Finding Man’s Best Friend

What is the perfect dog?  Often it is the one found spur of the moment on a Saturday while ‘just looking’.  The rule of P’s apply here, prior planning prevents poor performance.  There are many things to consider when choosing a pup.  Here are some hints to make this process easier and increase your odds of success.  

Preparing for Pup

Before picking up your new pup, you should take some time to prepare  financially and environmentally.

How much is that doggie in the window?

Understanding the financial commitment involved with dog ownership is something that is easy to forget when looking into those deep brown eyes and smelling fresh puppy breath.  Things to consider include the cost of quality dog food, preventative veterinary care (examinations, dewormings, vaccines, spay/neuter, heartworm, flea and tick preventative, microchipping, and licensing), grooming needs, training, boarding, and pet supplies.  The ASPCA does a good job of outlining some of these costs, http://www.aspca.org/adoption/pet-care-costs.aspx 

Financial Surprises and Pet Insurance There have been tremendous advances in veterinary medicine, but this comes at a cost.  Pet insurance is a good way to mitigate  unforeseen expenses.  BONUS, some insurance companies offer complimentary insurance coverage for a month! The ABC’s of pet insurance are explained at http://www.pet-insurance-university.com/guide_to_pet_insurance.htmlhttp://www.petinsurancereview.com/ provides end-user supplied ratings for the major pet insurance companies.

Vetting Veterinarians

Now is also a good time to get recommendations from friends and family for veterinary care and visit prospective animal hospitals.  Questions to ask include vaccination protocols, availability of appointments, fee structure (some hospitals have a different fee structure for sick visits), and general practice philosophy.  A veterinarian should be your partner when it comes to preventative health care, illness, nutrition, behavior, and overall family interactions.  Request a tour of the animal hospital to get a feel for its personality; are employees caring, is the facility clean, and are pets receiving the care you would want for your loved one?  

Cozy Confines

Where will your new pal be spending their time?  Training a dog to be crate savvy facilitates potty training, keeps them safe, , and can allow for easier handling in the future (airplane travel, staying with family while vacationing, care when hurt, etc.).  Styles and pricing vary considerably on crates, but planning ahead allows options such as online purchasing.  Also be aware you may need multiple size crates during the growth stage.  Use too large a crate too soon and some benefits may be lost.  One option is crates that have a divider.  Another potential option, ask your veterinarian if they have a crate loaner program for the growth phase.  

Lastly, while in the home, it is beneficial to partition off an area that is a safe zone for your new pet.  Baby gates and exercise pens can assist with this.

Fenced in Follies or Dog Walking?

When your pet goes outside, will you be walking them or is your yard fenced-in?  Invisible Fence in Crystal Lake is an example of pet fencing that doesn’t require a physical presence in your yard.  Reputable companies provide a lifetime guarantee, training, and can be installed even if there is snow on the ground.

Picking a Pooch

Big or small, energetic or docile, young or old?  There are so many choices when selecting the perfect pup that taking the time to research this part of the process can make the difference between happily ever after or heartbreak hotel.  

Pondering Purebreds

When selecting a type of dog first consider whether a purebred or mixed breed dog suits your lifestyle.  Purebred dogs provide a predictable physical appearance, but may also come with genetic (and potentially devastating) medical problems.  A good breeder can mitigate many health related risks.  Ask friends, family, and your veterinarian for references when selecting a breeder.  Indicators of a responsible breeder include allowing visits to their facility, encouraging interaction with the puppy’s parents, interest in whether the breed is appropriate for your lifestyle, and appropriate pre and postnatal care.  Middlemen (brokers), meeting representatives halfway to deliver a dog, and puppy stores are all cause for concern that you may be dealing with a puppy mill bred dog.   Puppy mill dogs are often inbred, handled infrequently (leads to behavior issues), and may be in poor health (http://www.thepuppymillproject.org/illinois-pet-store-info/).  Lifelong behavioral and medical problems may be established before you even see that cute puppy in the window.  

Breed rescue groups are another great way of finding a desired breed.  These dogs are  often a bit older, but most responsible rescue groups work diligently to match the right dog with the right forever home.

Mixing it Up with a Mutt 

Mixed breed dogs have the benefit of being one of a kind.  Breed specific medical or behavioral problems are seen less frequently.  Petfinder.com allows prospective pet owners to filter through dogs available.  Helping Paws (http://www.helpingpaws.net/) in Woodstock and Animal Control (http://www.co.mchenry.il.us/departments/health/Pages/ACAdopt.aspx) in Crystal Lake both do a responsible job matching needy dogs with the right adoptee.  Desirable shelters tend to be clean, allow adopters to tour their kennels (not just bring dogs to you), and can demonstrate that their dogs have received appropriate medical care from a licensed veterinarian.  Far too often dogs are unknowingly adopted with health problems that could have been prevented or treated prior to adoption.  When meeting with adoptable dogs look for a willingness to interact and generally friendly demeanor.  While a quiet, submissive dog may be endearing it can also be an indicator of future issues.

Hound Sweet Home

A dog homecoming is an exciting time for everyone.  The first week at home is a getting to know you period.  For young puppies this time can be exhausting and for shelter dogs that may have bounced from place to place a bit unsettling.  Be patient, provide a consistent schedule, a safe environment, and keep things low key until everyone has adjusted.  Focus on potty training, learning your dog’s signs of fatigue, and monitor for illness (vomiting, diarrhea, inappetence, coughing, excessive lethargy).  Schedule a visit with your veterinarian of choice as soon as possible to identify any potential health concerns and also preventative health care needs.  This visit should also provide you with additional advice on potty training, nutrition, and ancillary services.  Avoid communal dog areas (i.e. pet stores, dog parks) until getting the go ahead from your veterinarian.  If children are in the household be vigilant to protect them and your new dog from each other.  Children need to be taught how to safely interact with their new pet and ultimately need to be protected from any potentially harmful interactions (http://www.doggonesafe.com/).

Fun with Fido

Now that everyone has settled in, it is time to have some fun!  There are countless ways to have fun with your new friend.  Whether it be as simple as painting a personalized dog bowl or as involved as pursuing advanced training for search and rescue there are numerous ways that dogs can enhance our lives.  Here are a few ideas to consider….

Training-basic obedience

Training and socialization are beneficial for all dogs.  Formal puppy classes, personal trainers, and training books can all be of use.  Freestyle, agility, rally, obedience, and fly ball are just a few of the options available to those interested in pursuing training.

Dog Parks – Lake in the Hills (http://www.lith.org/BarkPark.html), Crystal Lake

Finally, there are numerous resources available to help with pet ownership preparation.  http://www.dogstardaily.com/files/downloads/BEFORE_You_Get_Your_Puppy.pdf is a free online book that does a concise job laying the groundwork for success.  In the end, bringing a new furry friend home can be one of the most memorable days for a family.  Take pictures, pull the video camera out, write down the funny story behind your new pup’s name.  These are the memories that warm the heart and bring smiles for years to come.