June is here, and with it the heart of puppy and kitten season. If there are plans for a puppy in your future, then here are some things you should think about and do before making a furry addition to your family. Adding a puppy to your life should not be an impulse decision. Fight the urge to take a “free puppy” from a box in the Walmart parking lot.
Take time to research breed characteristics and common health issues. A couple of websites to start your search are www.akc.org and www.yourpurebredpuppy.com. Speak to local veterinarians about breeds and area breeders. They should know who has quality dogs and reputations.
One of the most important things to consider is selecting a breed-type with the same energy level as your family. If you are couch potatoes, a herding breed will drive you crazy, and you will drive the dog crazy in return. If you are hoping for a running partner, then a Bassett Hound may not be your speed.
Steer clear of buying a puppy from a pet shop. These days most reputable pet shops don't sell puppies. Pet shops that do sell puppies are very likely to be getting their animals from puppy mills. You will be getting a substandard puppy at an inflated price. (Refer to my April 2014 CCL column about Puppy Mills to learn how to avoid them.)
Other places you can get puppies are animal shelters and rescue organizations. As part of the adoption, most shelters and rescue groups include health checks, vaccinations, spay/neutering, and micro-chipping. This is a great deal and more than makes up for the adoption fee. A benefit of a mixed-breed dog is they generally have fewer congenital health problems then pure breeds. But if you only want a pure breed, it is not unusual to find them in shelters or with rescue organizations.
A good place to begin your search for a rescue dog is www.petfinder.com. Enter information based on the breed, age, and sex, and a list of matches are shown from area shelters and rescue groups within the mileage range you specify.
If possible, when meeting a potential puppy, it is helpful to observe the dynamics of the entire litter. Puppies in the litter should be social, and enjoy being held and touched. Take notice of how the pups interact with each other. Avoid the bully, or bossy one (usually the biggest and boldest puppy), and the most shy (often the smallest puppy). Picking a “middle-of-the-road” puppy will help you avoid a puppy that comes with issues. If the puppies are noticeably shy or aggressive, continue your search elsewhere.
It greatly benefits puppies to stay with their littermates for a full 8 to 10 weeks. Puppies learn a lot about social graces during this time. If possible, develop a relationship with your puppy by visiting regularly until they can go home with you. If you want to get more than one puppy from the same litter, take one home for a couple of weeks, and then bring home the other. If you don’t break their bond you will encounter a host of issues with both puppies.
If purchasing a puppy from a breeder, ask to see health records for the puppy and the parents. Has the breeder had their dogs checked for common breed related health problems? Does the breeder have a health guarantee for the puppies they sell? What happens if the puppy gets sick once you take him home? Does the breeder seem knowledgeable when answering your questions? Are the puppies up-to-date on vaccinations and de-worming?
Many people bring a puppy into their home when it is not in the best interest of the puppy. It is not a good idea to get a puppy if it is going to spend most of its time alone. Puppies don’t raise themselves. They need guidance, exercise, play, and companionship. Dogs are social beings and are typically not happy living in isolation. In addition, house-training will be almost impossible if a small pup is expected to hold it for hours on end every day.
Tiny, sweet puppies often grow into large, unruly, adolescent dogs. Elderly people and families with very young children often regret getting a puppy. Before they know it the puppy is jumping up on, knocking down, scratching, and nipping. With senior citizens and small children an adult dog may be a better fit.
Be realistic with the time and energy you have to offer a pet. Careful thought and research before selecting your next puppy or dog will result in many years of love and happiness with a faithful friend and family member.