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How to choose the right puppy
If you have decided that the best thing is for you to get a puppy, you probably want to know how to pick the ideal breeder or animal shelter.
BEFORE GETTING A PUPPY
It’s important to think carefully about which dog breed you want before bringing one home. It’s easy to become seduced by a pair of big brown puppy eyes or a little fluffy ball of energy, but remember that a dog is a long-term relationship, so it’s necessary that you and your dog are compatible.
A dog should not only be suitable for your lifestyle, but also for your environment. For example, if you live in a small house with little outdoor space, a small dog will be a better fit.
In addition to the dog’s breed, age is another important factor that must be taken into account when adopting a dog.
As puppies require a great deal of training, if you don’t have enough time to keep your mischievous puppy under control, you should ask yourself if it would not be better to adopt an adult dog.
If you are sure that a puppy is your best option, you can skip to the fun part: finding your new furry friend!
BUYING A PUPPY FROM A BREEDER
One option when choosing a puppy is to buy it from an owner or breeder. Make sure you find a responsible breeder that wants what’s best for you and your puppy. Breeding clubs and societies are also an excellent resource for finding trusted breeders.
No matter how cute they are, resist buying a puppy from an animal shop, on the Internet (without having met it before), or under any other circumstances in which the puppy’s background is unclear (eg, at a flea market or through a newspaper ad). These puppies may come from puppy farms or, worse, may have been stolen.
Dog shows are also a great meeting point between breeders and owners, and you can learn a lot about the breeds that interest you.
What to ask a breeder when buying a puppy
Before going to see the breeder, call them on the phone. Responsible dog breeders will be more than happy to give information and answer your questions about their litters. Some questions you can ask the breeder are:
- How many litters has the mother had, and how many annually? Responsible breeders never allow more than one annual litter per bitch.
- How was the pregnancy? Did the mother have any complications?
- Do the mother or father have any health problems? Ask specifically for hip, elbow and eye problems.
- Are there any genetic disorders that are common to the breed? (You should do your own research on this topic before contacting the breeder; this way you will know about different available tests.)
- Is it possible to meet the father? If this is not possible, insist on meeting the mother.
CHOOSING YOUR PUPPY
Getting a puppy is very exciting and you probably can’t wait to choose the newest ideal member of your family. When you visit the kennel, whether buying or adopt a puppy, you won’t be able to see the litter until the puppies are around six weeks of age, which is when you can choose which one is the perfect fit for you.
If possible, visit it regularly so it becomes familiarized with you. You could even take the whole family so that the puppy gets used to everyone; after all, getting a puppy is a family commitment. Remember that a lot of new people can be overwhelming for a puppy, so if your family is large, don’t visit all at once. When leaving, you can leave a piece of your clothing so that the puppy gets used to your smell.
Things to look our for in your puppy
At six weeks of age your puppy should be interested in you and its environment, want to smell your hands and explore the world around it. It should be playful and, almost certainly, mischievous.
Keep in mind that the runts of the litter may have health problems, and that nervous puppies, or those that are withdrawn or too excitable may need more training and socialization.
Your puppy should be plump but not fat, and should not have lumps or nodules. The ideal puppy should have clean and bright eyes, as well as clean ears and bottom. Its fur should be soft and clean, without bald patches or sores; additionally, the puppy should not be scratching itself.
Place your soon-to-be puppy on the ground. It should show immediate interest in what surrounds him. Clap or make a sharp sound and watch its reaction. Deafness can be a problem in some breeds, such as Dalmatians and other white breeds, so you should make sure that your puppy reacts to sudden loud noises.
BRINGING YOUR IDEAL PUPPY HOME
The time your puppy spends with its mother and the rest of its litter is crucial. It's when it learns to be a dog and to develop basic socialization techniques with its mother and siblings.
As a general rule, you can pick up your puppy when it reaches eight weeks of age (or later with some breeds). It’s not recommendable to separate them from their litter before that, and it can be a sign that the breeder does not meet the required breeding standards. It's worth keeping in mind that some insurance policies do not cover dogs that have left their breeder before eight weeks of age.
Sometimes, the breeder will ask you to wait until the puppy is 12 weeks of age to pick it up. If this is the case, make sure that it is the right environment for it to socialize throughout these important weeks.
When you choose to bring your puppy home will also have influence on the vaccines it will have received: consult your breeder, who should provide you with the appropriate vaccination documentation (alongside deworming papers and those of other treatments).
If after choosing your puppy, you are asked to pick it up after the normal period of 8 to 12 weeks, ask the breeder why.
Finally, make sure you know which food formula your puppy has been eating and the breeder’s feeding routine. You will help your puppy adapt more quickly if you stick to its initial food, at least at the beginning.
GIVING A PUPPY A SECOND HOME
Keep in mind that there are more alternatives than buying a puppy from a breeder, consider that there are many puppies that have been abandoned or that need a loving home. Another option is to choose a puppy from an animal shelter.
A good animal shelter will have clean and cozy kennels, with a warm and safe area for sleeping, and plenty of space and toys to play with. Staff members at responsible centers will spend time with the puppies to ensure that they socialize correctly and that they will be a good addition to your family. The center's advisors will be happy to tell you how to adopt a puppy if it’s your first time.
For more information on adopting a dog in your area, contact one of your leading national organizations.
Our website section on adopting dogs will also help you answer any questions you may have about puppy adoption.
Whether you buy or adopt your puppy, a future full of excitement and adventure awaits you.
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