Picking a Puppy

Picking a puppy may be on quite a few minds this season. Now that spring is in full swing, animal shelters and rescue groups nationwide are inundated with furry puppies and fuzzy kittens. National Puppy Day is celebrated on Wednesday, March 23rd as a way to raise awareness about all of the puppies in need of adoption. Spring is a great time to adopt a furry family member, as the warmer weather makes frequent potty breaks and field trips more pleasurable. Remember that puppies don’t stay small forever. It is important to decide early on what type of adult dog is going to be right for your family, as well as where you will get your new puppy!

Gretchen the puppy.

Gretchen was adopted by Paul Francis and Chelsea this past November. She is a black goldendoodle (golden retriever/poodle mix).

Discuss the implications of a new pet with your entire family before deciding to add a new animal. Consider everything involved with caring for a puppy. Young dogs can only “hold it” for 2-3 hours at a time. If you are unable to let them out to use the restroom this frequently, an older dog may be more appropriate. You also need time to work  on training and socialization exercises into your everyday routine. Getting a puppy is a life-changing decision and should never be done on a whim!

You’ve decided to adopt a puppy, but where do you find these pups in need? Your local shelter is a great place to start! If no puppies are immediately available, you can ask to have your name put on a waiting list. They will most likely have contact information for other shelters in your region that you can reach out to as well. If you have decided on a specific breed of puppy, you can search the internet for breed-specific rescues. These organizations are often contacted when pregnant dogs come into shelters.

It’s worth mentioning where to avoid looking for puppies. Newspaper and internet ad listings, like Craigslist, frequently feature dogs from backyard breeders who are just trying to turn a profit. Similarly, pet stores often sell puppies who are products of puppy mills, where breeding dogs are kept in subpar and abusive conditions.

Chewy the puppy

Chewy was adopted by Jennifer last summer. He was brought to MSAH with his littermate when they were found as strays. They are mixed breed dogs.

Picking a puppy that’s right for your family is about much more than just looks. Although he may be really cute now, that fluffy Australian Shepherd might not be the best choice if you have small children. Take into consideration the breed’s temperament, energy level, and other breed characteristics. Different breeds of dogs have been bred over time to be suited to certain tasks. For example, Labradors were bred to be good at retrieving and following direction while hunting, which requires them to be energetic. There are also many puppies available for adoption that are a mixture of breeds. It can be very difficult to determine what a mixed breed puppy will grow into. You may be able to get a glimpse at their future size and temperament based on their mother.

If picking a puppy from a litter is not possible, there are certain qualities to pay attention to that may help you pick the best one for your family. Although you may not be able to receive a lot of background information on the litter (for example, if the mother was found as a stray or the litter was abandoned), you can look at this snapshot in time with some determining factors:

  1. How attentive is the puppy to the world around him?
  2. Does he appear healthy? (runny eyes, sneezing/coughing, runny stool, and a distended abdomen are all signs of illness)
  3. How responsive is he to changes in the environment or the other pups in the litter?
  4. How compliant is the pup? A good way to test this is to roll the puppy over on his back while you’re holding him. A compliant pup will just lay there and enjoy the attention, while a more challenging pup will squirm and try to get away. Another test is to watch the litter interact with each other during feeding time. Of course, the puppies will all want to get to the food. However, if there is any bullying or growling during feeding time, this may be a sign that this pup will show signs of food guarding and may need behavioral intervention down the road.

Remember, you are looking for your future family member. If you don’t feel like any of the puppies in this litter is the right one, pass and keep looking.  Don’t cave and choose a puppy solely because they are cute!

Research shows that puppies acclimate the best to new homes at 8 to 12 weeks of age. At this point, they have been weaned from their mom and have developed some critical social skills with their littermates. If you have fostered a younger puppy from a shelter or rescue organization, they can help you figure out what type of care you should provide. After 16 weeks of age, the puppy has passed through the initial social imprinting stage and it becomes more challenging for them to adjust to new situations. If you have the option, choose a pup between two and three months old.

After picking a puppy, you have a lot of work ahead of you, including medical care, housebreaking, training, and grooming. Remember that your decision to add a puppy to your family will impact him for the rest of his life and will provide many happy memories for your family! Give us a call to schedule your puppy’s first examination with us today!