So, you think you want a dog?
Do you have the time?
Dogs need time and attention and are not suitable for full-time workers, even if someone promises to look after it during the day. A bored, lonely dog will chew destructively and be noisy. A puppy will be impossible to house-train. Training takes many months - it cannot be achieved in a short holiday from work.
Do you have a stable home life?
Like children, dogs need a happy, secure, loving, stress free environment to thrive and to develop into well balanced, confident adults. Is your relationship with your partner stable? Many dogs are re-homed because of partnership break-downs. In the next few months, is it likely that you will move house, have builders, travel extensively, become pregnant? If so, this is not the right time to be taking on a dog.
Do you have young children?
Puppies are hard work, and if you already have your hands full looking after children you may find you have taken on too much when you add a puppy to the equation. Children must be taught that puppies are not toys - they should be left to sleep and not be teased. Small children must never be left unsupervised with either a pup or adult dog.
Can you afford it?
Most people budget for the cost of a pedigree puppy (and the cost of transporting it to the Island) but may fail to appreciate the other costs involved. Good quality food, toys and bedding are obvious, but there are others. Vet bills can be horrendous, and although they can be covered by insurance, this may not be cheap. Like a car, if you can't afford the insurance, then you can't afford the initial purchase, and like a car, you should have third-party cover in case your dog causes a traffic accident, rampages through the neighbour's garden, etc. Then there's the cost of kennelling when you are on holiday, and possibly replacing your current vehicle if it is not suitable for the dog. The list goes on and on!
Can you accept full responsibility for a dog?
In these days of increasing anti-dog feeling much is expected of the dog owner. Not only must you clean up after your dog in all public places, but you must be responsible for all your dog's actions, and keep it under control at all times.
Do you have a safe, secure garden?
A securely fenced garden provides a safe area for play and exercise while a puppy is too young for long walks. A garden is also essential for housetraining.
Are you a keen gardener?
If you are a devoted gardener with many cherished plants and shrubs, be warned that dogs like to dig holes and chew anything remotely edible (or not!) Precious plants should be protected, perhaps with mesh fencing and ideally poisonous plants should be removed.
Are you house proud?
If you have an immaculate house and hate mess, then a dog is probably not for you. Most dogs shed hair daily. Puppies will have mishaps during housetraining and will chew whatever they can get hold of while teething.
Do you understand the grooming needs?
Most breeds need regular grooming. An ungroomed long-haired dog will develop a dirty, matted coat which is uncomfortable for the dog and looks unattractive. Some breeds need professional trimming to keep the coat neat and tidy.
Do you like walking?
Dogs need the mental and physical stimulation of excursions outside their own home. They need an owner who can offer plenty of opportunities for exercise and free running. N.B. Care should be taken not to over-exercise young puppies of any breed, no matter what size.
Are you thinking of buying two puppies?
Many people think that two puppies are company for each other but underestimate the work needed to train two puppies successfully. Puppies may bond more with each other than their owner and may be unable to cope if separated. Same-sex litter mates may fight as they get older. It is better to buy one puppy and then add another when the first is mature, at least twelve months later.
Have you considered the breed characteristics?
Once you're sure that you have room in your life and your heart for a dog, you should then give thought to the needs of the different breeds. The variations in size, temperament, activity level, coat type, exercise needs, grooming and trainability are huge. The next step is to make sure that you choose the right breed of dog for your lifestyle, bearing in mind that most breeds have a typical 'personality'. For instance, they may be: strong-willed/easy going; friendly/reserved; playful/disinterested; dog-friendly/incompatible; cat-friendly/incompatible; affectionate/aloof.
Visiting a litter
Make an appointment to see the litter and arrive at the given time. Most breeders will ask you to wait until the puppies are around one month old. Wear something suitable, ie jeans, and preferably shoes without laces! Remember if the puppies have been recently fed they may be very sleepy. Normally, they will be alert and wanting to play. Meet the dam, and sire if the owner has both - if not, ask to see a photograph. Satisfy yourself that the pups look healthy and are kept in clean conditions. You may be asked for a deposit to secure your puppy. Remember this may be non-refundable.
Collecting your puppy
Once you have decided and booked your puppy, you may wish to acquire suitable bedding, feeding items (check with the breeder which food to buy) and grooming equipment. Most breeders will provide you with a 'starter pack'. You may wish to buy a collapsible crate for travelling, as sleeping quarters and for toilet training. Take someone with you when collecting your puppy, and take some old towels in case of travel sickness. The puppy will travel better on someone's lap. Make sure when paying for the puppy that you have received all the documents (pedigree, registration card). Most breeders will have also insured the puppy for the first few weeks. Let the breeder know how the puppy has settled after a few days.