Several of you have asked for advice on how to choose a puppy. Susan Jenkins of Papp’s Dog Services provides a primer on how you can find the best pup for your family.
Bringing a new puppy home can be a very exciting and stressful time. Make the transition easier by learning what you need to know to get a healthy puppy that is right for you.
Determine what breed is best for you before you start looking at litters by understanding traits associated with the different breeds. Tests are available online to help you to make a good choice. Getting a breed that doesn’t fit your lifestyle can mean a lifetime of challenges. In many such cases, these dogs end up in rescue.
For example, terriers have been bred for generations to go after vermin and by nature are more assertive in personality in order to go down holes after a badger, rat, or fox. Sporting breeds often have a higher pain threshold to break ice and go through brush to retrieve, point or flush. Hounds have their noses on the ground. This is also true of mixed breeds although they don’t necessarily share the traits of their mixes.
If you are getting a purebred or designer dog, make sure the breeder is doing all the necessary health clearances. Determine what those clearances are by researching the Internet on what actions the breeder needs to take before the animals are bred. Many breeds need hip X-rays to rule out hip dysplasia. Even with health clearances, there is no guarantee the dog will be free of inherited genetic health issues, but testing will greatly reduce the possibility your puppy will have them as he grows. A well-bred pure breed puppy may cost a little more, but will translate to fewer veterinary bills in the future. Better breeders will take the dog back should anything prevent you from keeping it.
Getting your puppy from a reputable breeder is very important. One should be able to go into a home, see where the puppies were raised and meet the mother. Better breeders will have the puppies in a home where they can interact with them regularly. This will facilitate your housebreaking.
Ask the breeder what has done to prepare the puppy for leaving the mother. Have they started potty training? Crate training? Has the mother been with the puppies long enough (around eight weeks) to teach it to be a dog? Never, ever purchase a puppy from a pet store. In all probability the animal, no matter how cute, came from a puppy mill where genetic defects are passed from one generation to the next, taken away from its mother too early and is under socialized when it comes to human contact.
When looking at a pure breed litter or at a rescue, there are some things to look for. Do the puppies want to interact with you? If the puppy is off by itself, acting fearful instead of curious, I would have second thoughts about that pup. You want one that comes running to you when you call it. Toss a toy around to see if it wants to interact with it and gently pick the puppy up to see if it will struggle or settle down.
Look at long-term expenses for the puppy, including the cost of food and vet bills. Plan to feed it a food that is free of corn and wheat. Although it can be more costly, the dog will need less food. Consider vet and hospital visits if the puppy needs surgery. Can you afford the extra money for an emergency? These are all things that should be considered. The most difficult thing is leaving your emotions at home when looking at a puppy. They are all cute.
Have a plan and stick with it. Bringing a puppy into your home is a 10- to 15-year commitment. There are too many dogs relinquished into rescue because people don’t do the necessary research before getting a puppy.
Preparing for the homecoming is exciting. Puppy proof your home as you would with a child. Correct all the things that the puppy can get into to make its environment safe. Have the crate set up where the animal can find its food and water bowls. Be prepared by learning how to potty train the pup.
The first few weeks of adjustment will be challenging, but the joy a puppy brings with it does the heart good.
— Susan Jenkins, owner of Papp’s Dog Services and a member of the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors and the International Association of Canine Professionals
Please send questions about your pet to Kathy Antoniotti at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; or email email@example.com. Please include your full name and address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached. Questions will be forwarded to an expert best suited to address your pet issue. Phoned-in messages will not be taken.