Getting a puppy and want to do everything right - please may you advise me?

(37 Posts)
NomDeOrdinateur Mon 25-Feb-13 17:53:27

Hi all, my brother (age 20) is finally getting a puppy after about 15 years of pestering my folks for one, and I'd be really grateful if you could please advise me on the essentials.

He's done a lot of research and decided to buy a Newfoundland puppy from a reputable breeder, because he has read that they are typically very docile and should only get a small amount of exercise each day (he thinks <30mins) due to their predisposition to joint probs. I'm not convinced it's the best idea because he works very long hours and goes to the gym a lot, and I don't think age 20 is the best time to be entering into a 10 year commitment to a non-human dependent. Also, it seems a shame to buy a pedigree dog when there are so many perfectly lovely puppies in rescue centres. However, I've tried my best and can't talk him into waiting for a few years or looking at rescue does, so I want to do everything I can to help him get off to the best start with the dog he does choose. On the plus side, he's great with animals and v committed to this idea, there will always be somebody at home with the dog, and we do have a nice big garden and lots of good places to walk nearby.

I know I sound negative but I'm sure he will be great with the dog - I just wish he'd wait a few years, as I know from my own experience of having bought a (much loved and perfectly well behaved) parrot at 21 years old that it's generally better to put off buying any commitment-heavy pets until you own a home and know what limitations your career will place on you, as they do shut down some options if you're a conscientious owner.

I'd be very grateful for your advice on the following, and anything else you think we need to know about:

Pet insurance - I've advised him to go for lifetime cover, since I'm aware that hip dysplasia and heart problems are to be expected as Newfoundlands age and I doubt he'd be able to afford the rising cost of insurance. Is PetPlan the best choice? Also, if the starting quote for lifetime insurance is £50 p/m, is it likely to rise significantly as the dog gets older or develops medical conditions? Also, is liability insurance best included with the health insurance or bought separately?

Sex - He's keen on getting a male as he's read (as have I) that females are often more temperamental than neutered males. Is this still the case if females are spayed? I've encouraged him to look into the possibility of getting a female as they're significantly smaller than males (and therefore presumably less likely to suffer from size-related probs), but I can't find any reliable info.

Exercise - I understand that it's important to avoid damaging the dog's joints, but is <30 mins per day really enough mental stimulation for a working dog like a Newfoundland? My mother is likely to be at home the most, and she's not really a "dog person" so I'm not sure whether the dog would be unhappy with only a few hours of attention in the evenings.

Other pets - I have a small parrot living in the main family room, and I'd be very reluctant to move her upstairs as she loves people and gets very upset if she realises that she's been left alone when we're in the house. She's also quite noisy - she wails along to music on the television, and shrieks and flaps about in her cage when things startle her. She's also used to spending about 1/3 of the day out of her cage, and reliably bites anything she's unsure of in order to "test" it. AIBU or is her happiness/safety incompatible with the dog spending most of its time in the family room?

Cost - he knows that the dog will cost about £1000, he's budgeted £50p/m for insurance, and he'll be buying a grill for the car. How much should he expect to spend on food, toys, supplements, and the various sundries that I'm currently unaware of?

Thanks in advance for any/all advice! smile

littlewhitebag Mon 25-Feb-13 20:13:35

Wow - where would he get information that says a large doglike a Newfoundland needs less than 30 mins walk each day? As puppy's they need small walks so as not to affect their joints but not so for a full grown. I would imagine they need a couple of long walks each day. This is a big dog which will require a lot of attention and training and would not be compatible with someone working long days or with a lively social life. I have a 9 month old lab and it is like having a child in terms of the time and commitment she needs.

NomDeOrdinateur Mon 25-Feb-13 20:31:57

Thanks for your reply, Littlewhitebag. He got it from lots of websites and forums, but I don't know how non-medical people can judge what is "enough" exercise if they selected the dog based on the expectation that it wouldn't need long walks... I wish I could find something reliable to confirm/disprove what he has been reading, but I have no idea what to trust as I have only ever kept birds. I presume that the exercise/joints issue is based on a combination of their big, heavy build and the fact that they were selectively bred for swimming ability (i.e. exercise which doesn't involve weight-bearing). We live near a nice stream where lots of people take their dogs to swim, so that might help somewhat...

I agree regarding the time and attention, but I can't talk him out of it. Fortunately my mother is retired and I work from home, so the dog should get a reasonable amount of stimulation - it's far from ideal though, I know.

LadyTurmoil Mon 25-Feb-13 20:53:57

I think it's mad! Sorry, but he needs to GROW UP! He works long hours and goes to the gym, when exactly is he going to be available to housetrain, groom, feed, walk, clear up messes (at the beginning) and generally look after a puppy. I would be very surprised if a reputable breeder would agree to this kind of setup. It's also not fair to expect your mother to look after a boisterous puppy (that will grow to be huge) that requires 24/7 attention and is it was you really want to do? I'm sorry but he's behaving like a spoilt child " I want, I want" without having the maturity to consider what's really involved. When he's got his own house, he can do as he likes, but it's not fair to expect you/your mum to take on the bulk of the care and he just pops in and out and plays with the puppy when he fancies. What about when he goes out (which I assume he does at the weekends at least), has a few drinks, doesn't really feel like taking the dog for a walk, standing out in the garden every hour or so to get the dog housetrained etc etc. I think your mother has to stand up for herself and tell him that while he's living in her house, he has to go by her rules and it's not on. My son is 21 and I'd be really pissed off if he behaved so irresponsibly.

NomDeOrdinateur Mon 25-Feb-13 21:49:14

I agree, LadyTurmoil, but I can't actually stop him and my parents won't. To be fair, he's quite mature - he has a good job, works hard, is responsible with money, and he doesn't go out with friends or on holiday by choice. He has approx 4 hrs free each evening, plus the whole weekend, and he can pay for a dog walker daily if needs be. He's planning on taking all of his annual leave in 1 block to train the puppy and settle it in. He is good and reliable with animals - my parrot is quite high-needs and she loves him, he even gets up early to play with her before he goes to work.

I think this is at least 5 years premature but, since I can't prevent it from happening, I just want to do what I can to give the dog the best chance of being happy. I'm probably going to be living with my brother for most of the next 10 years and working from home (we live in the south, property is v expensive, and my DH is about to begin 5 yrs of chartership exams so we can't buy a home of our own until that's over with), so I am in a good position to take the dog out at least once per day myself if needs be as long as he's well trained. I just don't want him ending up in a rescue (or eating/scaring the living daylights out of my dear little parrot)...

NomDeOrdinateur Mon 25-Feb-13 21:54:43

Oh, and my dad (who used to have a GSD and loved it) says he won't stop my brother but he doesn't approve or want anything to do with the dog. Mum doesn't actually want one either, but she's felt guilty about refusing to let my brother have one for a very long time and has just worn Dad down somehow. I'm very opposed to the whole thing and have been very vocal about it, but since I can't change the situation I want to do whatever I reasonably can to make it work (even though I'm terrified of dogs, due to a bad experience when I was really little).

RedwingWinter Mon 25-Feb-13 21:55:17

I also think it's mad because he seems to be saying from the outset that he doesn't want to spend much time with the dog. Since he works long hours, what will he do if he moves out and there is no one else to keep the dog company all day? Has he asked you and your mum if you're happy to be dogsitting for him every day? When is he going to find the time to train it? Training is important for any dog, but an out-of-control enormous dog is very hard to handle, so it's crucial that he trains it as a puppy.

I would also be concerned about the relationship with the parrot. It would be unfair for the parrot to have to spend more time in a cage, or move to an isolated room, just because your brother gets a dog. I don't have any experience of parrots and dogs together, but it sounds possible that the parrot will bite the puppy initially, it would disastrous if the puppy bit or squashed the parrot, and yet your brother won't be there to supervise ...

NomDeOrdinateur Mon 25-Feb-13 22:10:10

Thanks all for the comments - I'm hoping to show him this thread in a bit.

I have asked him that, Redwing - he says that he will buy a house near his workplace, and go home at lunch time. He will also hire a dog-walker if needs be. I don't think he intends to move out until he has a serious partner and enough money for a deposit though - my parents have a huge house so they're happy with that, and he has a seriously good track record and an excellent career ahead of him so he will almost definitely be able to buy where he likes (and possibly have a SAH partner, depending on what "she" wants out of life). Again, this is his logic, not mine!

I think the training will be a major sticking-point, but for some reason he's convinced it won't be.

The parrot is my primary concern, since she's already here. I will probably end up moving her for most of the day into my study and just stop using the living room very much so she still has company. However, my dad loves her (and she adores him) so I'm sure he won't like that. The parrot is never allowed out unsupervised, but I still wouldn't want her out in the same room as the dog because she can be very loud and beaky, and she could easily fly over to the dog before I could catch her. Plus she's used to looking forward to my bro getting her out at 7am to play, so I know she will miss that when the dog arrives (and I'll have to do it instead, as well as working really late into the night)!

Marne Mon 25-Feb-13 22:20:27

I think it's crazy for anyone who works full time to get a puppy or any dog, having a puppy is like having a baby if not harder at times, the first few weeks are very hard work, separation anxiety, toilet training and basic training takes up a lot of time. We have had our pup for 6 weeks now and I can now leave it for a couple hours in its crate when I pop out.

RedwingWinter Mon 25-Feb-13 22:20:36

Training is an ongoing thing, not something he can just do in the first few weeks and then it's 'done'. Also many dogs have a teenage phase when the training goes to pot for a bit, reliable recall vanishes and you have to redouble the training efforts for a while.

Newfoundlands are lovely dogs. A responsible breeder will ask him lots of questions to ensure that he has really thought about the commitment. (Finding a responsible breeder is a topic in its own right; he should see the mum, they should be in a home setting, and the breeder should have a contract that insists they get the dog back if anything goes wrong for some reason).

Has he read any dog/training books? The Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey is one. The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson is an excellent book for any doggy person.

RedwingWinter Mon 25-Feb-13 22:22:18

Oh and another thing - if he works long hours, who is going to toilet-train the puppy? It will need taking outside very frequently, including in the middle of the night, to begin with. It's not fair to ask your mum to do that.

Jayne266 Mon 25-Feb-13 22:33:40

Hearts , joints , eyes (sometimes) can be a problem with these breeds ask to see the papers of the parents to show (at least the first 2 ) have been checked and passed.

Defo insurance unfortunately insurance can rise (they say it's due to inflation) you want one that is the highest amount per condition per year.

They are known for being soft but they have to be trained and be a puppy first. I saw a lady get her face scratched and a black eye because her dog was playing and jumping up at her.

Grooming is another cost.
Vaccinations, neutering, worming, flea treatment and microchip ??

NomDeOrdinateur Mon 25-Feb-13 22:38:41

Redwing - he's not planning on looking for another 6 months or so, but he will definitely buy from a reputable breeder. Thank you for the training book reccs, I'll pass them on - he already has a couple of books from colleagues (who also work full time and have dogs, which I think is part of his logic).

How long (roughly) do you expect that it would take to housetrain a puppy? He has 3wks a/l to take, plus the weekends on either side.

Good point about training being ongoing - I'll highlight that to him (yet again).

NomDeOrdinateur Mon 25-Feb-13 22:41:05

Thank you Jayne for your advice - I'll add those costs and checks to his (quickly growing) list of things to consider! Would the insurance be likely to double in monthly cost over the dog's lifespan? And is there any benefit to single year cover rather than lifetime? (I'm guessing no, he definitely wants to insure the dog for its entire lifespan.)

LadyTurmoil Mon 25-Feb-13 23:04:48

If he really won't move about getting a dog, would he at least think about a different breed? This breed grows up to be so huge, almost like Shetland ponies, is it fair of him to ask you/your mum/your dad to be responsible AND are you/they even physically able to control this size of dog and cope with all its needs? It's hard enough to stop an enthusiastic, bouncy Lab or retriever type of dog from running away with you, let alone a 50-65kg dog, does he realise that's about the same weight as a fully grown adult (between 9-10 stone!!). Yes, he might have read that they are fairly inactive etc but I'm sure that doesn't apply to a young puppy/dog. Has he explained the drool and the shedding? What would your parents think about that? And, lastly your mother should stop feeling guilty, she and your dad really need to put their foot down, it could cause real difficulties in THEIR relationship if they're not in agreement about it from the outset. Awful situation for you...good luck with it.

NomDeOrdinateur Mon 25-Feb-13 23:21:31

LadyTurmoil - he's adamant that this is the "best" idea, because they're supposedly quite sedentary and timid when fully grown (and, IMO, because the breed looks impressive). I've tried to persuade him that a terrier would be a better idea but neither he nor my father are keen - I think it's a slightly macho prejudice against small dogs TBH. Apparently he will groom the dog fully twice per week, and mum will hoover several times per day (I know, it's crazy). He thinks a bandanna will take care of the drool, I think it will go everywhere. Also, am I right in thinking that its thick coat will soak up water every time it bends down to drink, and then leave puddles all over the floor?

Thanks for the good wishes - I feel really stuck here! I'm currently living elsewhere (until April) and my parents both agreed without my knowledge that THEY would accept the dog as long as I did, so I have to choose between seriously damaging my relationship with my brother by being "The One Who Got In The Way Of The Thing He Always Wanted" in the hope that it might be enough to stop this (which I know it wouldn't be, as mum always helps him to get his way if at all possible and my parents never seem to respect/care what I think unless it supports their views), OR I do what I can to help him see sense with this thread and then pick up the pieces afterwards. He is literally obsessed with getting a dog, not a week has gone by in the past 15 years without him raising the subject with my parents (and I genuinely doubt my mum has gone 48 hours without hearing the word "dog" since he started primary school). Between his doggedness (no pun intended) and my mum's indulgent streak, I just know I won't be able to stop this - especially since I have 2 pets and a husband, whereas he feels that he's missing out on the things I have sad.

Gosh, that was a rant - thanks for reading, if you made it to the end!

If he wants a sedentary dog, why not look into rehoming a former racing grayhound? They're quite lazy and will be housetrained - and less used to being petted/centre of attention. Also less hairy!

I'd be pretty nervous of a newfie - they're blinking massive!

tabulahrasa Mon 25-Feb-13 23:36:17

It took 8 weeks before my puppy mostly had the hang of it with just a few accidents and 10 weeks to completely reliably housetrain my puppy.

Training in the more general sense is massively important with such a large breed, it takes up loads of time because you can't just let it coast because of the speed they grow at... I've got a rottie, much much smaller than a Newfoundland and he's been big enough to knock over a toddler since he was about 16 weeks old, he's now head height with a 9 year old at 7 months. (jumping up at them I mean)

They are fairly lazy, but they still need a decent amount of exercise - and has he factored in how much grooming they need and that large and giant breed dogs are puppies and behave like puppies for the first 3 years or so?

NomDeOrdinateur Mon 25-Feb-13 23:37:23

Thank you, codswallopandchips - I will suggest that smile. Are former racing grayhounds likely to be placid/non-aggressive and live a reasonably long time before health problems emerge?

tabulahrasa Mon 25-Feb-13 23:41:41

You get a lot of young ex-racing greyhounds who are retired just because theyre not very good at it, so yes they're young healthy dogs - and as a rule greyhounds are massively placid.

happygardening Mon 25-Feb-13 23:42:18

I know a little about Newfoundlands they are beautiful but quite boisterous when young and will easily pull a 20 stone man over and knock any adult flying. Theyve got feet like plates and do jump up if not properly trained. Most slobber and can send it 20 foot across a room a bandana is not going to stop it. They love water but then youve got an enourmous dog with an exceedingly thick coat that's soaking wet and takes hours to dry.
These are not for the house proud the two or three we've known have been confined to a conservatory or similar because they accidentally cause havoc knocking things over; just their tails are enormous and make a terrible mess.

Yup, they're pretty placid and typically live to around 12 years (they retire at age 3!!) Check out the retired greyhound trust for more info.

Oh, another benefit of a slightly older dog is that their personality will be quite evident - puppies are more of an unknown quantity regardless of the breed.

NomDeOrdinateur Mon 25-Feb-13 23:49:07

Tabulahrasa and Codswallopandchips - thank you so much, I will speak to my folks (and then my brother) about this tomorrow! I think it would be a much better idea - the more I hear about Newfoundlands (esp HappyGardening's description), the more I think it would be a totally inappropriate choice for my parents' house (which they have just spent thousands of pounds refurbishing, after 20 years of general scruffiness due to lots of children running about).

Happygardening - I'm glad to have confirmation of their strength, my bro is into bodybuilding so I think he sees a strong and heavy dog as a status symbol but I don't think it makes any sense for the rest of us. Mum recently had both knees replaced and is tiny (like me), so I'd hate to think of how much pain she could be in after being knocked over. Also, poor parrot might not be safe even in her cage if the dog is likely to knock things over!

I am soooo linking him to this thread tomorrow.

LadyTurmoil Tue 26-Feb-13 00:24:17

Please show him the thread, nobody is down on him for wanting a dog, everyone here realises the yearning for a dog that rapidly becomes an obsession!

But he just has to be fair to all the people living in the house. How would he feel about his mum being knocked over and injured by a big, slobbery dog? If part of owning this breed is about the size/status, he should realise that the size of his penis is not related to the size of dog he owns. An example, my brother is over 6 foot tall, muscly, not a wimp in the slightest ... What dog does he have? A little, white, fluffy Bichon poodle which he got for his daughter but he's the one who walks the dog every day and does not feel the slightest threat to his manhood! He even met his lovely girlfriend when out walking the dog!

Your brother needs to grow up and stop being mummy's boy who always gets his own way and damn the consequences. Again, good luck.

LadyTurmoil Tue 26-Feb-13 00:32:41

If he insists on a dog, why doesn't he consider an older Staffie? NOT a puppy as they are very bouncy and energetic, but one about 4 years old which needs a new loving home? There are so many in rescues and not all are "mad, bad and dangerous to know" as the papers make out.

Surely that would satisfy his childish (sorry but it is, on so many levels) attitude regarding a "macho" dog but would be so much easier than a Newfoundland.

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