WHERE DO I GET MY FOUR LEGGED FRIEND FROM
In this section I will not look at the actual selection of a puppy or adult dog as I will cover this later in more detail.
I suppose that the first thing to look at here is where do you find out about the sale of a dog or puppy. Ideally you would like a recommendation and to hear about it from a reliable source like a relative, friend, friend of a friend etc. You would like to hear that the breeder or owner was genuine, and if a professional breeder, that they had a track record of producing fit, healthy and sociable pups. Many people will go to their local free ads paper in the first instance and there will no doubt be a huge selection of dogs and puppies for sale. If this is the way you go then there are many things you should be asking of the seller (before taking a look). There are also rescue centres to consider, where in deed many lovely dogs await; I will talk about these later.
Without a doubt the environment that a puppy or dog is brought up in hugely effects the sort of dog you will end up with. If a puppy does not start of life in a neutering, safe, environment with exposure to some sorts of novel stimulus (not scary) in the company of their litter mates and mother (and ideally father though rare), then you or they may well have problems with some behaviour from day one. Also if mum or dad is outwardly very aggressive towards you, or hyper nervous, then walk away (there are hereditary genes for such behaviour).
A good breeder/owner should provide all of the above things, and in my opinion the best place to get a pup from is a private home. This can include a professional breeder who uses his home, a home with all the usual sounds and everyday life going on (TRY TO ASCERTAIN THAT THEY ARE ACTUALLY USING THE HOME AND NOT BRINGING PUPS IN FROM A PUPPY FARM FOR YOU TO LOOK AT). You are most probably acquiring your dog as a pet to live in your house among your family so it makes sense that you acquire your dog from the same sort of place as he or she will already be used to some of the everyday things that they are going to come across in their path through life with you.
I only recently spoke to the new owners of a collie/labrador puppy, acquired from a farm, he was kept with litter mates and mum which was good but after just two weeks the new owners were having real problems with his nervousness, constantly running away and hiding and nipping quite hard when put under pressure, now collies do have a genetic predisposition to nervousness but the home he came from had a lot to do with bringing out and expressing this gene, although kept with litter mates and mum he had no experience of any novel day to day things and all household noises were freaking him out. The new owners said that they thought as he came from a farm surrounded my chickens he would be used to noises and be fine, but really the truth is that he was used to or habitualised to the sounds of chickens and pretty much nothing else.
Here I am not saying definitely don’t get a pup from a farm just be a lot more wary, ask if the mum or dad are working dogs, if they are then the chances are that their offspring will be harder to keep as purely household pets because of their genetic heritage, not impossible but they would probably require more than average mental stimulation as well as other dogs requirements for that dog and breed, you would need to be an experienced dog person. If the farm lets the pups in the farmhouse and they have experienced household noises and general day to day runnings then things are looking up a bit.
When you think about it, the above seems quite obvious yet owners still buy pups from such and worse places. The worst I have seen is pups taken from owners and breeders where they have been crated from early times, separated from littermates and only introduced to mum for feeding (or not at all), they have had no or very little mental stimulation, no exposure to any novel things, no learning what is right or wrong from mum, no learning of bite inhibition from littermates, the list goes on. If you acquire such a pup without a sound knowledge of dogs you will have problems from day one that might become worse as the dog gets older.
If you are an experienced and knowledgeable dog owner then you could look towards rescue centres. Most dogs to be found in rescue centres are generally juvenile or adult dogs, not many puppies turn up. I have done a lot of volunteer work for one of my larger very busy local rescue centres, and like most rescue centres they do a fantastic job, giving many worthy dogs a second chance to have that special bond with us. Some rescue dogs may have issues of one sort or another, many have heartbreaking stories to tell, yet still seek our company (SEE MY /rescue-dogs TOPIC).
If you were to take a rescue dog on while having little or no canine experience yourself it could be done but you would have to find the right dog for you and your lifestyle, seek sound advice and help from good sources. Any good rescue centre should give you help and advice before and after rehoming a dog from them. If you do like the look of a certain rescue dog then take the time to have a few visits, take the dog out for a few walks and see what they are like around other dogs and people, the rescue centre should fill you in on what they do know about the dog and what issues they may have, whether they are good with kids, cats, other dogs etc. Often the full history of a dog in a rescue centre is not known, a good rescue centre will take plenty of time to evaluate such dogs before putting them up for re-homing (see the /rescue-dogs topic for much more on this). There are many lovely dogs in rescue centres with much to give, just looking for a loving forever home.
Nearly all rescue centres will spey or neuter a dog before putting up for rehoming (something I don't agree with), and some rescue dogs ( not all ) will not be good to have around young children or other animals, cats and dogs, but if you have none of these then it should not be an issue and there could well be a lovely dog waiting in a rescue centre for you. In my dealings with dogs in rescue centres there have been few that would not have made a lovely pet for the right owner, again I must emphasise the right dog for the right owner with a compatible home and lifestyle for that particular dog, and that the path to pet bliss may not be so easy as others but will be just as rewarding, in some ways more so as you will be giving a rescue dog a good home which is personally fulfilling.
Another avenue to a new four legged friend is from a professional dog breeder, and this can be fine as long as the breeder is reputable, honest and open with you. Hopefully they come recommended by someone you know and have a history of supplying sound healthy dogs of good temperament (find out, ask about previous litters and talking to previous owners who bought from them). Again here the environment that the pups are brought up in is important, any pups want to have been part of the breeders family for these precious first weeks with the litter kept together with mum at least, you want to see where the pups sleep, spend their days, and the types of environments that they have experienced, the more varied things have been (not scary) the better. Expect a good dog breeder/owner to ask you questions too, so they can be sure their pups are going to a good home.
Steer away from pups that have been isolated from littermates or mum, have been kept crated in barren environments or where conditions just don’t seem very good to you for all these things may well have detrimental effects, I know that it is hard to leave an adorable pup in a seemingly bad environment but you would be adding to the terrible puppy farm trade. If you do unwittingly end up taking on a puppy farm pup then seek sound help and advice when needed, get a vet check ASP, just be aware of the possible problems (see my /picking-the-right-puppy-for-me and /picking-the-right-adult-dog-for-me topics).
The puppy farm should be avoided at all costs; a place where the breeders only motivation is money, the pups are often kept crated in small crates/kennels, separated from littermates and mum, no novel stimulus to stimulate them, often feed on the cheapest of food leading to pups that are under nourished or already suffering from digestive/stomach complaint, dehydration, and sometimes much worse. Often puppies from these places will die in the first few days if the new owner is not aware. The less said about these sort of places the better, if you give these sort of places a wide berth then hopefully they might dwindle away.
I have come across some owners who have literally picked up a pup or adult dog from someone in a lay-by off the motorway after answering an ad in the free paper. One that readily comes to mind was a couple who wanted a dog to go with the old male one they already had. They met a guy near the border of Wales in a lay-by and took the three year old female home with a “be careful around sheep” from the guys window as he drove off. When they got home the new dog immediately put the older male dog in its place and started marking like mad by cocking her leg everywhere. Day two the new dog managed to escape from the not too well secured garden, ran into the local farmers field singled out a sheep from the flock, chased it down and killed it. This was witnessed by some local walkers. I was asked to have a look after this happened.
This type of behaviour is not a one off or first time, obviously this dog had done this many times before, and through learning had obviously become very adept at it. I won't go into any further details, but would just like to give it as an example ( albeit a very harsh one ) of what is possible if you don't think about it and get it completely wrong. Why take a dog from a stranger in a lay-by, the alarm bells should be ringing.
Hopefully all of the above will get you thinking about where you go for your new four legged friend and what you should be looking for from the existing owner, breeder, rescue centre and the importance of the environment they are in, with puppies I cannot emphasise this enough. You would also like the existing owners to be decent people that have given the pup or dog a good association with people, obviously with rescue centres this is often not the case apart from the dogs becoming used to kennel staff, and even more time and commitment may be required but the reward will be great.
JUST A QUICK ONE- please do not take a puppy from someone that after you have spoken to them just turns up at your door or wants to meet in a public place, you need to see the pups home environment, litter mates, mother and meet the owners. If you do go onto the internet looking for a pup then you still want to see all of the former. If pedigree pups you want all the relevant papers and screening certificates for that breeds prevalent possible problems (real ones). If mum and littermates are not present don't go have a look. I have personally seen owners who have become incredibly saddened by the death of a pup they have just taken on, sometimes the next day, because puppy farmers don't care, it's all about money. If people carry on taking pups like this, then the despicable trade will continue.
I would also like to say that all of the above and other advice on this site might seem unattainable in the real world but its not, take the time to find the right dog for you for it is a huge commitment but with great rewards.
GOOD LUCK IN YOUR SEARCH !
Why not take a look at my new book, a realistic novel about a wolf called Elmer, his family and their life. My hope is that you will learn much about wolves and mother nature, and come to understand why man first thought to domesticate these most amazing social animals to give us our best friend, the dog.