If you get a dog as a puppy you will be able to choose the breed that you want. You may need to be prepared to wait for sometime until the puppy that you want comes along. (see our page on Pedigrees and Crossbreeds for what to look for when buying a puppy).
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Which is best - a Puppy or a full grown Dog?
There really cannot be anything very much cuter than a sweet little puppy, but is that the best age to get a dog?
What is your image of a dog? A well behaved companion trotting at your heels? If you get a puppy it takes an awful lot of training to get to that stage! Depending on breed it can take anything from a few months to two years for a puppy to mature - whilst they are growing they will need house training, and may very well chew furniture and other things they shouldn't - not to mention little fingers! Bringing up a puppy takes a lot of hard work and commitment.
Just like children, once you have got over the baby stage they become unruly teenagers - all the training you have done seems to go out of the window as the world becomes too exciting, and your young dog will be deaf and blind to your commands. The teenage phase can last anything from 6 to 12 months depending on breed, and the character of your dog!
If you have a very young child with a puppy they will need careful supervision. Rough play can hurt a small puppy - and possibly even make it snap in defence. Puppies need to learn what they can and can't bite and chew and your child's fingers and limbs may get a nip in the mean time. And puppies have very sharp needle like teeth.
A young child and a puppy should never be left alone.
If your child is older then it can help with raising a puppy. Involving your child in training - going to training sessions together, for example, and letting the child have supervised responsibility for feeding can help the child understand how to care for animals, how easily they can be hurt, and how to properly care for them.
Adopting a Rescue Dog
Rescue organisations are overflowing with dogs needing a forever home. Rescues sometimes have puppies available.
It is a wonderful thing to give an adult dog a second chance in life - many are needing homes simply because their previous owners could not look after them. The benefit of getting an adult dog is that you won't have any nasty surprises about how big it is going to grow, a 2 year old (or older) will have gone through its teenage phase already, and you will be able to assess its character for yourself. The Rescue should be able to tell you whether the dog is suitable in a home with a child, and whether it has lived with cats or other animals.
Some dogs are given up because they have behavioural issues, and the Rescue should inform you about these, and possibly give you help and guidance to work on them. You will need to consider carefully the dog you are thinking of taking on and decide whether you are able to deal with these issues. A dog that has been given up because of separation anxiety, i.e. It doesn't like being left alone, may have been unsuitable for a working couple, but may fit in well with a family where someone is at home most of the time.
A dog that is aggressive towards other dogs though may be more difficult for a new dog owner to deal with. A good Rescue should question you carefully about your home circumstances and your experience with dogs, and should match you to the right animal. After all, it's of no benefit to them if the poor dog gets given back again.
Rescues will do a home check to ensure your home is suitable for a dog. Many have blanket policies about the type of fencing your garden needs to have, and very often won't rehome a dog where there is a child under the age of five. If you are turned down by a rescue it can be very hard to accept, but the policies are there to ensure, as far as possible, that they are placing their dogs in a forever home.
You may need to visit a number of rescues, and see a number of dogs before finding the one that's right for you. But once your choice is made, the homecheck completed satisfactorily, then you will be able to bring your new companion home.
If you are looking for a particular breed than most breeds have a breed specific rescue. In general rescues you might find it hard to adopt a particular breed of dog, unless it is a common one. Rescues have a wide variety of dogs of all shapes and sizes, so just going around and seeing the type of dog that's waiting for a new home might give you some different options to think about.
A sheep dog, for example, needs plenty of room to run and will enjoy herding anything - including the kids! Dobermans are guard dogs, and although they can be very gentle, if you are rehoming one you need to be sure that no one has encouraged its aggressive traits. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes - and this has an impact on your budget! A smaller dog is far cheaper to feed and veterinary expenses will be lower than with one of the bigger breeds.
A reputable breeder should query your home circumstances before selling you one of their puppies and talk through any issues such as having young children in the house, or living in a flat without a garden. They are unlikely to have a blanket policy not to sell a puppy to such a household.
Dogs and children make excellent playmates - as long as both remember a few simple rules:
||Puppies, like babies need a lot of sleep. If they look like they want a rest leave them be. Adult dogs will also spend a lot of the day asleep and may not appreciate being disturbed.
||Puppies have to chew to help lose their baby teeth and help adult teeth grow. They will chew anything, including fingers!
||A growl is a warning and means 'you've gone to far, leave me alone'.
||Behaviour which is naughty should be punished with a stern 'no' immediately (can apply to youngsters of both species!). Never smack or physically punish a dog or puppy.
||Puppies and dogs, should have their own space, e.g. Bed. Once they are in that space they should be left alone.
||A good dog can be turned into a naughtly nuisance if children take playing too far and become cruel (tying things to tails, being too rough etc.)
A responsible adult should ALWAYS supervise any play or other interaction between children and dogs, and know how to recognise if the dog is becoming uncomfortable with the child's actions. A dog is not a toy.
Visit our sister site anewpuppy.co.uk for detailed information about puppies
Whether you go for a puppy from a breeder, or adopt an adult dog, make sure you research about your chosen breed. Even mixed bred dogs can give you a clue of their heritage, and what their traits might be. Certain breeds have been bred to have particular characteristics.
An older dog (like the Cavalier King Charles pictured right) will be less demanding that a younger adult or puppy, and may be a more suitable pet for your family.