Looking to get a puppy? Here’s what to do

Bill Daley
Chicago Tribune

How to buy a puppy? Very carefully and with much forethought, the experts all agree. After all, you’re considering the purchase of a living being, an animal that will need feeding, training, grooming, medical care and, perhaps most of all, love and attention from you and your family.

Be honest with yourself, the experts say, and really consider if you can do it. And, if yes, think hard on what kind of dog is best for you.

“You need to find a dog that fits your lifestyle,” says Bruce Haas, co-owner of Tails in the City, the Chicago dog boutique. “If you aren’t an active person and you get an active dog, that’s a problem. The dog needs to fit into your lifestyle. It’s up to everyone to do research.”

Research is key, agreed Gina DiNardo, vice president of the New York-based American Kennel Club.

“How much time and money do you have for grooming?” she asks. “How much time do you have for exercising the breed? Some dogs are more content being a couch potato. Others will go crazy if they are left in the house without stimulation and exercise.”

Puppies can also be “a big drain on time,” DiNardo added, and if you don’t devote the necessary time for training and socializing, “your puppy may not grow up to be the best canine citizen.”

If you decide to buy a purebred puppy or dog, DiNardo said, you need to look for a responsible breeder. A good breeder will want you to visit the property, meet the mother and puppies, and will be happy to educate you on the breed and help you find the right puppy, she said, noting that some breeders will even pick out the puppy they think has the best temperament for you. Expect, too, to be ready to answer many questions from a breeder looking to gauge your willingness and ability to provide for the dog. Such auditions, DiNardo noted, are a good sign.

“They will thoroughly vet you,” she said. “They will ask as many questions as you do.”

Animal rescue organizations, like PAWS Chicago, are also ready to help you find the right puppy or dog. (There are rescue groups for particular dog breeds, as well.) And they will likely ask questions similar to those posed by breeders to determine which animal is best for you.

“We recommend families visit a shelter,” says Sarah McDonald, PAWS associate director of media and community relations. “They can find a variety of wonderful animals, all shapes and sizes and energy level.”

Bring along any dogs you might have and tell the adoption counselors about any other pets; they can help you pinpoint a dog that will do better with such company.

If you choose a puppy, McDonald says, you should make sure you “puppy proof” your home to eliminate possible dangers (don’t leave things out that might get chewed or broken, lock up poisons, watch electrical cords). Figure out who is going to walk the puppy; can you get home from work easily to do it, or can you afford a walker to do it for you.

Uncertain how a pet will fit in with you and your family? Consider fostering an animal.

Whatever you do, make acquiring a puppy or dog a fun event for the whole family, McDonald says, and go in with an open mind.

“Let yourself meet a variety of animals,” she said. “Fall in love together.”