As puppy parents, we have a social contract to raise our little furry bundles of joy into being a good canine member of society. Having a new puppy in the house is basically introducing a toddler into your home. You need to be constantly monitoring the pup to ensure proper habits are forming… chewing on appropriate toys, eliminating in the right places, not climbing on that, grabbing things out of their mouth…. We will help to teach you tips and tricks to help your pup/toddler grow up to be the fun, happy companion you see in commercials. That’s why you got a dog, right?
Lesson 1: Big Decision – Is it the right TIME?
Adding a dog to your family should be a big decision, and resist the temptation of an impulse adoption/purchase. Ask yourself why you want to add a dog to your life, and what role you want the dog to fill. Then doing your homework on what type of dog will be best for you really is critical.
The biggest thing is to not get a puppy (or any new dog) if you don’t have the TIME to dedicate to them. If you regularly miss important events or blow by appointments, a puppy will only add stress into your life and become one.more.thing.I.have.to.do… To raise a nicely mannered dog, he or she needs to be balanced… not feeding off of stress and anxiety of daily life. If you can calm down and relax yourself, so will your dog. If your household is full of running and screaming, having a dog will amplify that.
Lesson 2: Coats or tank tops? Choosing the right breed for you.
What do you want out of this dog? Someone to sit on your lap and snuggle during a movie? Or someone to go with you during training runs? Or maybe just a nice family companion. Initially, dogs were bred much more for purpose than for looks. Researching what job the dog was meant to function will give you much more insight as to how they may behave in your home. A Rottie with a strong guarding sense will be a vastly different companion than a beagle who has his nose down, searching rabbits.
Be mindful on what type of dog you are considering. If you like long summer hikes, a Newfoundland is not going to be a fit for your lifestyle. Higher energy breeds, like the sporting, herding and terrier groups will require much more exercise. Hounds will need sturdy fences. I once had a daycare pup who was born in Alaska to a musher. He placed her into sled dog rescues when she could no longer work on his team – 20 miles a day wasn’t enough to make his cut. What working adult has the time to run a dog 15-20 miles every day?
Some dogs need jobs, and do not make good family companions. These are still great dogs, but again, does the dog fit your lifestyle? If you are a person who loves to compete in sports, doing agility with your Aussie can bring you both so much joy! Working dog sports are a great way to provide exercise, meanwhile practicing some of the things the dog was bred to do.
Once you’ve narrowed a breed, want to meet several of that breed to ensure you have the right choice.
Lesson 3: Rescue or Breeder
Now that you’re confident of the right dog, you’ll need to decide if you want to rescue, or find a responsible breeder. When it comes to the decision of adding a family member, take your time! Sites like www.petfinder.com will allow you to search for available dogs, hopefully see pictures and a blurb on history/personality traits.
If you decide for a puppy identifying a responsible breeder will be your next step. All AKC recognized breeds will have a ‘Parent Club’, which is a great place to start. The parent club typically has a list of breeder referrals. The reason to go this route is those who are related to the parent club tend to be careful breeders – take the time to do health checks, thoughtfully raising puppies who are sound.
Please, Please, Please DO NOT SUPPORT PUPPY MILL OR COMMERCIALLY BRED PUPPIES. Pups from pet stores should be avoided.
Create a list of questions for the breeders you choose to call. Don’t be afraid or feel like you are intrusive… you are the customer, and you need to be sure this person is legit.
- How would you describe the parent’s personality?
- How often are the puppies being handled and by whom?
- What health issues have they seen in past litters?
- Do they offer health guarantees?
- What is the temperament of parents?
- Why did you choose to breed this pair? How old are mom & dad? (A dog under 2 should never be bred)
- What health clearances do parents have?
- Have either of these parents had previous litters? How many? Where are those dogs now?
- Does the breeder have both dogs on site? Can you see the whole litter and the environment in which they are being welped?
If a breeder can’t answer any of the above questions, hang up.
Be sure you get the right puppy.
Once you’ve found the breeder and puppies are on the ground, visit! Be sure to spend time with and that you like mom & dad – ask yourself if you’d be happy to have momma live with you? My advice, let the breeder pair you with a dog. Tell them what type of companion you are wanting. They will know the individual personalities of the puppies best; yes, you may like the one with a spot, but he also thinks children are bowling pins, and not the best fit for your 4 year old daughter. The Volhardt puppy aptitude test is really a great tool. You can research it here and ask your breeder if they are familiar with it.
Pups should be weened and ready to go to their new homes at 8 weeks of age. Leaving the litter early can hinder their development. Ask the breeder what steps they have started taking to potty train and crate train the puppies? What experiences have these puppies had? How many people have visited and held them? Have they heard loud noises like vacuums?
Feeling overwhelmed yet?!? This is just the research stage! Being a pet parent isn’t easy! But, the work will pay off when you have a wonderful companion and best friend for the next 10+ years.
Special thanks to Janelle at Seneca Swiss Mountain Dogs and Leighann, a Canine Companions for Independence Puppy Raiser for these great photos!