Choosing a puppy
As the saying goes, “a dog is for life not only Christmas” and therefore it is important to choose the right puppy who will fit in nicely to your lifestyle. There are many things to consider, especially if you are a novice to-be dog-owner. The choices are almost unlimited regarding the breed, background, temperament, activity level, etc. It can feel a little overwhelming if you’re unsure what to look for. But we’re here to make your decision-making process easier by guiding your thought process regarding the puppy you want.
What Do You Want From a Dog?
When you consider getting a puppy, think about how the pup will fit into your lifestyle. Try to look past the cute puppy phase and think about the type of adult dog you’d want in your life. The puppy phase doesn’t last long, and you will have an adult dog for much longer than the puppy itself. So, it’s essential to ask yourself what type of adult dog you want in your future (a year or more from now).
Remember, it doesn’t matter how badly you want a specific dog breed; if their temperaments and personality traits don’t fit into your lifestyle, they might not be the type of dog you need.
So, when choosing a puppy, think about the following aspects of your life as well as the traits of the breed:
- Activity level / How active are you? Your level of activity and whether you’d like to make your dog part of your activity level are vital considerations. Some people want to go on hikes or long walks with their dogs. Others might not enjoy such an active lifestyle or they simply don’t have enough time in the day to do it. If you are a more active person, you will do well with the type of dog that can keep up with your energy levels. On the other hand, if you don’t want to be as active, you would do well with a dog that’s perfectly happy basking in the sun the whole day.
- How affectionate are you with dogs? Are you the type of person that like to give lots of hugs and kisses, or are you not that fond of physical touch? Answering this question will determine whether you need a dog that tolerates or even craves the owner’s physical touch or one that doesn’t like to be touched as often. Because many people want dogs as companions, this aspect is crucial, so you and your dog have the same tolerance for embrace and snuggles.
- How much time do you have? Some dogs need more attention than others. High energy dogs usually get bored quickly, so they need to spend more time with their owners, participating in stimulating activities. Lower energy dogs are those who prefer to sleep most of the day. So, when you answer this question, don’t just think about the type of dog you’d like. Also, think about how much time you can dedicate to your dog every day for the next 10-15 years. Yes, puppies will need more attention than when they get older. But considering your amount of dog-dedicated time per day, you can ensure that you and your dog get enough stimulation from this mutually beneficial relationship.
- Grooming needs
Does the breed need frequent grooming? Is the breed known for shedding badly? How often will you be able to groom your dog yourself? If you don’t want to groom your dog yourself, how often can you make an appointment at the grooming salon? Can you afford the frequent grooming visits? Some dogs have high maintenance coats that need weekly attention, while others can go without a brush for two months. So, research how often the dog of your choice would need grooming and whether you’re ready for the responsibility.
Most dogs need basic training to help adapt their behaviours to their new world. This includes the basic training of potty-training, sit, wait, etc. Some breeds are really easy to train and eager to please the owners, whilst others are more stubborn and selfish and can require experienced owners. That’s why you should consider how much time you have to train your dog. For instance, a Border Collie loves to work and have a purpose, thus needing lots of training. On the other hand, a Pug likes to be lazy and not work as hard, thus not needing as much training.
- Size of living environment
It’s a common misconception that all small dog breeds do well in smaller apartments, while large dog breeds need large yards. Sometimes it can be the other way around. It all depends on your dog’s energy levels and how much physical stimulation she/he needs each day. If you live in a small apartment, consider getting a dog that doesn’t mind sleeping most of the day. However, if you are an active person in a small apartment, consider whether you’ll have enough time to take your dog for walks twice a day.
Once you have an idea on the breed, it is also worth researching their typical health issues. Some breeds are healthier than others and whilst you might wish to choose a certain breed even if it is known for certain health issues, you need to consider if you can afford ongoing cost of medication should your dog need one. A useful website to check health, traits and characteristics of breeds is Dogtime.
To help you choose a dog breed, make a list of the breeds you’d prefer and their characteristics based on the questions above. Then determine which breeds will adapt best to you and your family’s way of life. Some people might not want purebred dogs and prefer a mixed breed dog. If this is the case, you can usually find mixed breed dogs at your local dog rescue centre. There the staff should be able to help you pinpoint each puppy’s temperament so you can make the best choice possible.
How to Choose a Puppy From a Breeder
If you’re at the point where you know what dog breed you’d want, you should think about how to choose the puppy from the breeder. Keep in mind that there are many legitimate puppy breeders that know what they’re doing. But unfortunately, some people use unethical practices when breeding dogs, which can impact the type of puppy you get. So, when you choose a puppy from a breeder, follow the guidelines below to make the best decision possible.
- Ask to see the mum and dad. If the pup’s mum and dad are healthy, the puppies will be too. So, ask the breeder if you can see the mum and dad up close. Some breeders only have the mum on-site, but you can still ask to see a picture of the dad. If there are any malformations in either, the chances are that they could be genetically passed down to the puppies as well.
- Look at the living quarters of the puppies. As you look at these quarters, observe whether the puppies have shelter, water, something to keep them warm, and good hygiene. How the puppies live will tell you a lot about the puppies’ breeding practices and health. Be sceptical if a breeder doesn’t want to show you the living quarters. As harsh as it sounds, some breeders put dogs and puppies in cages just to sell one after the other. However, ethical dog breeders will be more than happy to show you where the pups live.
- Look at the puppy’s physical appearance. As you look at the litter, look at how each puppy appears physically. By looking at the puppy’s physicality, you can tell whether you’ll have long term issues that might cost a fortune to fix or not. So, look at the following:
- Head: There is a spot on the top of the puppy’s head that is softer than the rest of the head. This spot shouldn’t be larger than a penny. Otherwise, it means the skull might have fractures.
- Eyes: The puppy’s eyes should be clear and open easily without redness, swelling, or discharge.
- Ears: The puppy’s ear canals should be dry and odourless. If it is moist, red, and stinky, it could mean that the puppy already has ear infections.
- Nose: The puppy should breathe easily through the nose without making excessive strenuous noises. The nose can also have slight colourless discharges, which is normal.
- Mouth: Most puppies’ upper and lower teeth should align, but some might have an underbite specific to the breed, like a bulldog. The puppy’s tongue and gums should be pink and moist and not dry and sticky.
- Skin: The puppy’s skin shouldn’t be dry, flaking, have fluid-filled bumps, or be red.
- Coat: The puppy’s coat should be shiny and have no areas of hair loss.
- See how the litter mates interact with each other. How puppies interact with one another will tell you a lot about their temperament and characteristics. Some puppies might shy away from other pups and keep busy in the corner, while others might engage in roughish play. This part is essential to choosing the puppy from the litter that best suits your lifestyle.
- Find a puppy with a temperament you like. Each puppy in the litter may have a different temperament than the other. Some might be more shy or timid, while others are more assertive and curious. Think about which temperament you prefer and look for the puppy that’s the closest match to that.
- Ask the breeder these questions:
- What health issues do the mum and dad have? The mum and dad’s health history gives an insight into the puppy’s possible health issues. Some conditions can be passed down genetically, while others won’t affect the pup at all. Your breeder could answer these questions.
- What health prevention or vaccines do the puppies get? Do the puppies get vaccinations and deworming treatments? If so, how often do they get them and will the breeder provide you with proof, like a vaccination car
- When can we take the puppy home? Puppies can usually go to their new homes at 8-12 weeks. It might be a red flag if a breeder wants to give you the puppy earlier. Puppies learn to be dogs and socialise through interaction with their mother and littermates.
- Are you a registered breeder? Okay, not all breeders have to be registered necessarily, but a registered breeder will be more likely to do proper breeding practices and provide healthy puppies.
The easiest way to do this research is to see the puppies for yourself. Take your time when you do these observations. The more intently you look at each puppy, the environment, and the parents, the better decision you can make on which one to choose.
How to Choose a Puppy From a Rescue Centre
If you don’t want to get a puppy from a breeder and prefer to adopt one from a rescue centre, there are other guidelines for choosing the right puppy. There are similarities to selecting a pup from a breeder. The difference is that you won’t necessarily be able to meet the parents, see the original living quarters when the puppies were born, or know the exact history of the puppy. Don’t let that stop you, though. Adopting a puppy means you’re giving the home s/he deserves! So, here are things to consider when choosing a puppy from a rescue centre:
- Visit the puppy at the rescue centre: Again, there is nothing as insightful as seeing where the puppy lives, how s/he reacts with other dogs, and how s/he interacts with you and your family. When you visit the puppy, you can do the same physical appearance checks as when choosing a pup from a breeder. It will help you determine whether the puppy will have long term health issues.
- Ask about the puppy’s health issues or condition she/he was when coming to the centre initially. Sometimes the centre staff could tell you where the puppies were rescued from, e.g. the streets or a loving home whose dog gave birth, but they couldn’t afford eight puppies. Other times the staff won’t know about the health history or diseases. That’s okay too. As long as you gather as much information as possible, you can choose a puppy wisely.
- See whether you like the puppy’s temperament during your visit. Play with the puppies you visit. See which one’s temperament and behaviours you gravitate towards the most. It could be as simple as sitting on the floor and seeing which puppy comes to you first. Or it could be the puppy that hovers around you the most. When you see one with a temperament you like, s/he will likely adapt easier to your way of life.
- See how the puppy interacts with other dogs or puppies. If you have other dogs at home, this step is crucial. If the puppy is aggressive toward other dogs, you might consider getting a different one. How puppies interact with one another tells a lot about how they’ll behave in social situations.
- Find out what breed the puppy is. It won’t always be easy, but if you can pinpoint the breed, you can research those breeds’ pros and cons. The more you know about a puppy before you get one, the easier both of you will adapt.
Choosing a puppy is fun-filled and exciting, but getting the right puppy for your family is even more exhilarating. There is nothing quite like getting a pup that effortlessly fits into your lifestyle! So, make this decision for you and your family. Don’t choose a puppy based on a movie you’ve seen or because someone else’s dog seems nice. It might be that those dogs had lots of training before getting to that point. All that matters is whether you and your puppy will go together like peanut butter and jelly!