Many people like dogs, but everybody loves puppies – they are so cute and irresistible. However, after the initial thrill of owning a dog has passed, many people tend to lose interest, especially if the dog is giving trouble.
Getting a dog means making a commitment to the animal for his lifetime – approximately 8 years for large dogs, 13 years for medium and 15 years for small dogs.
Before you actually choose a dog, there are certain things to consider ….
- Owning a dog changes your domestic and social life.
- Even after his initial purchase, the dog will continue to cost you money.
- A puppy becomes an adolescent dog, a grown dog and then an old dog.
- A dog needs lots of care, love and attention
- Every single day, you teach him, however unintentionally.
- Your dog is your responsibility for the rest of his life.
Dogs can destroy your shoes, clothes, furniture, even your car bumper, and mud flaps. Puppies have accidents if not supervised. Do you want to constantly clean up the mess in your house, on your carpet, outside in the garage or driveway? Do you want a dog that jumps up on you dirtying up your clothes, or a dog that nips at you constantly, a dog that escapes or wanders from home, barks incessantly, being a nuisance in the neighbourhood? Can you afford to spend money on quality food, grooming, training and veterinary care?? What will happen when you travel, who will look after your dog, can you afford boarding kennels which runs approximately $25.00 a day?
Other questions you must ask yourself:-
Why Have A Dog? Is it for companionship, for protection, as a status symbol, or is it just a piece of property?
If it is for a status symbol or just a piece of property, then perhaps you should buy an inanimate object such as brand name gear, a stereo or car; something without feelings.
If it is going to be tied up or kept in a pen constantly and used as a watchdog, then buy an alarm system or install burglar bars – something maintenance-free. Trust me, it is much cheaper and less responsibility than a dog.
Do I have Enough Time For A Dog? A dog needs lots of time and attention – daily walks, grooming, training, feeding and training. These are absolutely necessary and very time consuming. If you can’t dedicate a meagre 2 hours a day to your dog, then get another type of pet like a goldfish.
Do I Have Enough Space? A dog needs a comfortable shelter to protect him from the sun and rain, a fenced enclosure and lots of room to run around and play.
Do I have enough patience, energy, discipline and stamina to train my dog? Dogs are like children; they will test you constantly and try to take advantage of any situation that is to their benefit. Like children, they can bring frustration as well as joy and affection.
Can I afford the cost of keeping a dog? Food, supplements, toys, grooming, training and vet bills do add up over the years. And what about when you go away? You will probably have to leave your dog at boarding kennels. Add to that, the price of repairing or replacing shoes, furniture, hose, plants, car bumpers, etc; no doubt there will be some damage.
Please think carefully!! There are too many unwanted dogs, over 3,000 dogs are destroyed in Barbados every year and even more being abandoned.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A PUPPY / DOG
After asking yourself why you want a dog, you need to match the best type to suit your –
- Lifestyle – dogs, especially puppies, need a lot of time and attention?
- Character – do you have a lot patience or a bad temper?
- Home – is it safe and securely enclosed?
If you just choose on a whim, without properly researching breeds, their needs and temperament, you could be stuck with an incompatible dog for the rest of it’s life.
Puppy or Adult? It is very satisfying to have a puppy and see it grow into (hopefully) a well-behaved companion. But rearing a puppy takes patience, effort, time and money.
Puppies need to be fed frequently – like us, it’s best to feed small and frequent meals – at least four times a day for the first six months, three times a day up to a year old and twice a day after a year. A puppy needs regular worming, vaccinations, proper food, training, and exercise – mental and physical. Puppies go through that terrible stage of having accidents, chewing, jumping up, nipping, digging and pulling down everything in sight. A lot of spare time will have to be sacrificed for the upbringing of a puppy. Oh, and you probably will not get much sleep the first few weeks.
If you cannot meet a puppy’s needs, then perhaps you should consider getting an adult dog.
An adult dog (2 years old or older) that is healthy, happy and well-adjusted is a gem. Most adult dogs are calmer, more settled and should have gotten over the destructive stage. Why not visit the RSPCA, the Animal Control Centre, The Ark Animal Welfare Society, or Ocean Acres Animal Sanctuary and adopt a dog who desperately needs a home.
Bear in mind though, that not only the physical development of a grown dog is complete – his psyche is formed, and some difficulties may arise. An older dog may come with the previous owner’s mistakes in place – but proper training and, if necessary, behaviour modification will help you. Don’t worry though, adult dogs can and will bond with you. Give them a chance!
Whatever you choose – puppy or adult, remember dogs are social animals and cannot be locked away or left alone all day and night without regular loving attention.
What Size Dog? Large dogs cost more to feed, have larger “loads” of poo, and the cost of vitamins, flea & tick treatment, and medical care tend to be greater. They also tend to age more quickly than small breeds. The life span of large dogs is approximately eight to twelve years and that of smaller dogs is ten to fifteen years.
Dog or Bitch? Most owners have their own preferences, but both sexes have their pros and cons.
Bitches can come into heat two or three times a year. Each heat lasts 21 – 28 days and makes them very attractive to neighbouring males, who will try their utmost to oblige any bitch in season. The heat is usually messy, and accidental matings can lead to unwanted puppies that are expensive to rear. (There is a “morning after” shot though.) Bitches can also have ‘false’ or ‘phantom’ pregnancies during which they go through the motions of being pregnant, digging holes and lactating. Spaying can take care of this problem.
Males on the other hand, are easier to keep and are generally more consistent in behaviour. But they certainly will go roaming if a nearby bitch is in heat and go off their food. Males also like to mark their territory by urinating all over the place especially on your car tyres.
Mongrel or Purebred? A mongrel is a dog of unidentifiable breeding or mixed parentage. A ‘cross breed’ is a dog whose parents are both pure bred but of different breeds.
Mongrels are just as susceptible to serious diseases as purebreds and they need the same amount of care and attention. However, choosing a mongrel is like playing Russian Roulette – you don’t know what your dog will be like in terms of size and temperament as an adult.
With a purebred dog you have a better idea of what you are getting in terms of size, temperament and appearance, and what to expect regarding grooming, feeding and exercise needs. Certain breeds are prone to hereditary defects and you should research these and be aware of what they are.
Another benefit to owning a registered purebred dog is that you can enter him in conformation dog shows, if he is “up to standard”, i.e. ‘show quality’. Who knows, you might have a potential champion in your back yard.
If you want a purebred dog for showing you must do a lot of research to help you make the right choice. Purebred dogs range in price from $800.00 to $10,000.00 and even more. If you want a purebred dog, but aren’t interested in showing, you can get one that is ‘pet quality’ at a lesser price. “Show quality’ commands top dollar. If you want to show your dog, it must be purebred and registered with The Barbados Kennel Club.
If you buy a purebred, make sure that you get his pedigree; registration certificate; and transfer of ownership form signed by you and the breeder. Do not accept a breeder telling you that “the papers are with the BKC”, this may not be so, and you may in fact never receive them. You have no proof that your dog is in fact purebred, and without his papers he can neither be shown nor can his/her progeny be registered. If you are getting a pup on breeder’s or co-ownership terms, get it in writing! Call the Registrar of The Barbados Kennel Club for advice on these, or any other agreement you have between yourself and the breeder!
Protection Dog or Family Pet? If you live by yourself, you might want the security and reliability of a trained protection dog. Bear in mind though, that a properly trained protection dog is a major responsibility – it’s like walking around with a loaded gun. You need to keep it’s protection skills – obedience and bitework, finely tuned with regular training sessions.
However, if you have a family with children and lots of friends visiting, you should consider a breed that has a reputation for being good with children. Most dogs are natural watchdogs and they will bark when people – friend or foe, come on your property.
Don’t buy on impulse, take your time since a well-chosen puppy or dog, with positive, fear free training is a joy to have.
You’ve done your homework and are aware of the responsibilities involved; you’ve decided on size, sex and breed. What next? Find out all you can about the breed that you have chosen, including any hereditary diseases that may be inherent in the breed. You can visit the conformation dog shows put on by The Barbados Kennel Club to see various breeds and talk to the breeders and owners. Once your research has led you to a breeder willing to sell you a puppy, you will need to arrange a visit to see the litter, in order to pick out a puppy.
Purebred or Mutt, you will need to ask the breeder some questions:-
- Can you see one or both of the parents?
- Are the puppies purebred and registered with the Barbados Kennel Club?
- What was the breeder’s goal for this mating? A reputable breeder always strives to improve upon the standard of the breed – the puppies’ temperament, health, genes, working abilities.
- How old are the puppies? They should NOT be sold younger than 7 weeks of age.
- Have they been vaccinated and wormed? The first of a series of shots should be given at six weeks.
Then Ask Yourself
- Do the parents have the kind of temperament and personality I want in my puppy?
- Are the premises clean?
- Are the dogs’ and puppies’ clean and happy and do they appear to be healthy?
What is a Healthy Puppy? When you find a suitable puppy, look for the following:-
- Are the eyes bright, clear and alert, with no discharge or cataracts?
- Is the nose clean, with no purulent nasal discharge?
- Are the ears clean and pink, with no excessive wax?
- Do the gums have a good pink colour? They shouldn’t be too pale or too red.
- Is the skin and coat shiny with no fleas or ticks?
- Are the faeces firm and well formed with no sign of worms? A potbelly may be a sign of worms.
Temperament – This is a major consideration! To judge a puppy’s potential temperament, ask yourself the following questions:-
- How do the puppies play and interact with each other?
- How does your chosen puppy react to you and sudden noises and movements?
- How does it react to being separated from the litter?
- How does it react to being cradled in your arms?
- How does it react to being lightly rolled on his back?
- Is it very sensitive to slight discomfort?
- Does it approach and follow you when you call it? This is a good indicator of sociability, curiosity and trust.
A puppy that gives minimal resistance to these actions should be relatively easy to handle and train.
Shy / Nervous Pups – Unless you have lots of experience and patience, do NOT choose a puppy that is nervous or shy, or the most assertive or aggressive one. These types will need more work and time and can be more difficult to train. Think about it, if a pup is nervous in it’s own home, where it was born, grew up with it’s mum and littermates, for the first 7 weeks of it’s life, then it will most definitely be nervous in it’s new home with you. Dogs don’t outgrow fear.
Choose a puppy that is confident, calm, curious and one that will complement your personality and lifestyle.
PREPARING FOR YOUR NEW PUPPY
After choosing your puppy who is at least 7 weeks old, NO YOUNGER, has already been wormed and had his first shots, you must make basic preparations for his arrival.
First of all, do you have other pets at home? Dogs or cats? Trust me, contrary to popular belief, unless your pets are used to other animals traipsing through your home constantly, eg you provide a temporary home to dogs or cats, your pets usually will NOT easily accept a new intruder into your home.
I suggest visiting your puppy frequently before you bring him home, so he gets to know you and build a bond with you, so when you do bring him home, he will not feel so traumatised. Play with him, put him in your lap, so when you get home, your other pets at home can smell him and get used to this new smell. Put your existing/resident pets on a leash for control and give lots of calm praise and petting as well as treats, so they associate the smell of the new pup with something good.
Proper and slow introductions are the key! Otherwise there may be fights, injuries, expensive Vet bills, permanent separation or rehoming. Give me a call at #243-4338 to book these Dog Introductions and get your pets started off on the right paw together.
Next, where is he going to sleep – indoors or outdoors? If outdoors, he needs to have a house that provides him with shelter from the rain and the sun. Does he have somewhere to run? Is this area properly enclosed? If indoors, does he have a crate which acts as his den and can also confine him, so he doesn’t get into trouble when not supervised?
I strongly suggest to keep your puppy inside with you, he’s a baby. He’s never been alone before. He has spent his whole life with his mother and siblings. It is also VERY traumatic for puppies taken away from all he’s known to being in a strange place with strange people.
A radio, or, at least, a ticking clock in a stuffed animal and a hot water bottle. This is particularly helpful when a puppy is first parted from his litter mates and mum. For the first time in his life, he is alone, in new surroundings, everything and everyone is strange, unfamiliar, it’s usually a very traumatic experience. This is why they cry and cry, especially when left alone at night.
When you collect your puppy, make sure you have your receipt; if it is pure-bred you should get a Kennel Club pedigree, registration papers & transfer of ownership, vaccination & worming records, and of course the diet plan & feeding schedule. Ask the breeder about the puppy’s potty habits – does it go outside or on newspapers? Has it been crated before? Does it have any health problems that the breeder’s vet is treating? Discuss the return policy beforehand. A reputable breeder will exchange a puppy.
Pick up your new puppy when you have lots of time to spend with him, say on a Friday afternoon after work. Bring a rug or towel, paper towels and some plastic bags in case of any accidents.
Before bringing your pup home, set up a confinement area. This is a place for your pup to stay when you can’t provide 100% supervision. For example, when you are out or busy around the house and can’t keep your eyes on him the entire time. It prevents chewing accidents, potty accidents, and teaches your dog to be alone.
Having a confinement area is the best possible start for your dog in your household. People often give a new pup the run of the house right away. Then, when he has an accident on the carpet or chews on the couch cushions, they confine him, and confinement becomes a punishment.
Instead, give your pup a safe place from the beginning, and let him make a gradual and successful transition to his new home. He will be much happier and your furniture will remain intact.
Where? The ideal confinement area is easy to clean and easy to close off with a door or baby gate. It should be mostly free of furniture and non-dog related objects. The best places for a confinement area are the kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, or an empty spare room.
What? Furnish the confinement area with a bed or a crate with something soft to sleep on, a water bowl, and several toys, including a chew toy or a Kong stuffed with part of your dog’s meal.
The first day
Step 1. When you arrive home, let him explore his surroundings. Take him where you want him to “go”. DON’T overwhelm him with too much attention and fuss.
Step 2. Introduce him to his new home, including the confinement area.
Step 3. Give him a chew or a stuffed Kong and leave him alone in the confinement area for approximately 5 minutes.
If your pup howls, whines, or barks, wait until he has been quiet for at least ten seconds before interacting with him. Otherwise, he learns that whining or barking makes you appear or gets him out of the confinement area, and he will bark or cry for longer periods of time. But DON’T leave him alone to cry it out, that’s simply cruel.
Start alone-time training now. Begin getting your pup used to short absences within the first few hours of his arrival. You will want to spend every minute with your dog when he first comes home, but it is better to prepare him for a normal routine right away. He must learn to be relaxed, calm, and settled when alone—and this doesn’t come naturally to dogs, social animals that they are.
How? Leave your dog alone in his confinement area while you go out or spend time in another part of the house. Vary the length of your absences, from 30 seconds to 20 minutes, and repeat them throughout the day. If your dog seems comfortable, you can gradually increase the amount of time he is left alone.
Another good habit to start right away. A crate is a terrific training and management tool, useful for house-training, brief alone-time, settling, and any form of travel. Most importantly, a crate teaches your pup to hold it when he has to go to the bathroom. A crate helps your pup in many ways—and saves your carpets.
The first few nights can be hard on both puppy and owner. The puppy is by itself without the warmth and companionship of its mum and littermates; A comfy bed, (such as a fluffy blanket, no fringe on the blanket, it could strangle him) beside your bed would be almost as good along with a hot water bottle and a stuffed toy fitted with a ticking clock to simulate a mother’s heartbeat.
Pups prefer to sleep indoors where it is quiet and warm. At night, put a chew toy in your pup’s crate or sleeping area and leave him. He may have trouble settling in at first, but should eventually relax and go to sleep. It is important not to let your pup out of his confinement area if he cries or barks.
Stick to the breeder’s diet plan and the feeding schedule ie times fed, or you could have a puppy with diarrhoea. The puppy is in a new environment, away from his mother and littermates – this change is stressful enough without changing his food, too. Gradually introduce new food over a week, by gradually adding more of the new food each day.
You should take your new puppy to your veterinarian within 24 hours of bringing him home, if not have him checked as soon as possible during the first week in his new home.
BRINGING YOUR NEW PUPPY HOME
After researching the right type of dog to best suit your lifestyle, checking out the breeder, making sure that the location is clean, healthy mother and litter, confident, happy and curious temperament, you have finally, after much thought, chosen your puppy, who is no younger than 7 weeks old and have already had his 1st Vaccination and been wormed.
Before you bring the puppy home, make sure –
- Get the Feeding Plan from the breeder. Keep to the same times, brand and type of foods the breeder was feeding for at least a week, since an abrupt change can cause an upset tummy and diarreah. You can gradually improve the quality and type of food after approximately a week.
- Supplements – Vitamins, Cod Liver Oil
- Toys – Kong, puzzle toy, stuffed toy, a large ball, tug toy, chews. NO rawhides toys since this is full of toxic chemicals that were used to break down the hair, etc
- 2 bowls – water and food – stainless steel lasts a very long time
- Bed – an old towel, blanket, mat, don’t spend a lot of money getting an expensive dog bed, it will be destroyed within a few months.
- Baby gate
- Plain collar – flat / buckle
- ID tags. It is the law to license your dog with the Animal Control Centre.
- Front Attachment Harness
- Leash (no chain)
- Grooming tools – brush, toothbrush & doggie toothpaste, nail clippers, puppy shampoo
- Hot water bottle & towel
- Enzymic cleanser / odour neutraliser – Nature’s Miracle is sold by Super Petsmart, puppy pee pads
- Contact name & number of a reputable, certified dog trainer who uses modern, positive reinforcement methods which are kind and humane.
- Dog care tools: Canine toothbrush, rinse, and toothpaste. Nail clippers. Dog shampoo. Brush.
- Transport: Box, Dog gate or crate for the car, or a doggie seatbelt.
Peruse your home to decide where you want the pup to go potty. Where is he going to sleep, where is his confinement area? Who is going to be at home with the pup, to let him out to go potty frequently and to feed him during the day?
Have an area where you can confine the puppy to, when you cannot supervise him 100%, which is safe, free of furniture and anything the pup can pull down and destroy. This area will help prevent potty and chewing accidents. Keep your pup’s bed, crate, water and toys here.
Make sure that the outside is safe and the pup cannot escape, check your fence for any holes or areas the pup can squeeze through.
Collect your pup, preferably on a Saturday morning, which gives you the whole weekend to get him used to his new home. Make sure that the pup’s last meal is at least 3 hours before collection. Some pups get car sick and having a full stomach, combined with the movement of the car, can make them vomit or have an accident.
Before you leave the breeder, you need to make sure you have the following –
- If a purebred, Registration Papers issued by the Barbados Kennel Club. You should have also completed and signed Transfer of Ownership form, to transfer ownership from the breeder to you.
- Vaccination Certificate from a Vet, which shows the pup should have had it’s first shot at 6 weeks and been wormed.
- A box with a towel or newspaper to keep the pup in and to absorb any accidents. Bring some paper towels too, just in case your pup gets car sick.
- Feeding plan
As soon as you get home, take the pup outside in the area you want him to do his business. Give him a chance to settle down and explore his new home before getting overwhelmed by too much attention. Your housetraining starts the moment you see your pup going potty, in the designated area, give quiet praise.
After he goes potty, take him to his confinement area, and give him a toy and leave him alone for about 5 minutes. His alone time training starts now, getting him used to being by himself, which is hard and takes time since dogs are social animals. Leave him alone frequently during the day, from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. Pups sleep a lot and after an eventful and exciting morning, he will no doubt crash out.
Do NOT go to him if he barks, howls or whines since this will teach him that making noise gets him attention or freedom. Instead wait until he is quiet for at least 10 seconds, then go to him.
Stick to the Feeding Plan and feed him at the scheduled times. You can gradually introduce another or a better quality of food.
When he is going to sleep, wrap the hot water bottle in the towel and put in his bed, with a stuffed toy. Remember, your pup is used to the company of his mum and siblings, now suddenly he is all by himself, in a strange new place, and this is traumatic.
Babies and puppies do best with a routine:-
- As soon as he wakes up, take him to the toilet area, quiet praise when he does his business.
- Feed him at the same times and at least 3 times a day, with the same foods that the breeder was using.
All dogs need a good quality food since they double their size in 6 weeks and by 6 months old, can reach their approximate adult size.
Dogs are carnivores, so protein must be the main ingredient that can be puppy chow, chicken, minced meat, eggs, goats milk, yoghurt, sardines, tuna, go easy on the oil and gradually add some fruits and vegetables. But only gradually start to introduce better quality dog chow and other foods after the first week.
Puppies like babies need something to keep them busy and occupied and this is where toys come in – chewies, treat dispensing, puzzle, rope bones and squeaky toys are best.
Enjoy your pup, but remember training has already started.