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What to consider when choosing a puppy

By Mary Anne Miller

Puppies…just that one word can light up a child’s face with a smile. Whether you are choosing a puppy for yourself or for your family, you should choose well.  This is a guide for you to use if you are considering adding a puppy to your life.

Choose a puppy carefully

There are many desirable breeds: Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Maltese, Pugs, and Chihuahuas to name a few. However, you need to evaluate your lifestyle. Consider the living arrangements that you will be asking this puppy to accept. Although Golden Retriever puppies are cute, they are considered the larger breed dogs. Muscular and active, they demand a lot of activity. If you are an apartment dweller, then you would be better off to consider a smaller breed puppy like a Chihuahua, or a Maltese. A Maltese puppy needs minimal exercise, although their coat needs daily brushing which is a good bonding time for the both of you.

A puppy is not a fad object

When you are deciding, please don’t go with the “flavor of the month.” When the film Beethoven was released, Saint Bernard puppies were all the rage. Sadly, many of these dogs ended up in shelters. 101 Dalmatians (a popular Disney film) was responsible for a flood of Dalmatian puppies being adopted. But eager parents giving in to their children’s demands and buying these dogs did not research the breed. Many Dalmatians are born deaf (a genetic trait). They are extremely active dogs. Although they can be obedience-trained with hand-signals, you must have time and patience to accomplish this. Parents soon tired of the disobedient and strong-willed dogs. Animal shelters and rescue groups were again dealing with an influx of this breed being surrendered. Don’t go with what breed of dog is popular in films. Go with the correct puppy to fit your life.

Is the puppy healthy?

Genetic disorders are very important to understand when purchasing a pedigreed puppy. Boxers are prone to certain cancers, as are Golden Retrievers. Female Chihuahua’s are notorious for needing c-sections. Does this mean you should stop plans to purchase a puppy? No, it doesn’t. It means that when you purchase a puppy, do so with a full awareness of what lies ahead. One way to be prepared is to write out a list of questions to ask a breeder.

Ask about the genetic disorders of the dog. Know beforehand what these disorders are. If your answer is met with hesitation or not answered correctly, politely excuse yourself and leave the facility. It is likely this breeder has defective dogs.

Ask to see the parents, and if possible, spend some time with the parents and get a feel for the dogs’ personality.  Look for aggressive behavior, or fearfulness. Both of these are warning signs. The bitch is going to be protective of her puppies; however, a good socialized female shouldn’t mind outsiders coming in to play with her brood.

Is there a health guarantee that comes with the purchase of this puppy? If so, what does it say? Read the fine print.  Insist on a vet check with a vet of your choice. Years ago, my husband and I spent hundreds of dollars on a purebred German Shepherd Dog. The breeder kept us for hours showing off ribbons and trophies and talking about the pure lines. Her dogs were beautiful; she is a top-of-the-line breeder, highly recommended. The mom and dad were on site. We were able to spend time with the female, but not the male. When we had all our questions answered to our satisfaction and the vet check done, (her vet) we bought the dog and took her home. By the time she reached her first birthday, we learned that she had a rare bone disorder caused by poor breeding of a limited gene pool. I called the breeder immediately to tell her, but she didn’t care. Last we heard, she is still breeding to the bitch. Her puppies and all her dogs looked fabulous, but some of them are time bombs waiting to go off. So, be prepared when you go to purchase a puppy.

Once you decide on the breed, spend time with the litter.  Get rid of the barrier of “big scary human” and get down on the floor with the pups. Try to get as low as you can and call them over. Tap the floor lightly to get their attention. Watch for their reaction. I always bring a soft toy with me that they can grab and tug. You want your puppy to be curious, not afraid. The pup should be alert and playful. Be careful of puppy teeth. Don’t overdose on the wonderful puppy breath that will surround you. Don’t accept a puppy younger than seven weeks old or older than ten weeks. An older puppy will already be dog dependent and not easily accepting of the human that takes him away from mom.

Make sure that you have supplies waiting at home. You need puppy food, a baby gate, puppy pads, a soft bed, water and food bowls. Chew toys are a must.

Are you ready for that puppy?

Before you sign the papers, stop for a moment and think…

  • Is this the right puppy for you?
  • Will this puppy fit into your living space easily?
  • Do you know what lies ahead of you with possible health issues or genetic disorders?
  • Is the breeder going to be available to you should you have any questions?
  • Is there a money-back guarantee if the puppy fails the initial health exam?
  • Is the kennel where the puppy is coming from, clean, and the dogs well mannered?
  • Have you seen all of the facility?
  • Are the adult dogs’ coats glossy and shiny?
  • Are their eyes clear and are the dogs alert?

If the answer to all the questions above is yes, then you are to be congratulated. You have made the right choice. I know you will leave the facility with the right puppy and a smile on Your face.


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