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Brining a puppy or a dog into your home is one of life’s most exciting and fulfilling experiences but there is some preparation work to be done in order for the transition to be made as smoothly and as successfully as possible. Owning a dog is a lifetime commitment and you will have to provide for the dog’s needs for the rest of his life. The dog will also need to be trained and socialized properly if he is to be a valued member of the family and society.

Here are a few important tips to help you make the right decisions when it comes to getting a dog:

1. Should I get a puppy or an adult dog?

Puppies make even the most hardened of hearts melt and we are naturally drawn to a puppy’s soulful eyes and endearing demeanor but there are many advantages to be gained by adopting an older dog that are commonly overlooked. Adopting an older dog may be a better option for some people, especially when it comes to first time dog owners.

Older dogs usually have more even temperaments than puppies and with an older dog you get what you see. An adorable puppy can grow into a menacing and difficult to manage adult but with a mature dog you know what you’re getting. Older dogs are less prone to many diseases puppies are susceptible to and many are already housetrained which will make your life much easier. An older dog may also be a better dog for a household with children as puppies can be very rambunctious.

As every dog has a unique personality the choice should be made on a particular dog and you should base your decision on getting the most suitable dog for your particular situation.

2. Where’s the best place to get a dog?

Not all dog breeders are honest so be careful before buying from a breeder. Make sure you do your research properly to avoid falling victim to an unscrupulous breeder, they are rare but they do exist. Insist on visiting the breeder’s facility and take a look around with a skeptical eye. Try to arrive earlier than your scheduled appointment to get a better impression of the place.

Take a good look at the cages the animals are kept in, if they’re dirty or the dogs seem unkempt, walk away. Trust your gut instinct, if you’re uncomfortable about the place, you’re under no obligation to do business there.

3. Which breed of dog should I get?

There are many breeds of dogs to choose from and you should try to narrow your choices down. If you like a certain breed you should research the breed extensively. As many purebred dogs suffer from genetic conditions and many breeds are predisposed to certain illnesses, the more you know about a breed, the better educated you’ll be when making your final decision. Knowing potential health problems in a breed before getting a dog can save you a lot of heartbreak further down the line.

Interview breeders about your chosen breed and research the breed on the internet. There is a lot of information online, make use of it. If you want to get a dog from a breed that is known for having certain genetic problems there are genetic tests that can be done on dogs to determine if they’re at risk of developing an illness.

4. When should I start looking for a trainer for my new dog?

Training your dog and socializing him is a vital part of dog ownership. A well trained dog is not only a joy to own but he will also make a good canine citizen, reducing your risks of a lawsuit stemming from any canine misbehavior.

You should research your options before bringing a dog home. There are special dog clubs and puppy kindergartens you can take your dog to for his training and you should look into these options to decide which is best for you and your future dog.

5. When should I choose a vet?

Don’t wait until you’re faced with an emergency to start looking for a vet. It is much better to choose a good vet before you need one. Ask family and friends for any word of mouth recommendations they can give you about a good vet they’ve used. Asking around extensively will put you in a good position to make an informed decision.

Try to find a quality vet close to where you live as this will make your life much easier in the case of an emergency. Communities can help provide you with independent research on the quality of vets in your area. Try to choose a vet who is open after hours and is on call during the night (emergencies tend to happen at the most inopportune times!).

6. Should I enlist my new puppy in a training class?

If you adopt a puppy, you should try to enroll him in a puppy training class as soon as you can. This will allow the puppy to become properly socialized to other dogs and humans. Another advantage to doing so is that puppies learn faster than older dogs so delaying your dog’s training isn’t a good idea. But that being said, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, it may just take a little longer.

Puppy training classes can help you learn a lot more about your new pup as well as teach him how to behave among other dogs and people. He will learn to deal with new situations in a self confident and courageous manner as well.

7. Should I seek out advice from other dog owners?

Brining a dog into your home can be a daunting experience if you’re a novice dog owner but sharing stories and experiences with other, more experienced dog owners can teach you a lot. You should try to seek out the advice of experienced dog owners to learn more about how to care for your new dog.

8. Puppyhood, what does it entail?

Playtime is vital for puppies; they learn how to interact with their environment through play. They also learn important canine social skills through playing and you should devote some daily time to play with your pup.

Buy your puppy toys to keep him entertained and to provide him with an acceptable outlet to chew – pups teeth and need something to chew on. Buy toys that are suitable for your puppy, cheap, fragile toys can get swallowed and cause serious health problems so choose only good quality and safe toys for your dog, just as you would for a child. If your dog’s toys become damaged or worn make sure you replace them.

9. What should I feed my dog?

There are so many different diets and brands of dog food to choose from that the task of choosing what to feed your dog can be a daunting one. Cheap and inferior supermarket brands usually don’t provide the proper nutrition your dog needs so be careful to read the list of ingredients before deciding on brand for your dog. Ask other more experienced dog owners and breeders for advice on what to feed your dog.

Don’t overfeed your dog as an obese dog isn’t a healthy one. Make sure you monitor your dog’s weight to detect any sudden changes that could be an indication that there is something wrong with the dog.

10. Should I take my dog for veterinary checkups?

You should have your new dog thoroughly examined by your chosen vet within a few days of you brining him home. First of all this will help you determine the dog’s general health and secondly, this will help you establish a relationship with the vet.

Ask the vet any questions you may have about the breed of the dog, if the dog has any special needs or requirements and ask about any genetic tests the vet may recommend. You should maintain a regular vaccination program for your dog and have the dog checked regularly to detect any health problems early on before they cause serious health issues. Early detection is vital in the successful treatment of many dog diseases.