How to pick the right puppy

Jun 11 2016, 4:02 am

There’s a good reason why dogs are called companion animals. They provide friendship, lower our stress levels, act as emotional support and have huge positive effects on fitness, happiness, and overall wellbeing.

But choosing the right dog or puppy is not something that should be taken lightly. With dogs living for an average of 10 to 13 years, a canine companion is a huge commitment.

Here are some things to consider before welcoming new a furry friend into your life.


Depending on the type of breed, you may need to give your puppy several hours of exercise per day, plus many hours of training and socialization. Be honest about your energy level and lifestyle. If you’re a couch potato, a Husky will not be a good fit. A trail runner? A Chihuahua can’t handle a 10 km sprint.

Other things to consider: Can you bring your pup to work? Do you have small children? If you’re more of a Netflix and chill kind of person, consider getting an adult or senior dog: they’re already housetrained and will be more into cuddling and couch time than spending hours on walks.

The litter of "Berry Patch" puppies at the Victoria Humane Society.

The litter of “Berry Patch” puppies at the Victoria Humane Society.

Consider the breed

While a lot of people pick a dog based on looks, owners should really focus more on the traits of that breed. Some short-nosed dogs, like Pugs, snore horribly, and also suffer immensely in the heat. Most dogs were bred for a job, so it’s important to remember what that job is. Some small terriers were bred to catch rats, and they still have the instinct to chase small prey when they’re off-leash.

Think about grooming needs. Does the dog shed? Will it need to go to the groomer often? Some breeds are hypoallergenic, which is a good option if you have someone in your family who suffers from allergies.

Money money money

The annual cost of owning a large dog is $875, according to the ASPCA. This includes vet appointments, vaccinations, spay/neuter procedures, booster shots, training classes, microchips and city licenses.  Other costs, which add up to hundreds of dollars, include food, toys, beds, daycare, dog walkers, and treats, carriers, crates, boarding and grooming.

Consider buying pet insurance to help cover unexpected vet bills. If you’re not into paying the monthly premiums, it’s a good idea to set aside $25 a month in case you experience health issues with Fido.

Murphy Brown after the vet.

Murphy Brown after the vet.

Living situation

Many shelters and breeders won’t let you adopt unless you can prove to them that you have stable accommodation. If you rent, consider if your landlord will allow you to have a pet, and think about whether or not you’ll be likely to move within the next few years.

Does your home have a yard, or are you near a park where you can exercise your pet? If you’re considering a puppy it will have greater exercise needs than an older animal. Finally, do you have someone who can help you with your dog if you have to stay late at work? What about if you need to get out of town for a few days?

Bull, a mixed breed pup at the Victoria Humane Society.

Bull, a mixed breed pup at the Victoria Humane Society.

Where to buy

There are generally three places where you can purchase a puppy or dog: A local shelter, rescue group, or breeder. There are also breed-specific rescues that specialize in one certain breed of purebred dog, like Pugs, Cocker Spaniels and Chihuahuas.

Consider adopting from a local shelter or rescue. There are so many amazing homeless animals waiting for a loving, forever home, and the Humane Society of the U.S. says 25% of shelter animals are purebreds. Petfinder is a great website to find great adoptable dogs and puppies across North America.

Where not to buy

Puppies in pet stores often come from large-scale breeders, which is a nice way of saying puppy mills. Even though the facilities may boast of being USDA-inspected, these operations have little regard for animal welfare, and many of the offspring suffer health problems that can result in vet bills, and heartache.

Beware of “breeders” that advertise on online marketplaces like Kijiji and Craigslist: these can disguise backyard breeders and mills that are producing puppies for the sole goal of profit. Some red flags that you’re buying from a backyard breeder is if they have multiple litters of different breeds, if they can’t show you the parents, and if they won’t meet at their home.

Pug puppy sisters (Jan Janack)

Pug puppy sisters (Jan Janack)

Find a good breeder

Reputable breeders legitimately care for the animals they breed, and want to meet pet parents to personally ensure their animal is going to a great home. A responsible breeder will be able to provide vet and vaccination records before you purchase the animal.

If you are using a breeder, do your research and ask for references from trusted sources, like a vet, friend or fellow owner. If you’re not satisfied, walk away. The Humane Society has a great checklist on how to find a responsible breeder. The Canadian Kennel Club and its provincial offices list registered breeders on their website.

Consider fostering

Fostering is a short-term commitment that provides an animal love, comfort and socialization in a temporary home while waiting for a permanent adoption. It’s a great way to determine if you really want the full-on commitment, and whether that breed is a good match for your home, family and lifestyle. If the pup is a great match, you may find yourself a “foster failure” who permanently adopts the animal, and that’s great too!

Do your homework

Thousands of puppies purchased on impulse end up being surrendered when the novelty wears off. It’s tragic, but totally unavoidable. Do your research and figure out what kind of dog makes sense for you so it’s a happy – and forever – match.

Gus Gus, a black Lab cross. (Simon Hayes)

Gus Gus, a black Lab cross. (Simon Hayes)

Two shepherd-cross pups at the Victoria Humane Society.

Two shepherd-cross pups at the Victoria Humane Society.

Darcy MathesonDarcy Matheson

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