Owning a dog is one of the most rewarding things a human being can do. Dogs give us love and companionship and can be great partners in play and exercise. Sharing your home with a pet dog is a great way to enrich your life. But before you decide on your new best friend there are a couple rules.
1. Do Your Research on Different Breeds
Rushing into any decision is unwise but getting the wrong dog for your lifestyle can be catastrophic for you and the pet. There are a lot of dogs in shelters simply because their original owners didn't do their research and got a dog that didn't fit in with their lifestyle or current household environment. A couple examples would be don't get a border collie if you have no way of providing them plenty of exercise and entertainment likewise don't get a pug if you want a running buddy.
You know your household environment and lifestyle much better than I do. This one is really on you to research different dog breeds, genetic backgrounds, health concerns, and the like to know if you can handle it. An example of myself. I love Vizlas. They are a pretty breed and wonderful dogs, but I will never own one. Because of their genetic make-up their life expectancy is only around nine years. I simply cannot handle knowing that my good buddy isn't going to be in my life for very long.
2. Know Who You're Buying From
Have you heard of a Puddle? Not the collection of water on the ground but the dog breed. Neither had I until Lara and I for some reason decided to walk through the pet store. We thought they'd stopped buying from puppy mills but it turns out they've just found a way around it. They make up new breeds and sell them as designer puppies. Even if pet store puppies aren't coming from puppy mills they are often ripped from their mothers before they are fully weened and sit in a cage for the crucial socialization period of their lives which is between 3 and 12 weeks of age. These are not good practices and not good people and behavior such as this should not be rewarded with your business. Being a responsible pet owner starts before you even own the pet and knowing who you are dealing with and where your pet comes from.
The responsible thing to do is to check local rescues and adoption centers. We have plenty in this area including the East Coast Canine Alliance, Go Rescue, Hope for Life, K9 New Life, K9 Justice League, Virginia Beach SPCA, and the Virginia Beach Animal Care and Adoption Center. There are a few myths about rescues and adoption centers. You can get pure breeds, they aren't all pit bulls, most of the dogs weren't abused or neglected, and they do sometimes have puppies.
Of course if you are looking for a specific breed that doesn't take rescues off the table. Breed specific rescues exist for anything from a corgi to a German Shepard, and if you want to look online before making phone calls are traveling to a location then check out petfinder.com to start the search for your new best friend.
If you do have a need to use a breeder go back to rule number one and do your research. Obviously you do not want to buy dogs from back yard breeders. These are people that should be supported as much as the pet stores and that is not at all. Ask the breeder three questions, how many times a year are your females bred (it should be no more than 2), at what age do they start breeding (it should be no less than one year of age), and at what age do your adult dogs retire (it should be 7-8 for the males and around age 6 for the females). You should also ask to examine the conditions in which the dogs are kept and do not purchase from any breeder that gives away their puppies before they are fully weened (around 6 to 8 weeks of age). If your heart is set on a specific breed make absolutely certain that you are purchasing them from a reputable breeder.
Those are the two major rules of getting a pet dog. Do your research on the breed mainly their behavioral tendencies and genetic background relating to common health concerns, and know who you're buying from. If you follow these two steps you are off to a good start as a responsible pet owner.