I. Ask yourself WHY you want a dog or puppy NOW.
Perhaps you've always wanted a specific breed & are considering getting that kind of dog--determine if it really is the right kind of dog for your lifestyle.
Maybe you just lost a beloved pet & are lonely for a replacement--be sure you have set plenty of time aside in your schedule for TRAINING that new family addition.
You frequent the puppy store & never planned to take a puppy home, but it seemed you had to "rescue" one of them for fear no one would buy him. An impulse purchase can lead to numerous negative outcomes for you & the puppy--the worst of which would be the puppy ending up in a shelter because it wasn't a good fit for you. Puppy store puppies ALWAYS find a home, so don't feel obliged to "rescue" them. Here's a staggering statistic: Over 2 million puppies are bred in mills each year & an estimated 1.2 million dogs are euthanized in shelters every year.*
A. If you live in an apartment, should you really get a big dog such as a Labrador Retriever that requires lots of room (a yard) for exercise if you can't provide him with daily access to a park or a daily run?
B. If you are a senior citizen, can you handle the responsibility of raising a puppy...and will you set up a Pet Trust to designate funds for your pet's care & a willing person to be his caregiver should you die first? Everyone should have a Pet Trust, by the way. Here is a local law office that can do it affordably: Pet Trusts
C. Many dog breeds have guarding tendencies (Border Collies, Cattle Dogs, Schnauzers, for example). While some can be excellent family pets, they may not take kindly to your children's friends or other visitors.
D. While you may think a particular dog is right for you & your family, have you considered whether you & your family are right for that dog? <> Can you meet the dog's needs through all stages of his life? <> Some breeds require a high level of mental & physical stimulation e.g., Poodles & herding breeds, and may not do well when left alone for long periods of time. <> The latter can also occur in dogs bred to be companion dogs such as the Havanese. <> Some breeds don't do well with too much stimulation, so a hectic family life might be overwhelming for some dogs.
A. It is always best to purchase your puppy directly from a reputable breeder.
B. It's a good idea for puppies to be temperament tested on that ever-critical 49th day of life. A great deal of information can be obtained from this kind of aptitude test. The most widely used test is called the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test which consists of the following:
1. Social Attraction - degree of social attraction to people, confidence or dependence
2. Following - willingness to follow a person
3. Restraint - degree of dominant or submissive tendency, and ease of handling in difficult situations
4. Social Dominance - degree of acceptance of social dominance by a person
5. Elevation - degree of accepting dominance while in a position of no control, such as at the veterinarian or groomer
6. Retrieving - degree of willingness to perform tasks for you -An indicator for ease or difficulty in training when combined with items 1&2 above
7. Touch Sensitivity - degree of sensitivity to touch and a key indicator to the type of training equipment required
8. Sound Sensitivity - degree of sensitivity to sound, such as loud noises or thunderstorms
9. Sight Sensitivity - degree of response to a moving object, such as chasing bicycles, children or squirrels
10. Stability - degree of startle response to a strange object
C. A responsible breeder will:
- allow you to see the litter of puppies in their home environment either in person or by web cam (if it is not possible for you to go to their home).
- conduct a Volhard-like temperament test on each litter of puppies on the 49th day of life & use this information to place each puppy in a home compatible with its temperament as well as its social, mental, and physical needs.
- have a licensed veterinarian perform genetic testing to rule out any breed-specific health issues to be sure they are not passing it through the downline & to assure you that your new puppy will not encounter those specific health conditions in its lifetime.
- meet the standards laid out by the Humane Society of The United States. Read more about how to find a responsible breeder here: Checklist when Looking for A Responsible Breeder
III. SHELTER & RESCUE DOGS
A. Know what breed you are getting! Many shelter & rescue workers & volunteers are well-intended people who may not be familiar with the nuances of many breeds. It is crucial that you set your new dog up for success by first knowing if its temperament & lifestyle needs are compatible with yours.
B. Here in Florida, herding dogs mixes, particularly Border Collies & Cattle Dogs, are extremely common in the shelters. These dogs have a high level of energy, require lots of mental stimulation & physical activity, and are MOST OFTEN unrecognized. These dogs are frequently labeled as "Pit Bull mixes" and "Lab mixes." *** CONSULT WITH A TRAINER who is experienced & familiar with breed-specific traits before committing to adopting one of these dogs.*** Though you may want to rescue a dog & give him a second chance at life, love is not always enough & you may do him a great disservice by not allowing a more appropriate family the opportunity to adopt him.
C. A shelter dog's temperament can be vastly different when away from the stress level of the shelter. During his first 3 days in your home, he may appear calm & even laid back, but his true personality will soon begin to show & by the third week, you will have a very good idea of what your dog is capable of doing & tolerating. If you determine that the dog isn't right for you, RELINQUISH him back to the shelter AS SOON AS POSSIBLE so he is less apt to develop separation issues. It is extremely helpful for you to give a full description of his personality & quirks so he can be placed with a more fitting family.
D. Some of the most responsible & reputable animal shelters in the Sarasota-Manatee area are:
1. Sarasota County Animal Services - There are very few county- or city-run shelters that do as much for their dogs as SCAS does to keep them active, healthy, and adoptable. Many rescue groups will obtain their adoptable pets from their local animal shelter, which is the case in Sarasota. And yes! They DO have small dogs! And yes! Every adoptable dog can stay there as long as it takes for forever family to take him home!
2. Honor Animal Rescue & Nate's Place
4. Petfinder - A site where you can search for specific breeds & mixed breeds -- even sort by age & gender.