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How difficult could it be? After all you take your kids to the nearest pet shop and pick out the cutest one, right? Wrong! Getting a dog is a ten-year commitment, says Ceylon Kennel Club Administrative Secretary, Sunil de Livera-Tennakoon. Meaning, you have to allocate 10 years of your life, the day you buy your pooch. After a pup is bought he or she has to be considered a part of your family. “A dog is a member of your family who can’t talk,” says Tennakoon. “If it falls sick or is hungry, it will look up to you.”

Making a ten-year commitment is only the first step to becoming a dog owner. On today’s column will be on how to pick the best dog according to your requirements.

Ceylon Kennel Club, Administrative Secretary, Sunil de Livera-Tennakoon
Ceylon Kennel Club, Administrative Secretary, Sunil de Livera-Tennakoon

Where to buy?
Pet shops are ok, but be warned that some pet shops are not properly maintained and do not take care of their pups. If you’re planning to own a dog the best place to turn to for advice is the Ceylon Kennel Club. They have all the dogs on record and can recommend best breeders. But it’s the future owner’s responsibility to see the pups and both parents themselves.

When to buy?
The ideal time to buy a dog is at six weeks, informed Tennakoon, after they have been wormed and weaned. “Some breeders separate the pups from their mother at four months, this is not recommended.” Tennakoon explained that this is the time that pups need their mother’s affection. “Besides there’s no substitute for mother’s milk.” He explained that puppies grow up as a litter seeking warmth from each other, this is also important for the emotional health of the puppies.

At two weeks puppies open their eyes. This is when they are at their naughtiest and start pooping around. Unfortunately this is around the time the breeders get fed up of the pups and sell them in a bid to get rid of them.

As said before it’s imperative that future owners see both parents to get an idea of what the pups will turn out to be. Most breeders only show the mother, warned Tennakoon. But let’s not forget what happened to the Grogans in Marley and Me, when their puppy turned out to be hyperactive like the father they weren’t allowed to see. Pups get behavioural and other physical characteristics such as colour from both parents.

Picking the pup
Don’t pick from the first litter you see, advises Tennakoon. “See a few before you make the decision.” Once you find the ideal breeder separate the litter according to sex. If you want a male pup, remove all the females and let the male pups move about. Single out unwanted puppies such as scrawny ones. Look for breed defining characteristics such as a good head in a Rottweiler. And based on these characteristics, make a judgement call on the best pup.

In addition, look for these signs:
♦ Clear eyes

♦ Wet, but not runny nose. (Runny      nose indicates a sick pup.)

♦ Straight well formed, aligned teeth

♦ Don’t pick sleepy looking  puppies, pick an active one.

♦ Well formed paws.

♦ Make it stand and check whether it’s able to stand on all fours on its own, holding its head high.

♦ Look for matching breed colours.

♦ Avoid ones with puppy rash

Prepare yourself
It’s imperative that you prepare yourself before you go and buy a pup and here are some tips as to how to go about it.

1. Keep in mind your purpose
Surf the net about characteristics of different breeds and pick the one that suits your needs in a dog, suggests Tennakoon. This imperative in deciding what pup you should buy as the purpose of buying a pet dog differs according to what you intend it for. “For example one owner may need a dog for socializing purposes, to enter it in dog shows or sports agility shows; another’s intention maybe to have it as a guard dog or simply as a companion or play mate for his kids,” explained Tennakoon.

2. Train yourself first
Dogs are pack animals and like all pack animals, they have an alpha male, a leader who gives them orders. “The owner has to be the dogs leader, if not, before long it will lead you,” warned Tennakoon. Surf the net for the basics of training your dog before you buy it.

You have to train yourself in patients as well. When the pup is separated from its mother and other puppies of the litter and brought into a new home, it will take the pup some time to get used to the idea that this is its new home. It will howl for days or turn riotous, says Tennakoon. This is the time to exercise your patience. “Show the pup a lot of love, show it that you are its new family.” Kids will spoil the dogs with too much love, it’s either parent’s role to be the leader and give it orders. “Give the pup a short name so it grasps it and gets used to it. And make sure it’s not confused with other names in the household. For example if you have a cat named Pinky, don’t name your new pup Dinky, it will get confused.”

In the next column, we’ll be discussing pup registration and heath, so keep reading.