It is always exciting when the decision is made to bring a dog into the family. However, owning a dog is a major commitment and the reasons for wanting a dog, family needs and home environment must all be carefully evaluated before any decision is taken. Dog ownership is a responsibility for all members of the family.
Any family considering purchasing a dog should set aside a few hours to ask themselves the following twenty questions. With all family members present, many important issues will be raised, and the ensuing dialog will help to set realistic parameters for the future pet.
QUESTIONS FOR THE FAMILY TO CONSIDER
FINDING OUT ABOUT A BREED
The breed descriptions and photographs in this book will serve to whet the appetite once the decision to acquire a dog is made. It is important to find out as much as possible about the breed in question and to see the breed in real life. Local newspapers and pet stores are often sources of information on nearby dog shows, Obedience Trials or Performance Events. It is well worth spending time to attend some of these events. The more information gathered, the more educated a choice of breed will be.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) has overseen the production of videos in nearly all the AKC recognized breeds. Although they aim to teach prospective judges how to evaluate breeds by following the AKC's Standards, they also give information on a breed's origins and past and present uses, so the videos may be helpful for prospective owners. Color, coat type, how the breed performs its particular function, as well as information on its adaptability, temperament and special care requirements are also usually included. The videos are for sale direct to the public from the AKC or they may be available through libraries. At the moment, the Canadian Kennel Club, British Kennel Club and Federation Cynologique Internationale do not produce videos. However, the KC will provide members of the public on request with a list of breeders with puppies for sale.
DOGS VERSUS BITCHES
It is very important to consider whether the dog should be male or female. The male of almost every breed is just a little bolder, more independent and a little more active than the female. Many people like this attitude and will therefore opt for a male. Generally, females are a little sweeter, more dependent and less rambunctious. The female is also usually thought to be easier to housetrain, but this really depends on the attitude of the person who is in charge of the housetraining.
The female has twice yearly heat periods. At these times, she must be carefully protected from being bred inadvertently. In the case of pet dogs, the spaying of females and neutering of males is strongly recommended. Spaying females before their first season almost guarantees a life without the threat of mammary cancer. Neutering males early in life reduces their urges to mark territory by leg-lifting and to roam in search of mates. No purebred dogs may be shown in AKC conformation classes if they have been spayed or neutered- the KC does allow them to be exhibited.
SHOW PROSPECT OR PET?
Whether the puppy is to be a family pet or a show prospect is of course another vital consideration. Very few top-flight kennels will sell a very good show prospect to the first time dog owner. Breeders spend many years perfecting a family of their favorite breed. So it is natural that they should want show prospects to go to buyers who have acquired an expertise in the raising, training and conditioning of well-adjusted, healthy dogs.
Pet and show prospects must be assured a safe place to live, preferably inside the buyer's house. The animal must also have a safe exercise area - a secure, well-fenced yard - or long, regular walks on a leash. It will need training to become house trained, to respond to simple obedience commands, to ride sensibly in a car, and to assume a place in its human family. A dog must be monitored every step of the way.
A show prospect, even with a short, "no care" coat, has certain requirements to look its best. Nutrition plays a large part in a glossy, gleaming coat, as does grooming and keeping the dog free of ticks, fleas, skin eruptions and diseases. Long-coated breeds will require frequent, intelligent brushing, grooming, washing and drying with a hair dryer. A grooming table, the correct brushes and knowledge of the correct brushing techniques are all essential. Several hours weekly must be spent on these grooming chores and although there are short cuts, none of these work in the long run. The trimmed breeds like the Poodle and most terriers, and very hairy breeds like the Old English Sheepdog, Briard and Bouvier des Flandres, require an even greater dedication to grooming - though for many it becomes a fascinating hobby. But this hobby does require week in, week out care. if the coat is allowed to become wet, dirty, matted or infested with fleas, then a whole year's work may be lost and will have to begin all over again. Owning a show dog requires extra hours devoted to weekly grooming and conditioning.
ASK THE EXPERTS
Once the choice is narrowed as to breed, age and sex, friends who own dogs should be consulted for guidance, while local vets and commercial or boarding kennels should be able to provide lists of breeders. Healthy, well-bred dogs are rarely found in local pet stores, so it is wise to deal with an expert who knows a breed's background, and what it can and cannot provide. An expert can provide lifelong guidance for both dog and owner. It is helpful to visit local shows (breed specialty shows are ideal) and to talk to breeders who are producing the type of dog that appeals. When they have finished showing, most breeders will be happy to discuss the availability of puppies and their experiences with the breed.
Every breed has certain inbred characteristics. Sporting dogs, such as spaniels and retrievers, enjoy outdoor activity, have keen ears and noses, are generally easy to train, and are comparatively healthy so long as they are well cared for and properly exercised. There are two groups of hounds: sighthounds, whose ability to hunt is primarily centered in extremely keen sight; and scenthounds, that use their noses in search and rescue or tracking tasks. Hounds are inclined to be independent and since they respond to the senses of sight or smell should be trained early to come on command.
Working dogs enjoy being useful, respond well to training, and in general make very good pets if they are well trained and have adequate space and exercise.
Giant breeds (such as the Great Dane, Newfoundland, Great Pyrenees and Saint Bernard) live shorter lives, require a larger expenditure for care and feeding, and should not be considered for apartments or small homes.
Terriers vary in size from the king of the terriers (the Airedale) to the Norfolk and Norwich breeds. They are active and bright, and tend to be long lived. They occur in many coat lengths and textures and many require a great deal of coat care. Toys have been bred to be pets. They are small in physical size but they do not seem to be aware of this. They are not the best choice for a young family with small children or a family in the planning.
Choosing a dog from the Non-sporting Group (called companion dogs in many countries) is like shopping in a department store. From the neat little Schipperke to the glamorous, bright Standard Poodle, there is something for everyone. Two new breeds in this group, the Chinese Shar-Pei and the Shiba Inu, have a small gene pool, can be expensive, and should only he purchased after much thought and investigation. Dogs in the Herding Group have helped farmers to maintain boundaries with flocks for centuries. They seem happiest when set a task, train comparatively easily, and like close interaction with their families.
Many purebred dogs are not yet registered with the American Kennel Club or the English Kennel Club, while some breeds have their own registry. The F6d6-ration Cynologique Internationale (FCI), which is the coordinating body used by most foreign countries in the world of purebred dogs, does not register dogs but its member countries run their own national registries. The FCI's list of breeds is considerably larger than that of the American, Canadian and English Kennel Clubs, and appears to be growing daily, with new breeds gaining recognition as more countries with native breeds become accepted. The English Kennel Club recognizes 183 breeds or varieties of dog but not all have been registered or shown in sufficient numbers to warrant being awarded Challenge Certificates (CCs) and championship status. CCs are awarded to twenty-three Gun Dog (Sporting) breeds, twenty-nine Working breeds, twenty three Terrier breeds, twenty-four Hound breeds, nineteen Toy breeds and twenty Utility (Non Sporting) breeds. The Kennel Club treats the Dachshund as six different breeds but the Belgian Sheepdog as one when CCs are awarded.
Each registration body maintains carefully documented breeding records, provides services, and Usually holds events of some sort to acquaint fanciers with these I-)reeds. All have business offices, keep records and schedule events. In any country, breeders and fanciers can provide the addresses to prospective puppy buyers.