How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?
by Ruth Dawn Lewallen
Just how much is that doggie in the window? When you get a dog you can spend as little or as much as you want, but what you spend to get that animal will be only the smallest part of the cost of having a pet. How much will you spend at the vets office is one thing to think about. Another, is how much will feeding cost? Don't forget grooming. Even if you do it your self you still have to buy combs and brushes, not to mention your time is worth money.
And then there's the yard to consider. Different breeds need different amounts of exercise, do you have enough land to keep your four legged friend happy and out of trouble? Oddly enough a giant Great Dane actually needs less space than a small Beagle.
The answer to these and many more questions is preparation. As the old saying goes, the more you learn the less you have to earn. Even if you've got your heart set on a mutt from the pound, (something I'm always in favor of) you must remember that mixed breeds are MIXED! They have traits from the different breeds that went into them and the more you know about each breed the better you judgment you have. I remember when a friend of mine went to the Humane Society and adopted what he thought was a 9 month old Peekapoo.
He began to wonder when the puppy kept growing. When I saw the dog some months later I said, "What a cute baby Brierd."
Now, for those of you that don't know, a Peekapoo is usually a 10 to 15 LB toy dog, while a Brierd can be upwards of 45 to 60 pounds of herding dog that loves harsh weather. He kept the puppy, (by that time he was a member of the family) but life with puppy was a great deal more interesting than planed.
One book that almost all dog people have, and use a lot, is the AKC Complete Dog Book. It has a brief history and description of every breed accepted by the American Kennel Club as well as a wealth of information about dogs in general. This book won't tell you everything you need to know about having a dog, but it will give you basic knowledge and start you in the right direction.
The library will have a copy of this book, and you can see just what it's like, but after you've looked it over a bit you'll probably want to get a copy for your self. You, and the whole family will have hours of fun as you pour over the different breeds and discuss them, just don't tell the kids that they're learning!
After you've found 10 or 15 breeds that look interesting, it's back to the library to get more information on those breeds. If you have children, (or even not) the librarian can even recommend books that have stories about different breeds. I still remember the pleasure of reading the Ugly Dachshund and Lad a dog, and the story of Grayfriers Bobby is an inspiration to this day.
Now that your head is crammed with dog knowledge you should go to one place where you can see almost all the dogs you're interested in, Dog shows! There, for a nominal or nonexistent, token fee you can SEE all these dogs you've been learning about. Even better, you can make contacts with breeders that can be priceless later on. Different breeds are shown at different times, sot go early and be prepared to stay till 3 or 4 when everything is over. One word of warning, before they go into the ring, most owners are very busy and don't have a lot of time to talk. After showing they tend to be much more approachable, so be considerate, and don't touch any dog until the owner gives permission.
Breeders, real breeders, the ones that love their breed more than anything else in the world, love to preach the gospel to anyone that will listen. If they're too busy at that moment you can get their number and get to know them and their dogs later. Even better, a breeder is the perfect place to get your dog.
I know, I know, you're not looking for a show dog. You want a nice pet to become a member of your family. Well, I've got a surprise for you! If a breeder ever had a whole litter that consisted of nothing but show dogs they'd probably faint. Only the very best ever see a show ring, and even then more than half never make it to champion. The rest are perfectly lovely dogs, but have small flaws that make them, (like most of us) less than perfect. A good breeder will hold back puppies that they think could become show dogs, these dogs are given the best of care. Some become their next champion, but some don't. They may have a tooth that's crooked or a coat that has not quite the best texture or some other little flaw that makes them not show class. When these dogs reach 9 to 12 months or so, the breeder had to make a decision, what to do with the dog.
Now it's too late to sell the puppy as a puppy, but, and even more important, the breeder loves this teenager and doesn't want just anybody to have them. Unfortunately they're getting Dog Poor, (too many mouths to feed) and they have to do something. Enter you! The nice family they met at the show that seemed to be so interested in their breed.
These were nice people, courteous, friendly and eager to learn. Best of all, you know they're going to give a dog a good home and they've already stated that they're going to have their dog spayed or neutered. Maybe they'd be the ones to give this dog a home. The breeder may, or may not, want some money to help recoup what they've spent on the puppy, but remember that all of that money has been spent on the dog and you're getting a much better dog than you could from almost anywhere else. Added to this is the benefit of having an expert on that particular breed only a phone call away from, any problems. All in all a great way to get a dog.
Ruth is a Professional Kennel Master, (she takes over kennels when the owners want to leave town for a while) for 20 years. She's also a K9 behaviorist and has testified in court both for and against dog owners. She works with problem dogs and does advanced personal protection training. She has 4 cats, one of which is leash trained and she is certified as a veterinary EMT both small and large animals.
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