How to Choose a Puppy
The dog has always been called "man's best friend." In lots of ways, dogs are like people - they enjoy company, they communicate how they feel, and they love to play. So it's no wonder that you want to bring a puppy into the family and raise him or her as your very own. Puppies are incredible fun, but they're also a lot of responsibility. Unlike children, who grow up and can do things on their own, pets can't take care of themselves and require your constant care and nurturing. Remember, puppies grow into dogs and some dogs live to 15 years or more. There are several things to consider when choosing what kind of puppy you want to bring into your life.
1. Evaluate your financial situation. Do you have a stable financial status and steady income? Keeping a dog is not cheap; equipment, food, and vets fees can cost a lot.
- Cost will affect your choice of dog. Large dogs, for example, often cost more because they can have health issues that are less common in smaller dogs and because they eat a ton of food.
- Ensure you have "emergency funds" available for emergency trips to the vet, surgeries, and tests. Sometimes things will happen outside of the regular schedule of check-ups and shots for puppies. You'll want to give your pet the best care possible, so make sure you are financially able to do so.
2. Consider where you live. Do you live in the country or in a town or city? Do you have a condo, apartment, or house? Where you live and the space you have available should influence what kind of puppy you get. Puppies need space and fresh air so think about this carefully before making your decision.
- For example, think about what kind of space you have in your house? A big, loud dog in a small house will drive everyone crazy. Further, it's not healthy for a big dog to be cooped up in a small space. You want to choose a puppy whose adult size will suit the space you have available.
- Think about outside space. Do you have a backyard? Puppies have lots of energy, and they need space to exercise. Having a backyard also allows you to train your puppy to urinate outside. If you live in an apartment building or condo in an urban area, consider where the nearest parks, green spaces, and dog parks are.
3. Assess your existing work-life balance. Do you have time to care for your puppy? A new puppy needs lots of care and training. Are you willing to plan your life around your pet's needs? If you're working 12 hour days or travel frequently, a puppy is probably not a good fit for your lifestyle.
- Puppies are fun but their energy can make them time-consuming. In the first few weeks, you will need to housebreak your puppy and teach it to obey simple commands.
- You'll also have to find time to take your puppy for one or two good, long walks every day. Letting them out to urinate or for a 5-minute run in the yard or park is not sufficient. Exercise that drains both the dog's physical and mental energy is key to keeping your puppy stable and happy.
- Vet visits will also be more common in the first year; the puppy will have to vaccinated, wormed and neutered.
4. Think about who (and what) else lives in your home. Consider the wants and needs of your family, as these will shape your choice of puppy. Does anyone in the family have an allergy to dogs or a specific type of dog, for example? Is anyone deathly afraid of dogs? Getting a puppy is a big decision so you want to make sure you're ready and choose the right one. Puppies grow into dogs and will likely be in your life for the long-term so you want to view him or her as an addition to family and something that everyone will be invested in and love.
- Think about the pets you already have, if any. Consider the temperaments of your current pets and how they generally react to other dogs and animals. For example, a male cat that you've had for a very long time could easily get jealous. In addition, bringing in an energetic puppy could be stressful for older pets. It may take a while for your older pets to accept your new puppy, but often the relationship works itself out.
- Consider your plans. Are you moving or thinking of moving in the next year? Moving pets - especially by plane - can be stressful and expensive, so think about whether you'll be stationary for a while. Are you pregnant or thinking of starting a family soon? Juggling puppies and babies can be challenging, as both require your love, attention, and constant care. You'll want to be sure you can manage your time and are comfortable with animals around infants. Sit down and think about the next few years and really evaluate how a pet fits into the life you envision.
5. Assess what type of support is available in your area. Is there a good vet and emergency vet nearby? Are there any kennels in the area or friends in the neighborhood who could "pet-sit" if you go on vacation and can't take the puppy with you.
- If you work a lot but remain committed to getting a puppy, you might think about hiring someone feed and walk the dog while you're at work.
6. Decide on size. Do you want a big or small dog? The answer should to some degree be contingent on your evaluation of your home and neighborhood.
- Big dogs like the Great Dane and the St. Bernard are calm and gentle, while breeds like the Jack Russell terrier are smaller, more energetic. However, large and small dogs both have their fans. The truth about which dog is better behaved likely lies in the eye of the beholder and depends on the individual dog.
- Generally, a small dog one that weighs less than 22lbs or is shorter than 16 inches. Smaller dogs tend to be popular among people living in cities, those who live in apartments, and individuals lacking a large living space.
7. Figure out which breed you want. Research the type of breed and pay attention to information on temperament, needs, health, sex differences, and any other details that may affect your decision. You may also of course already have a breed in mind from when you were younger that you've been dreaming of getting your whole life.
8. Decide whether you want a purebred or mixed breed puppy. Purebreds are dogs whose parents and other ancestors are all members of the same breed. Mixed breeds, on the other hand, are basically combinations of different breeds of dogs.
- Purebred puppies are more expensive than the mixed breeds, but it's also easier to anticipate how big purebred dogs will get and what their full size will be.
- Mixed breed puppies are generally healthy and strong and come in a wide range of colors, types, and sizes.
- Purebreds are more prone to inherited diseases than mixed breeds. However, good breeders of purebred dogs test the parents for thyroid disease, anomalies of the eyes, shoulder and hip issues selecting against negative traits.
- Ultimately, there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of pedigrees. However, at the end of the day, how your puppy turns out will depend entirely on how you raise, nurture, and train your puppy.
9. Think about whether you want a male or female puppy. Some believe that male dogs are more affectionate and easier to train and that female dogs are more aggressive and protective. However, sex differences appear to be largely anecdotal. There's no study proving that a dog will behave a certain way because it is male or female.
- Any sex differences may also depend on the breed, so do your research. Further, neutering the puppy can make the distinctions between male and female personalities disappear.
10. Decide on where you to want to get your puppy from. There are lot of options, including pet rescue centers, pet stores, or private breeders. You can search websites like Puppyfinder.com and Petfinder.com. Where you get your pet from will depend on whether or not you have a specific type in mind and how much money you have to spend, among other factors.
- If possible, select a puppy from a healthy litter that has been brought up with its mother, rather than in kennels. This puppy will adapt more quickly to its new life in your home.
- Choosing the right owner or breeder is vital. A breed club is a good place to start your search, as they may have a list of litters available. The club could also put you in touch with respected breeders in your area to get the ball rolling. You could also try attending a dog show to meet breeders and owners to get more information.
- Never buy from a puppy mill. They breed much too often from the same female and often don't care for the puppies properly. Puppy mills breed to make money and do not usually care about the health and happiness of the dogs; further, they may not tell you about any fatal diseases or health concerns because they just want your money.
11. Ask the right questions. Once you've decided where to get your puppy from, inquire into the background of the institution or breeder. Figure out whether they know a lot about dogs and seem invested in promoting the well-being of the animals.
- For example, if your buying a purebred dog, talk to the breeder. Good breeders spend a lot of time with their animals and should be able to tell you about each puppy's personality. If you're buying a mixed breed, ask as much as you can about the puppy's parents - that way you will have a good idea of what it will be like when it grows up. Inquire also into the health history of the parents.
12. Examine the puppies. Before you pick puppy over another, watch the puppies closely to see which seem energetic or lazy, affectionate or aggressive, anxious or calm.
- Do more than just look; play with all the puppies and get to know them. Look for the ones that walk up to you and licks your hand while wagging their tails.
- After observing the entire litter, you’ll probably have a sense of which puppies you’re most interested in. You can then assess each puppy separately, in a quiet area where he or she won’t be distracted by noise, food or the other puppies.
- Make sure that your puppy is used to being handled from birth and has had contact with people; this makes it more likely that your puppy will grow up to be friendly.
- Be cautious of puppies who are very shy, cower, try to bite, have tantrums, or defecate or urinate when restrained. These puppies are likely to continue to react this way unless they receive carefully planned training.
13. Use your head and heart to make the final choice. You’ll increase your chances of getting the right puppy if you rely on both your heart and head. Take into consideration both your feelings toward the puppy and your objective observations of his or her physical and behavioral health.
14. Check the puppy's health. Inquire about your chosen puppy's health and whether its had his/her shots. You can also do a physical examination yourself. Here are some things for you to keep in mind:
- Energy level: A healthy puppy will be alert and interested on what is going on around him/her.
- Hearing: A puppy with good hearing should react if you clap your hands behind his/her head.
- Vision: A puppy with clear vision should see a ball or other toy that rolls past in his or her field of vision.
- Body condition: A healthy puppy's tummy should feel soft when you press it gently. The puppy should look well fed and have some fat over his rib cage.
- Genitals: The puppy should not have any feces or pus visible in the genital area.
- Eyes: A healthy puppy should have clear, bright, and open eyes without crust or discharge.
- Coat: A puppy's coat should be attractive without dandruff, dullness, flakiness or red patches. The fur should be shiny and healthy.
- Do a flea check. Look for small, black specks in the puppy's fur. Don't get too upset if you find one though - it's easy to get rid of fleas.
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