Puppy love: choosing the perfect pet

Monday, December 5, 2011
Puppy love: choosing the perfect pet

Choosing a new puppy is an exciting time, whether you're five or 65. But unfortunately, many doggy love stories end in heartbreak, with the owner's garden destroyed and the pup in an animal shelter.

Veterinarian Dr James Ramsden has some helpful tips to ensure your canine romance has a happy ending.

Are you ready?
Before you start perusing pet shops, James recommends you really think about whether you are ready to take on a puppy.

Most people think dogs are a low-maintenance pet, but James says puppies need so much care they are actually comparable to a human baby.

"You need to understand what time you need to put into a dog," James says. "Particularly for young puppies, they do need quite a lot of care.

"A good way to look at it is it's like getting a baby, it just lasts for a much shorter time because they grow up so fast. The first few weeks, you need be prepared to go and visit them during the day if they're at home."

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Choosing your puppy
Once you've decided you're ready to get a puppy, the fun part begins — picking a pup. There are hundreds of breeds out there, but James advises against choosing your new companion by looks alone.

Many popular breeds are completely unsuited to modern city living. They can't handle being at home alone all day and misbehave, often becoming destructive.

"The biggest message people need to understand is you really need to choose your dog based on its temperament and not based on looks," James says. "The reason I say that is 70 percent of dogs that end up in welfare shelters are for behavioural reasons, which generally means people have chosen the wrong dog for them.

"Kelpies and border collies are good examples. They have been bred to work, but people like how they look so they get one.

"Then when they get the dog into your yard, it just doesn't fit. The dog gets really upset because it can't do what it was born to do and destroys things and they end up getting rid of it."

If you're away from home all day, James recommends a "cavoodle", a cross between a poodle and a cavalier King Charles spaniel. The breed is perfect for busy people as it is happy to sleep all day, but is still capable of running and playing.

"Most people who live in cities or are busy and their animals need to be a lot more self-sufficient," James says. "If you put the effort into choosing the right dog, that will go a long way.

"Our current living environments are really tough on our dogs. Our houses are smaller, there's less space for them to walk. This contributes to a lot of pressure on dogs and you need one that will be least fazed by that."

How much is that doggy in the window?
When it comes to purchasing your new pet, James advises staying away from most pet shops. Instead, look into breeders and speak to your local vet for advice on where the best animals can be found.

"I recommend you don't just go to your local pet shop and pick a dog that you like the look of and call it a day," James says.

"You really need to research it thoroughly. Ask your vet and if you see people in the park and you life their dog, ask where they got it from."

Once you choose your vendor, make sure you see the puppy's parents or relatives, because even the calmest breed can have some wild specimens.

"You need to go have a look at their parents or their relatives because you can get a cavoodle that's crazy because its parents were nuts," James says. "You don't want that."

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Man's best friend
If you follow these tips, James says you should end up with a friend for life.

"You're going to get an animal that is a joy to be with, that gives you fantastic emotional support when you need it, who is really good fun to go for a walk with and play with," James says.

"You're going to get a good relationship and that's going to be there for a long, long time."

For more information about puppies, James recommends, Pedigree's revamped site puppy.com.au.

Your say: How did you choose your dog?

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