Downeast Dog News

Finding the right dog

By Dr. Judith Herman | Oct 01, 2018

Q. I am ready to get a dog but not sure how to go about it. I want to do it right. Any suggestions?


A. Buying a pup is at least a decade commitment, so making the right decision for you and your family is paramount. Whether you purchase a pup from a shelter, rescue, Craig’s list, or a breeder, do your homework first.


Start with your schedule and where you live. Can you take your dog to work with you? Do you work at home? Are there others in the household who can take some of the responsibility in raising a dog?


If we start with where you live, an apartment or condo has restrictions that a private home may not have. Many high rise pups are small, and paper or litter trained. Some of the larger dogs can be apartment dogs, if they are quiet and their exercise needs are minimal. They also need to be healthy enough to manage stairs.


Next, what is your life style? If you are sedentary, a dog with lower exercise requirements is indicated. Note that I said lower, not no exercise requirements. If you are active or your family is active, a more energetic dog would fit. This doesn’t mean your schedule is filled with kids’ sports, drama club, etc. I mean you do family activities and a fur ball would add to the joy of camping, hiking, walking the neighborhood, and other activities. Another consideration is your desire to do dog sports with your new companion.


Do you have the finances to have a dog? People forget or don’t know what it costs to take care of a dog. Call the veterinary hospital you plan taking your new companion for care and ask what an annual visit, vaccinations, and routine tests will cost. Then go to your local pet shop and ask about recommended food, treats, and toys. Don’t forget the new kid needs to go to school to learn manners, and you learn how to communicate effectively. Depending on the dog, plan on at least a year in training. Now take all this information and figure out a budget. You may want to explore pet insurance too.


Now you have collected all this information, where do you go from here? You may want to have a second hand dog. When you go online, talk to a local rescue, or a shelter, be sure to ask some very important questions before looking at the many pups waiting to go home with you. Do you have a need for a dog that minimally sheds, doesn’t bark, a certain size? Remember there are no genetically hypoallergenic dogs. The coat type and grooming needs will determine the allergic reactivity of that pup.


What is the return policy if this turns into a bad match? Will they help you with behavior concerns when they arise? Will they help you financially with behavior and/ or medical issues when discovered? What is the time frame in which they would help you? Once you feel comfortable with the organization, go shopping with a member of the facility. Ask questions about personality, fears, and any other concerns that come to mind.


If you are looking at puppies, ask if they know the mother and if you can meet her. Most breeders have the mother and sometimes the father available. Breeders also have a contract that covers what they guarantee and what time frame they cover. There is a lemon law in Maine; be sure you know your rights.


What if you want to do dog sports? This adds another area to explore before purchasing your best friend. Be knowledgeable of the mental and physical requirements for the sports you are interested in. The most popular and demanding sport is agility. If you are playing already, have your instructor involved in your choice. Early spay/ neuter will change the angles of joints, and new research suggests there is an effect on behavior, such as fears and reactivity. There is speculation that puppies shipped north from the south are more reactive toward people. These changes may impact your choice from getting a puppy from a place that does early spay/ neuter or a place that allows the pup to grow appropriately before surgery. Discuss these issues with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will do a physical and will point out any concerns that may impact the sport you want to do. They may be able to offer suggestions to strengthen the puppy or dog, so injury would be less likely.


There are many wonderful dogs and puppies looking for a home for the first or a second time. Do your homework so the pup you buy is going into a forever home.


Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH

Animal Wellness Center

Augusta, Maine