The AKC has a list of steps to take before getting a new dog. We are going to outline the first 5 today and talk about how we went about each step. Above all else we recommend attending a dog show as soon as you start thinking about bringing in a new pet. Dog shows are the perfect venue to get ideas about what breeds might fit your home best and there is a perfect networking opportunity to speak to breeders. Breeders can give valuable insight about the breed of dog you are considering and you can start to narrow down which breeder is the best fit for you. Asking lots of questions is important.

Recognize the Commitment

Dog ownership is not something to be entered into lightly. Owning a dog is a long-term emotional and financial commitment. Before deciding that a certain dog is right for you, you must make an honest assessment as to whether your home is right for any dog.

We set about making the deicision on a new dog slowly. We started by having lots of talks with our tots about what dog ownership included. We had our kindergartener start to do the daily dog feedings and monitoring the water dish for the dog we arleady had. We read books about bringing a new dog home and about different breeds of dogs.

Evaluate Your Lifestyle

If you get a dog, he (or she) will become a part of your life. You need to make sure that he’s suited for your lifestyle. For example, if you are athletic, you will probably not be happy with a dog that has a low energy level. If you are extremely neat, you will probably want a dog that doesn’t shed much. All aspects of your family’s life – hobbies, activities, personalities, schedules – should be evaluated before you get a dog.

Once we realized our children were old enough to take on some of the responsibility of dog ownership and respect the dog as part of our household, we started to evaluate what we needed to look for. This included environmental needs and how the dog would fit with our lifestyle.

Make a List

Based on your evaluation, determine what qualities you want in a dog. Consider size, energy level, grooming needs, trainability and temperament. Do you want a guard dog or a lap dog? Is it important that your dog get along with children? If you rent your home, are there restrictions on height, weight or breed? Answer these questions now – once you bring a dog home, it can be heartbreaking to realize that you made the wrong choice.

The list making process was the most informative for us. By creating a list over time we really considered all of the aspects of the breed that we needed. Since some members of our household have allergies we had to get a purebred dog to ensure certain traits. If this was not part of the equation we would have definitely rescued a shelter dog. Here is our list of requirements for our new dog.

  1. A dog with a low/no allergy coat.
  2. A dog that is gentle with children.
  3. A dog with a high-energy personality that can keep up with our whirlwind lifestyle.
  4. A water dog that wants to go swimming with us during the wretched summer months.
  5. A smart dog that can learn commands and obey the basic rules that we would like to enforce.

Choose a Breed

Once you have made your list of ideal characteristics, do some research to find which breeds fit that profile. Go to your local library, attend a dog show, and visit the AKC website. Narrow your choices to the breed that seems right for you.

The AKC is the resource we started off researching. Their website is informative and easy to navigate and includes a breed selector that makes it easy to find a dog that fits basic needs and requirements. When we used the breed selector there was really only one breed that fit all the requirements for us. We also have the AKC book, The New Complete Dog Book that is a fun resource to look at with children to get ideas on size and breed. We attended dog shows to see the dogs up close and decide if the breed we liked was the best choice.

Get a Referral

You have a much better chance of being satisfied if you get your dog from a responsible, ethical breeder whose primary concern is to produce dogs of high quality, good health and stable temperament. The AKC has a Breeder Referral contact for each recognized breed. These individuals can put you in contact with breeders or rescue organizations in your area.

We found our breeder from the AKC website. By emailing different breeders we got more feedback and ideas of exactly the type of breeder and dog we needed. We found our breeder that happened to be located close to our home and that made the decision easier! We visited their home and met their dogs. While we were there we got lots of questions answered and got more of the whole picture of what the breed we chose was really like. We got to see the dogs’ environment and how they were being treated. This was important to us and we knew we found the breeders for our new dog.

Want to plan a trip to a dog show? There are AKC registered events in almost every state and on virtually every weekend throughout the year. Dog Shows sometimes feature events like agility, field events, obedience and other features. Make sure you attend the right even for what you are looking for. The all breed dog shows are best to see a wide-range of dogs. To search for events close to you the AKC event schedule is the easiest tool. Here are pictures of our recent trip to the Sacramento Dog Fanciers Association Annual All Breeds Dog Show in Dixon, CA.

Dog Show in Dixon, CADog Show in Dixon, CADog Show in Dixon, CADog at a Dog Show in Dixon, CARottweiler at Dog Show in Dixon, CA

Follow us on the other steps to dog ownership as we continue this series next week.