As promised, let us this week look at some specific considerations associated with choosing a dog as our companion animal. After all, we don’t want the animal to make a round-trip back to the previous owner; or worse, that you get rid of your pet in a way that, shall we say, is inimical to its interests.

Consideration #1: Size/space
Should you choose a large dog or a small dog? Well, firstly, all puppies are relatively small, and you may not know if it would grow into a huge dog. There is a pearl of conventional wisdom that dictates that you look at the dog’s paws. If they are big, the dog will be big.
I tend to advise that you look at the parents of the pup. When that pup grows up, it is unlikely that it would be much larger than its father if it is a male, or larger than the mother if it is a female. (Of course, when in doubt, ask your veterinarian or a bona fide breeder). If the dog is a pure breed, then your job is simple. The dog would grow (all things being equal – health, nutrition, etc) to the size that is standard for that breed.
Size is also your important consideration, according to the home in which you live. It would not make too much sense under our local conditions to keep a large dog indoors. (One wonders whether this would be sensible under any condition). If we are going to keep a canine companion animal indoors in a small house, then a small dog makes sense. Large dogs would need yard space with sturdy and high fences. Males, scenting females in heat, would go over, under, and through weak symbolic fences.
Please remember that all dogs need to run around freely. It is cruelty to an animal if it is tied to one spot for long periods of time. It is also illegal.

Consideration #2: Time.
Do you have enough time to exercise (playing with it; taking it for walks, etc) your dog? Do you have the time (and patience) to groom and examine your canine ward, and perhaps manually extract ticks and fleas from its coat? What about the time needed to take your pet to the vet for its check-ups, immunisation and deworming?
Would you spend some time daily playing with, and training, your pet? Are you prepared to cook meals, or offer commercial dog foods and observe eating patterns?

Consideration #3: Cost.
In choosing a dog as your pet, you should think of the cost associated with its care. Feed costs can be high, especially with large dogs. A very large and active dog may require between eight and ten pounds of feed daily. Then there are the veterinary costs – vaccinations and dewormings and incidentals.
If it is a female, you may wish to spay (removal of the ovaries and womb) her, so that she would not continue to present you, during the mating season, with her beaus and litter after unwanted litter. You may wish to consider neutering (removal of the testicles) your male canine pet. These interventions incur costs.

Consideration #4: Treatment.
If you have a lot (or even one) of young energetic children in the home, can you condition them away from the belief that their new furry friend is not a bouncing ball? Have you chosen a puppy that can tolerate some rough play? And if you have chosen an adorable fun-ball, can you accept with equanimity its not-so-adorable bad habits and general mischief? Do you have the necessary patience?
You must know whether you would prefer a vivacious ball of energy, or a dog with a more relaxed temperament.

Consideration #5: Health.
When you are choosing your puppy from the litter, it would be advisable to select a puppy that has clear, alert eyes and a cool, moist nose. Preferably, the puppy must be active and effervescent, and be exhibiting great vitality. It must not show signs of lethargy, slinking away from approaching humans, and tending to hide itself in a secluded spot. The coat must be soft, smooth and glossy.
In the area of the anus, there should be no sign of a diarrhoea or bloody stool (pasted hair, discolouration) etc. Bones (ribs, pelvic bones) should not be visible, and the legs should not exhibit signs of rickets (bowed or X-shaped legs, etc). There should be no watery or purulent discharge from the nostrils or eyes.
A good rule-of-thumb is to throw a bundle of keys (or anything that makes some unaccustomed noise) into the middle of the litter. Consider taking one of those puppies that immediately investigate the keys, and not one of those which shriek and run away.

Consideration #6: RELIGION
This column has no interest in getting into a debate about belief-fixation. Similarly, we do not wish to provoke dissent within a family group. However, I am advised that some religious tenets forbid dogs from being inside a house. I suppose hygiene is the primary issue. Next week we will discuss the pros and cons of keeping a dog in the house, or in a kennel outside.