dog5.jpg (37485 bytes)An important thing to consider when buying a dog is whether it will fit comfortably into your quarters when it reaches adult size. The presence of young children in the family should also be a factor in selection. A dog for a growing family must be able to stand rough treatment. A toy dog would be a poor choice for such a family because its tiny bones are fragile enough to break when children handle it roughly. In general larger dogs, such as Labrador retrievers or German shepherds, are better adapted both physically and temperamentally for a young family.

A dog can be acquired from a number of sources. It can be bought from a reputable pet shop or from a kennel. Newspaper advertisements describe pups for sale from private parties. Local humane societies have dogs available, too. From whatever source you get a dog, however, make certain it is healthy. Ask for proof, if possible, that it has received all the necessary immunizing shots.

It is also advisable to get a written reminder of whatever shots and other care the pup will need after you take it home. Even if a puppy has had shots against distemper and hepatitis, it will need booster shots. Later, it will need a rabies shot. A reputable pet shop or kennel ordinarily will have taken care of these details, but get a signed verification from a veterinarian anyway.

Males are usually larger, stronger, and more aggressive, and they make excellent watchdogs. On the other hand, females are usually more affectionate and gentle, and if they are purebred dogs and are mated with males of their breed, their pups can be sold for profit. The female has a strong maternal instinct and will guard children as well as she does her own pups. Dogs of either sex, however, can be neutered. Castration, the removal of the testes, makes a male dog infertile and more docile. Spaying, or removal of the ovaries, makes a female dog infertile.

Should one buy a purebred or a mongrel? This question is hard to answer because a purebred dog sometimes turns out to be less desirable than expected, while a mongrel often makes an alert, intelligent, and delightful family pet.

As a rule, a purebred pup inherits the traits of its breed. As a result, few surprises in body form and temperament arise when the pup reaches adulthood. If you want to buy a purebred but are unfamiliar with the breed, first look at a full-grown dog of the breed. The puppy will grow to resemble it. If you want to buy a mongrel, try to see its sire and dam. The sire and dam will display any unwanted trait that may lie hidden in the puppy.

Ideally, children and puppies should grow up together. Caution should be taken, however, when dog owners bring a newborn baby home. Pampered dogs sometimes resent the newcomer because the baby receives most of the parents' attention. They should make an effort to pay attention to the dog, too.

A puppy should be at least eight or nine weeks old before it is taken from its home kennel. By this time it will have been weaned and eating regular food. At first, the puppy must be fed four times a day. By the time it is mature, feedings should be down to twice a day or even once a day in the case of a dog that gets little exercise. Diet and feeding instructions should accompany the puppy. If it was eating a prepared dog food at the kennel, the same diet should be maintained until the puppy shows its dislike of it by "going off its feed," or refusing to eat. Several types of dog food may have to be tried before the dog settles on a favorite. If it refuses all the choices offered, however, consult the breeder or a veterinarian for help.

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