Is something missing in your life?

You look around and the house just feels empty. While walking in the park you notice that everyone throwing balls and holding leashes looks so content. Or maybe you’ve been thinking of starting a family and you want to take your parental skills for a test drive. You suddenly realize that every wagging tail has your undivided attention. It’s happening. You want a dog.

There. You’ve made the decision. Now what?

You will obviously start to look for your dream puppy. Puppies are so cute. Who doesn’t love a puppy? But puppies need training. And they don’t come housebroken. So maybe a slightly older dog? Or an adult who has the wisdom of life to draw upon and a lower need for constant activity? And do you want a purebred dog or a mixed breed? Do you want to research breeds and interview breeders to find the exact right fit for your family, or do you want to save the life of a dog in need? And what about the size? Bigger, more athletic dogs look like so much fun. But a lapdog would be so comforting when you are curled up on the couch watching TV. Do you want a dog who makes friends with everyone or one who provides a sense of protection? There are so many questions and so many details to take into consideration. Where do you begin?

Let us talk you through this.

Some folks are diehard Adopt-Don’t-Shoppers. We love these people and strongly encourage adoptions from local animal shelters or no-kill shelters. Clearly, the animals you will meet have a desperate need for a family. Shelter animals are often described as faithful and thankful. Oftentimes, personalities have already been vetted and immunizations and sterilizations come at a discounted price. There are so many positives of adopting a shelter dog that it would seem like a no-brainer.

Puppy or older dog?

While older dogs at the shelter typically have defined temperaments, you may decide that a younger dog or puppy is for you. A shelter puppy may be too much of a gamble since the full-grown size and temperament could be unknown. So you begin to consider a purebred dog. (If this is the path you choose to take, great, but we still strongly encourage you to support your local shelter financially or with your time.)

Once you set your path, you can get down to business.

Let's get started with some lifestyle questions to ask yourself:
  • Do you or anyone in your family have allergies?
  • How tolerant are you of shedding?
  • How much time do you want to dedicate to grooming?
  • What activities are you most looking forward to doing with your new pup?
  • Considering the above question, are you physically able to manage a larger dog?
  • Do you have a fenced-in yard or will you be taking your pup for daily leashed walks? Or maybe a grass pad with a tray for the balcony?

Add it all up

Now that you have narrowed the field a bit, you can start the hunt.   

If you have decided on adopting, we would suggest starting with the Petfinder app. It is like, but searches for your furry soulmate. This platform searches dogs in your area and allows you to filter attributes such as age, size, coat length, temperaments (good with children, other dogs, cats, etc.). 

We plugged in the attributes of a younger medium-sized dog who was good with other dogs. We did not specify coat length or color. The first candidate was a definite swipe right! (Just kidding…you don't actually have the swiping option.)

By keeping our filters fairly wide, we were matched with Leroy, this gorgeous hunk of a pup. If we had limited ourselves to only tan dogs, for example, we would have missed Leroy’s tuxedo-marked perfection. So, we would suggest keeping an open mind when setting filters and allow yourself to look at the pictures and read the bios of dogs that catch your eye. You never know which dog may end up being your dream date. 

If you have decided to go for a purebred dog, we strongly encourage you to visit breeders and ask a ton of questions. All dogs have their quirks, and a knowledgeable breeder will not hesitate to point out the pitfalls of their breed. Why is this? Good breeders do not withhold information, because they want their puppies to go to well-prepared forever homes.   

Do as much rabbit-hole research as you can. You can never know too much about the breed in which you are interested. Find a local dog show and watch these animals in action. Dog shows provide so many wonderful experiences, and you will see some of the most beautiful specimens of the breed standard. 

Speaking of breed standard – read it.  

If your breed of interest is recognized by the AKC, tool around the AKC website and find the breed standard. So, what is a breed standard and why is this important for you to know? The breed standard tells you the ideal characteristics to look for in that specific breed. It can help you to define questions to ask a breeder about the dog's health temperament to help you find your best fit. The AKC website provides a list of recognized breeders and typically indicates if puppies are available. Pay attention to titles like "Breeder of Merit". These titles are hard earned, and you can expect a higher level of experience. 

If your breed isn’t yet recognized by the AKC, there will most likely be a breed club for enthusiasts. Do a Google search or Facebook group search. Joining a Facebook group for the breed will teach you invaluable lessons. Owners will post about all aspects of the breed, from funny cute stories to behavior and health problems that may be typical. Members won’t hesitate to give prospective owners advice and hopefully some good solid facts about their beloved breed.

In fact we would suggest joining an enthusiast group regardless of the AKC recognition. If you find a regional group, you may end up making friends with other owners if they have meetups or playdates on the agenda. This is the Cavalier Facebook group we belong to in the Charleston, SC area. (Our club walks in the Christmas parade every year.  Big fun!)

Where to look and where NOT to look 

 The one thing you must do is to educate yourself on puppy mills and backyard breeders. When you see house raids on the news with scores of abused and neglected dogs being confiscated, often these are the parents of the puppy you see in the pet store windows. We strongly discourage purchasing a puppy from a pet store. Certainly, there are some pet store success stories out there, but those people got lucky. Just don’t do it. That is an entire blog in itself, so we will stop here.   

  Stick with a preservation breeder. This is someone who breeds to improve the breed, not just to sell puppies. As future breeders, we can assure you that we would never sell a puppy to someone with whom we did not feel completely comfortable. This is the type of breeder you want to work with. You want a breeder who treats their dogs like family members and truly cares about the puppies they place in homes.

Your breeder should want to get to know you, your family, and your accommodations, including your yard or any dog-friendly amenities in your area. They will want references from your vet and possibly from family and friends. And they will delight in updates on your new family member, so be sure to share pictures and milestones!  

Your breeder should always be there for you after you take your baby home. They should be accessible for follow-up questions and advice anytime you need it.   

We have just scratched the surface on this topic. Please join our second podcast, where we dive deeper into the world of finding the right furry fit for your family.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published