Choosing A Puppy

Choosing A Puppy

4 puppies in a row

Choosing a puppy isn’t as easy as you’d think

There are many things to consider when choosing a puppy, including breed and at what age the pup is when you buy it.  Obviously, you want to choose a dog that is best suited to you and your lifestyle but how many of us actually consider all the ramifications of puppy/dog ownership?  For instance, a puppy isn’t a puppy for very long and is going to be around for the next 14 years or so with all the associated financial costs i.e. insurance, food, vets bill’s, toys, kennelling when you go on holiday etc, etc not to mention the considerable cost on your time.

As puppy and owner educational specialists, we are at hand to advise you on your puppy choice, what the puppy needs from day one and what to expect.  We are also on hand to help you through those first few weeks.  Some things to consider:

The “Perfect” Breed

Do not for one moment think that all you have to do is select the “perfect” breed and the “perfect” individual puppy and he will automatically grow up into the “perfect” adult dog.  Any puppy can become a fantastic companion if socialized and trained properly.  Likewise, no matter what his breed or breeding, any puppy can become a doggy delinquent if not properly socialized and trained.  You need to make an intelligent, researched choice when selecting your puppy but remember: appropriate socialisation and training is the single biggest factor determining how closely the dog will approach your view of perfection in adulthood.

Seek Advice

Cute white puppy

Before choosing a puppy seek advice from a knowledgeable source

Seek advice from the best and most appropriate sources.  Common mistakes are to take breed advice from vets, health advice from breeders, and all-important behaviour and training advice from vets, breeders, and pet-shop personnel.  The best plan is to seek training and behaviour advice from trainers and behaviour professionals, health advice from vets, breed advice from breeders and product advice from pet-store personnel.  But if you really want to know what’s going on, check out a local puppy class and chat with the owners; they’ll give you the cold, hard facts regarding what it’s really like to live with a puppy.

Common Sense Principle

Seek advice from several sources and evaluate all advice carefully. Apply the common sense principle: does it make sense to you?  Is the advice relevant to your family and your lifestyle?  Whereas most advice is sound, some can be irrelevant, hypocritical, preachy or questionable and occasionally, “advice” can be just downright bad.
For example, many people are advised not to get a large dog if they live in a small house or flat.  On the contrary.  As long as the dog receives regular daily walks, large dogs often make better small house or flat companions.  Compared with smaller dogs, large dogs tend to settle down quicker and bark less.  Many little dogs exasperate owners and neighbours by being active and noisy, running amuck and treating your furniture like an agility course.  Don’t get me wrong, smaller dogs can make wonderful small house/flat companions just so long as they are trained to settle down and be ‘quiet’.

Also, many vets advise that Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are the best dogs with children.  All breeds of dog however can make good companions for children provided that they have been trained how to act around children and provided that the children have been taught how to act around dogs.  Otherwise, all dogs, including Golden’s and Labs are likely to be frightened and irritated by children or excited and incited by their antics.

3 Italian puppies

Decisions, decisions…………

Please, please, please stay away from puppy farms, backyard breeders and pet shops.  These puppy’s are bred in the most miserable conditions and far too often, have behavioural and health issue’s that will ultimately cost you money and heartache.  . Backyard and kennel-raised puppies are certainly not pet-quality dogs; they are viewed by the breeder as livestock on a par with veal calves and battery hens. Look for litters born and raised indoors in a kitchen or living room and who have been handled regularly by both children and adults.

Remember, you are selecting a puppy to live with you for a good long time.  Choosing a puppy to share your life is a very personal choice, your choice.  You will save yourself a lot of unnecessary problems and heartbreak if your choice is an informed and educated one.
In reality though, people seldom pay heed to well-meaning advice and usually end up choosing with their hearts instead of their heads.  Indeed, many people end up choosing a dog along the same lines as they might choose a car based on colour, looks and street cred or what’s currently in vogue.  Regardless though of the many reasons for selecting a particular puppy whether it is a pedigree, cuteness or general health, how your puppy turns out depends almost entirely on the pup’s education regarding appropriate behaviour and training.

Just one more thing, all dogs in rescue were once someone’s puppy.

Recent Posts

Predatory Aggression In Dogs

Predatory aggression in dogsThe number of attacks made by dogs on humans and other pets is sadly on the increase.  Whether this is down to the owners lack of knowledge, lack of proper training, poor socialisation or bad breeding, there is one possible cause that appears to be over looked.  That of predatory aggression.

What Is Predatory Aggression?

It can be difficult at times as your dog snuggles up to you, looking at you with big, round brown eyes or bounds around you in a goofy way begging for attention that at one point in his/her development, your pet is descended from hunters.   

Every dog has some level of prey drive (the motivation to chase, catch and kill small furry or feathered creatures) because hunting and killing was a way of life for their ancestors and their only means for survival.  This is hard-wired behaviour that is still present in our dogs today.  It is important to remember that predatory aggression by dogs does not reflect a psychological problem and neither is the dog being vicious, malicious or vindictive.

Predation is a natural survival-related behaviour even though it may sometimes alarm or disgust us.  The entire predatory sequence displayed by all predators involves searching, stalking, chasing, catching, biting, killing and then eating.

The problem we have as dog owners is that predatory behaviour is not preceded by a significant mood change or threatening gestures.  This absence of warning signals plus the fact that killing is the natural end point for predatory behaviour is what makes it dangerous for target animals, children, cyclists, joggers or anything else that moves quickly.

In domesticating dogs, certain parts of this see-chase-grab-kill sequence has been diluted but never fully eliminated.  For example, the herding breeds are very strong chasers, but do not go for the bite-hold-kill as readily as other breeds. Terriers, on the other hand, will readily grab-bite and kill.  How many of you have seen your dog grab a toy then shake it’s head rapidly from side to side?  That innocent and sometimes comical act is in reality, the final phase of the predatory sequence, the kill.    

So despite domestication, dogs still have an instinctive desire to chase, grab, bite and kill things that look like prey.  Incidentally, this is why so many dogs like to chase a ball or play with tug toys etc.  In the case of the domesticated dog, predation is instinctive and not based on hunger as is the case in wild predators. 

The level of predatory drive depends on the individual dog and what it has been bred for.  Movement always starts the sequence and allowing a dog to chase down small animals or toys will strengthen that prey drive.  Predatory behaviour may be exhibited by dogs of any sex and age and dogs showing intent or becoming agitated by the movement or vocalisations of children or other pets need to be closely monitored.

There are some people who do not regard predatory aggression as a proper form of aggression given there is little mood change and because a dog that chases after, catches and kills a rabbit shows none of the affective signs associated with dominance or fear aggression.  As far as the dog is concerned, it is just business as usual. However, when viewed another way, it seems reasonable to me to classify predatory aggression along with other forms of aggression as it results in damage or destruction of another creature.

So, what constitutes prey?

You may have seen during springtime for instance, dogs or cats killing birds and upsetting wild rabbit nests.  Our response, should we witness this sort of behaviour often ranges from being horrified to dismissing the action as the animals natural instinct.  We rarely see it as a problem.  However, it does become a problem when this predatory drive is directed towards running children, cyclists, traffic or small dogs and cats.  For us these targets are not prey, but to the dog they move like prey, sound like prey, and look like prey, hence the danger.

The results of such cases of mistaken identity can range from annoying to painful and even life-threatening.  A dog exhibiting the predatory mode may slink up on their prey and, when within range, launch an attack.  They then accelerate towards their target, either nipping at heels or biting at calves or thighs, perhaps hanging on in an attempt to drag their prey to the ground.  Sometimes other dogs will be drawn in to the attack displaying “group” aggression.  When the subject is a young child who is attempting to run away, the results can be disastrous.

What makes this type of aggression dangerous is it cannot be trained, medicated or counter conditioned out of the dog.  You may have a dog who previously chased cats, who can now be commanded to stay or sit around a cat but they will still chase a cat down at some point especially if you are not around.  This aggression can be shocking to the owners as it manifests so suddenly and is directed to what we do not see as prey.  For the dog however, instinct dictates otherwise.

Risks of Canine Predation

Realistically, there is no real treatment for predatory aggression and the only sure way to control predatory aggression is 100% avoidance of the situations that put humans and animals at risk.  The sudden high arousal level, a fixed focus on the prey subject and difficulty distracting the dog, are all indicators of a poor prognosis.  Dogs that are born with a high prey drive and have it fine-tuned by experience will always be likely to display this behaviour under certain circumstances.  Quite simply, they cannot help themselves.  This means if your dog chases cats, it cannot live with a cat.  If small dogs are the prey, your dog cannot be around any small dogs, especially when out on walks. 

As previously mentioned, this behaviour is neither malicious nor vindictive but simply biologically driven and natural  though unacceptable and downright dangerous when expressed toward humans. It therefore remains the responsibility of dog owners to recognise and appreciate tendencies in their dog and to take precautions such as keeping the dog on a lead etc.

It is your responsibility as a dog owner to recognise that if your dog only comes back to you when there are no distractions then your dog does not have a reliable recall and therefore should not be off the lead until one is taught.  It is not enough if your dog attacks another animal or child to say “he/she has never done that before” or “he/she only wanted to play”.

Reward-based obedience training will increase owner control, but will not prevent predatory behaviour when the owner’s back is turned or when the owner is absent.