If you’ve made the exciting decision to get a new puppy, you’re probably ready to bring one home as soon as possible. Taking some time to figure out which breed is the best fit and preparing your home for a puppy will make the process go more smoothly. Then it’s time to decide between adopting a dog from a shelter, where you’ll be asked to pay a relatively small adoption fee, or buying a pedigreed puppy from a responsible breeder.
Preparing for a Puppy
Make sure you really want a puppy and the pros outweigh the cons. While a puppy is a cute furry blank slate, it also requires a lot more time, attention, and money. Make a list of all the things you want from a dog and consider whether you can find that in a dog that’s over a year old.
Choose a breed that’s right for your family. Research breeds with characteristics that make them a good fit for your life situation. Dogs come in all shapes, sizes and personalities, and choosing the wrong breed can result in heartbreak for all when you realize it’s not a good fit for your home. Here are a few important factors that might influence what type of breed you get:
Consider the energy level of the breed. For example, if you don’t enjoy being outdoors much, getting a Siberian husky probably isn’t the best idea. Huskies love to jump and run, and they need hours of daily exercise. Better to choose a puppy who will grow up to be a dog that likes napping and hanging out with you at home.
Think about how much you want to groom the puppy as it grows older. Some breeds need to be brushed at least once a week, while short-haired dogs like Boston terriers and dalmatians require less grooming.
If you rent, keep breed restrictions in mind. While the breed of your dog might not be a problem now, it might be a problem when you relocate.
Make sure you have enough space. It’s one of the most important things to consider before you bring a puppy home. Remember that some breeds grow quite large and need a lot of room to stretch out and play. Others may not get as big, but they have energetic natures and require plenty of space in order to thrive and be happy. Some breeds require more than others, but they all need room to play and exercise. Consider these questions when you’re decide which breed to get:
Do you have an outdoor area where the dog can play? If you don’t, is there a dog park nearby? It’s really important to have easy access to a place where your dog can go to the bathroom and get regular exercise.
If you have a yard, is it fenced? If it’s not fenced, are you willing to fence it?
Reconsider your schedule to make time for a puppy. When you first bring home a puppy, you’ll need to devote a lot of time to training. Puppies need to be fed three times a day and taken outside every few hours. When they grow up, some dogs are more independent than others, but they all need a lot of time and attention.
If you’re away from home during the day, you’ll need to find someone to feed the puppy and take him out on a schedule.
Make sure you have time to give the dog adequate exercise, too. Puppies need a lot of play time, and when they get a little older they need frequent exercise to stay healthy and happy.
Create a budget to factor in all the expenses. Aside from the initial cost of the puppy, factor in how much you’ll need to spend on food, toys, grooming supplies and vet care. Raising a puppy isn’t cheap, and it’s important to make sure you can afford it before you buy a puppy and bring him home. A purebred puppy will be more expensive than one you adopt from a shelter. Plan to spend anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars up front, depending on the breed.
Depending on the breed, you can expect to pay anywhere from $55 to $235 monthly for the dog’s entire life. That doesn’t take unexpected vet bills, kennel cost, and other special needs into account.
Puppy proof your home.
Adopting from a Shelter
Search online for the breed you want. If you have a particular breed in mind, look online to find out which shelters currently have adoptable puppies. Online resources like Petfinder.org provide listings of puppies and dogs from hundreds of shelters. You can search by breed, size, gender, and age to find the right puppy for you, then contact the shelter directly to proceed with the adoption.
You may have to travel out of your city to get a particular breed. Consider expanding your search to include shelters within a few hundred miles of your home for best results.
Some rare or expensive breeds may not be available in shelters, but there is probably a rescue organization with younger dogs you can adopt.
Visit shelters in your area. If you’re not as particular about what type of breed you want, consider going to a shelter to meet puppies in person instead of searching for one online. Some people enjoy knowing they’re supporting a local shelter working to rescue and provide homes for animals in the area. This is a great way to adopt a puppy if you’re able to be flexible about what type of breed to adopt.
Ask questions about the puppies’ history and behavior when you’re at the shelter. Make sure the dogs are well taken care of. Some dogs experience lifelong health problems as a result of time in the shelter, but in most cases.
Consider a rescue organization. If there’s a greyhound, husky, or pit bull rescue organization in your area, consider adopting one of these breeds. These breeds make excellent pets, but for various reasons they’re in need of extra help.
Consider an older dog. If don’t necessarily have your heart set on a puppy, consider adopting an older dog in need of a home. Older dogs are less likely to get adopted, but they need loving families just as much as puppies do.
Fill out paperwork and pay the fee. Adoption is cheaper than buying from a breeder, but you’ll still have to pay a fee of around $100 to $200 that includes deworming, spaying or neutering, and other vet expenses. The adoption fee is also away for animal shelters to screen potential owners to make sure they’re serious about bringing a puppy into their homes. Sometimes the shelter will require a home visit before letting you adopt. They may come to your home to inspect the puppy’s living area and make sure there’s a fenced yard in the back.
Buying from a Breeder
Find a responsible breeder. A good breeder is passionate and incredibly knowledgeable about the type of dog he or she breeds. Check with local vets and dog breed organizations to find a breeder with a reputation for taking good care of his or her dogs. He or she should breed just a few types of dogs and have a strong relationship with local vets and other animal organizations. The ASPCA has a helpful list of responsible breeders. Visit the premises. Make sure the dogs are living in good conditions and appear happy and healthy.
A responsible breeder will ask you questions about why you want a dog, who will be taking care of it and where it will live. He or she won’t just take your cash and hand over a puppy.
Visit multiple times. A responsible breeder will encourage you to make multiple visits, and won’t just hand over a puppy right away. The first time you come, observe the premises, ask plenty of questions and visit with the puppies. If all goes well, you can discuss pricing and schedule a second visit during which you can make your purchase and bring home your new puppy. Be ready to answer questions as to why you want a puppy and how you plan to take care of it. A good breeder will be very concerned about the welfare of the puppies he or she has bred. Forming a good relationship with a breeder can be very helpful if you have questions later in the puppy’s life, or if you’re interested in showing the puppy later.
Obtain AKC paperwork and a contract of sale. If you’re interested in showing or breeding the puppy you buy, you’ll need proof that it’s registered with the American Kennel Club and that you are the legal owner.
Stay away from puppy mills. These are run by irresponsible breeders who just want to make cash, and don’t care about the dogs’ health. Puppies bred in this type of environment often have genetic problems that lead to physical and emotional disorders you don’t discover right away. When you visit a breeder, take a close look at the conditions. If the dogs there look dirty, skinny or unhealthy, do not purchase a puppy there.
If the breeder isn’t knowledgeable or makes claims he can’t back up, don’t buy a puppy there. A good breeder should show you the mother of the puppies as well as AKC certification if he or she is claiming the dogs are purebred.
You also don’t want to buy a dog from a small-time breeder just trying to make some cash. If the breeder doesn’t know what he or she is doing, the puppy could have long-term temperament and health problems.
You might want to report a puppy mill to the authorities. You can fill out a report at http://www.humanesociety.org/forms/report_a_puppy_mill.html or call 1-877-MILL-TIP if you suspect a breeder you visit is harming dogs and puppies.
Don’t buy from a pet store. Pet stores often keep puppies in deplorable conditions and buy their puppies from mills. There’s no real way to determine whether their claims regarding a dog’s breed status are true, so it’s best to avoid stores altogether. Puppies kept in small cages in pet stores often experience behavioral problems later, due to lack of socialization and other problems.
Choosing the Right Puppy
Look for a healthy puppy. Puppies are ready to be adopted between the ages of eight and twelve weeks, at which time they are weaned from their mothers and able to eat solid food. Whether you’re visiting a shelter or meeting with a breeder, the puppy should already have received a round of immunizations. If these basics check out, request to examine the puppy you’re thinking about adopting. A puppy may look healthy at first, but upon closer inspection you might see some red flags. If you see signs that the puppy is not in good health, reconsider adopting the puppy. Here’s what to look for: The puppy should be able to eat solid food.
Wet and cool, nose with no discharge.
Pink and healthy gums.
Dark pupils with no white spots or film.
Clean, healthy-looking ears.
Fur that’s thick and even, with no bare spots.
A strong heartbeat and even breathing.
Observe the puppy’s temperament. Whether you’re getting your puppy from a shelter or a breeder, take time to assess the puppy’s personality before you make your decision. Watch a litter of puppies and see how they play together. Puppies in the same litter usually have different personalities, and you’ll want to pick the one that will make the best pet for your family. Puppies with a good combination of energy and sweetness make the best pets. Look for a puppy that’s playful and energetic, but not too rough with the others.
Avoid picking a puppy that seems overly aggressive or extremely shy.
Play with the puppy to see if it’s a good fit. Make sure you have a good connection with the puppy you have chosen before you seal the deal. If the puppy shies away or tucks his tail between his legs when you approach, he may not have the best temperament to become a pet. Choose a puppy that’s friendly, energetic and sweet.
If you like the puppy’s personality but aren’t sure how he’ll get along with your children or other pets, you may be able to foster the puppy to help you decide.
Certain breeds of dog have traits that are inherent… some bark a lot, some very little. Some will repeatedly run away, dig holes, or try to jump fences. Find out the characteristics of the breed you are choosing before you get attached. Never select a breed because it is currently “in fashion” – rather, give it a lot of serious thought and do your research thoroughly.
Be sure to have all your supplies at home already (dog house/bed/crate, food, bowls, etc) This way, you don’t have to go to the store with your new pup, or leave it at home alone right away to go shopping.
Search shelters or rescue groups first. If you do buy from a breeder, be sure they test for any genetic defects and have proper medical clearances; e.g., test/certify for hip dysplasia, eye problems.
Dog adoption centers and Shelter staff are trained in being able to match you with a dog to fit your lifestyle. They will also be able to give you some background on your particular chosen dog which will help you know how to deal with any issues which arise in due course.
Review the dogs or puppy’s information about its health
And ask them about its character traits.
Do research on the breed of the puppy you want.
Play with the puppy before you buy the puppy.
Consider the risk if you already have a dog at home. This puppy may wantthe attention and don’t forget about your other dog!
Wherever you find your perfect pup, be sure they are healthy and the environment is clean.
Please, please, please do not buy a puppy in a pet store. These animals are bred in impersonal, factory-like puppy-mills. These dogs are the result of irresponsible breeding practices and often are not socialized well because they’ve only lived in cages until they get to your house. They also have a very high incidence of orthopedic and genetic disease issues because the breeders mate the sires and dams indiscriminately. If you want a puppy, buy from a responsible breeder. If you are interested in a purebred dog, you’ll find leads to responsible breeders through regional breed associations which you’ll find easily by “Googling” your breed. If you are interested in a mixed breed dog, then, at the very least, find a puppy in a litter that is being raised lovingly in someone’s home instead of in a cage.
If you are a work-a-holic, take numerous trips and vacations, and don’t generally spend much time at home, perhaps you should reconsider your decision to adopt a dog. Dogs need love and attention, and leaving them alone is an invitation for bad behavior. Dogs act out when they feel abandoned. Maybe something else may suit your life more… like a fish.
Getting a dog is a 15-year commitment, if you’re lucky. Don’t adopt one unless you have put some serious thought into the decision, and are sure you would like a new family member. Be prepared to deal with whatever your new dog requires; don’t just decide that it’s too much work and give it up, or send it away. It would be better to never bring it home in the first place.
Things You’ll Need
Basket or doggy bed
Lead (retractable ones are good, but puppies often chew through them until trained not to)
Bowls (1 food, 1 water)
Toys (e.g. ball, chewy bone, rope knot)
Pooper scooper and bags
How to Buy a Purebred Puppy
How to Clicker Train Your Dog
How to Walk a Dog
How to Crate Train Your Dog or Puppy
How to Love Your Puppy
How to Pick the Perfect Puppy
How to Choose a Suitable Mill
How to Buy a Doghouse
Sources and Citations
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