Top 8 Tips for Choosing a Puppy

When my husband and I decided to get a puppy, we knew we were making a long-term commitment.
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After all, a puppy grows into a dog, and that dog will be part of the family for 10 to 15 years, typically. We talked to a vet, and poured over breed descriptions in books and online. Ultimately, we opted to adopt a mixed-breed from a shelter.

Since then, we’ve fostered several stray or injured animals, and helped them find good homes. Some of the animals we’ve fostered have fit very well with our family and lifestyle. Others were a bit more challenging.

Owning a dog is one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have in life. Dogs make worthy companions and give kids the opportunity to love and care for something beyond themselves. Robert Benchley once said, “A boy can learn a lot from a dog; obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down.” Choosing the right dog takes some time and effort, though.

If you’ve decided that you’re ready for a puppy, do your research before you start looking. Make up your mind about what you want in a puppy before you visit a shelter or breeder; otherwise, you may find yourself swayed by every pair of warm, brown eyes, and end up getting a puppy that may not be the best fit for your family.

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Below are a few things to consider when choosing a puppy.

  1. Pay attention to breed characteristics. Although every dog will have its own personality, just as your children do, breed characteristics tend to hold true. We’ve owned two beagles, for example, and both of them were highly affectionate, charming and friendly. They were also both completely obsessed with chasing rabbits. That is, after all, what they were bred to do. This characteristic wasn’t an issue until we moved to a home surrounded by open space and an abundance of rabbits. Then it became a very big problem!
  2. Consider personality and temperament. When you meet a potential pet, either at a shelter or through a breeder, spend some time to assess the puppy’s personality. Does the puppy seem happy to see you, or does he shy away from contact? Hold the puppy securely in your hands and try to turn him onto his back.
  3. What about the dog’s activity level? An active, rambunctious puppy fits in well with a busy, active family, while an older dog may be more well-suited to a retired person. Some dogs, such as Retrievers and German Short-Hair Pointers, are naturally energetic, making them a good choice for someone looking for a hiking buddy. Small lap-dog types usually need less exercise and are content to spend most of their time indoors.
  4. Consider the full-grown size of the puppy. A Newfoundland puppy is absolutely adorable, but you may not find him so cute when he weighs 150 pounds. Choose a puppy that fits your living situation in terms of size.
  5. Assess the puppy for signs of good health. A healthy puppy has bright, shiny eyes with no signs of discharge. His gums should be pink or pigmented and his breath should be pleasant. Products such as dog treat greenies can help with maintaining oral health. A healthy puppy’s nose is moist and cool, not running. The coat should be glossy and clean.
  6. Stock up on supplies before you bring the puppy home. You’ll need a bed or crate, food and water, a brush and house training supplies, such as the best puppy pads.
  7. Expect to spend a lot of time with the puppy initially as it adjusts to the new environment. A puppy is a baby, which means it will cry in the night and need lots of attention during the day. The time you devote to your puppy initially is well-spent, though, because it creates a loving bond between owner and animal that forms the foundation for later training.
  8. Get your puppy checked out by a vet within 24 hours of purchase. If the vet finds a serious problem, consider returning the puppy. Get the puppy vaccinated and spayed or neutered.

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