Starting Your Puppy Off Right

Congratulations! You have decided to adopt a new puppy. Now, what do you do? Read through the quiz below to test your knowledge and learn how to find, choose and raise the perfect puppy!
 
1. You have decided to add a puppy to your family. How do you go about finding the right one?

Think about why you are getting a puppy and what characteristics you would like in an adult dog. Then, try to find a puppy who fits the bill. 

Go to the nearest pet store and pick the cutest one!

See if your 4 year old can spot one that looks good on the internet, then have it shipped. 

If you picked “a” you answered correctly! Your relationship with your dog will last longer than most marriages. It pays to think about what you are looking for in a dog. Think about size, temperament, grooming requirements, trainability, and exercise requirements. If you would like a purebred dog, research what that dog was originally bred for and read the description of the breed on www.akc.org.  Even though many of our breeds have not been used for their original purpose for many years, the genetic traits for which they were selected still govern their behavior to some extent. If you can’t live with the dog in the description, don’t choose that breed! For example, Dalmatians were bred to run with a coach pulled by horses.  That translates into a dog who needs lots of exercise. If you want a couch potato, you should choose another breed. You can find help matching with a particular breed at www.dogtime.com and www.animal.discovery.com and www.eukanuba.com. 

If you have decided to get a purebred puppy, adopt her from a reputable breeder. The best predictor of your pup’s behavior is the behavior of the parents. You should be able to meet and interact with at least one if not both parents. If you cannot interact with one or both of the parents because the breeder will not let you, don’t adopt a puppy from that breeder. Avoid adopting a puppy from a puppy store. Puppies should be with the litter and the dam until they are 7-8 weeks old.  After that time, they need to be socialized. This can’t happen properly in a puppy store. Pups may be shipped young in order to get into the store at the right age for sale.

You will not be able to interact with the parents and will have no indication of the medical or behavioral predispositions of your new puppy. In addition, many pups from different litters are put into one place facilitating the spread of disease. You can rest assured that no reputable breeder is going to ship her pups across the country in order to sell them in a storefront.

You might choose to get a mixed breed puppy. Mixed breed pups make great pets. Many gorgeous mixed breed dogs come into my clinic. Their behavior is just as predictable as a purebred and they often are less likely to have common medical problems found in purebred dogs. You also have the deep joy of knowing that you helped a dog who really needed it. Wonderful mixed breed pups are available from a wealth of sources such as humane organizations, animal control and rescue organizations. If you are able to meet the parents, make sure to do so. 

2. Finally, you are looking at a beautiful litter of mixed breed pups at your local humane organization. How do you choose your baby?

a. Choose the one with fur that matches your tile so you don’t have to clean as much and be done with it!

b. Eenie, meenie, minee, moe…

c. Sit with the litter for a while, observe the pups, do a quick temperament test and see which one you connect with and who best fits in with your family. 

If you answered “c”, you answered correctly!  Can you imagine meeting a person on the street, talking to them for 30 minutes and then asking them to live with you, share your bed and promise to care for them for 15 years? Your friends would say that you are CRAZY! That is what people do when they choose a puppy. They find the pup that touches them and then they take it home without considering its temperament, energy level or trainability. It is no wonder that so many dogs end up on death row in shelters. 

Just as there is no guarantee that your child will grow up to be exactly what you want her to be or that your partner or spouse will behave exactly as you would like, there is no way to predict what your puppy will grow up to be, however, you can make informed choices about which puppy to add to your family to increase the likelihood that you make a good match. Puppy temperament tests have been shown to be pretty unreliable for aggression or dominance, but they are fairly reliable for assessing fear which is the cause of many behavior problems. Choose the puppy who is outgoing-running up to you to interact. The puppy should also be independent enough to run away from you to play with the other pups. She should play well with the others romping, barking, and wrestling normally. Pick the puppy up in your arms and touch her all over to see if she is sensitive to handling. When she is busy with something else (like play) make a loud noise (not loud enough to scare her) and see what she does. For example, if you drop a book on the floor about 6 feet from her, she should look up and may back up. Then, she should go back to playing or walk up to investigate the item. 

3. You adopted your puppy today. What should you do next?   

a. Make an appointment with your veterinarian within 24 hours.  

b. Bring her in when she is due for her next set of vaccinations.

c. Bring her in if she gets sick. 
 
If you answered “a”, you answered correctly! It is very important to have a physical examination done on your pup as soon after adoption as possible, even if she is not due for vaccinations. This allows the veterinarian to make sure that she is healthy and to assess her behavior. It also allows you to begin to form a relationship with your veterinarian with this particular pet so that in the case of an emergency, your pup has already been examined.  In addition, the consumer has only 14 days to have a puppy examined in order to invoke the Florida Pet Lemon Law (FL 828.29) which allows for reimbursement of healthcare costs in certain cases.  
 
Your pup is healthy and she has her first set of vaccinations and deworming. Should you…

a. take her to the dog beach or dog park?  

b. enroll her in puppy classes and take her out with you?

c. keep her home until she has all of her vaccinations?

If you answered “b” you answered correctly! There is an extremely important time period in a puppy’s life called the socialization period (3-12 weeks). If you expose your puppy to the things in her environment during this time using positive methods, she is less likely to be afraid of them later. If you don’t expose your puppy during this time, she is more likely to be fearful and often aggressive as she develops.  Your puppy should get out in safe situations in which there is a low risk of disease after her first vaccines and deworming. 
 
But wait!! You have had dogs your whole life and you didn’t socialize them. Why do you have to do it now?  Maybe you did socialize them and you didn’t know it. If your kids were young or social, you may have taken your dog to events, in the car at the pick up line or let her play with dogs and kids in your neighborhood. If you didn’t and your dog was truly unafraid, you got lucky! Lightning rarely strikes twice so get to work with this puppy!
  
You should avoid the dog beach, dog park or pet supply stores until your puppy has her last set of vaccinations and has been dewormed at least 2 times. Dogs who go to these places are not screened prior to entry so there is no way to guarantee their health or behavior.  
 
For more detailed information about how to correctly socialize a puppy, click here>>. 
 
You have decided to start your puppy in a socialization class. Should you… 

a. Go to the nearest trainer because they are all the same.

b. Get a recommendation from your veterinarian or people that you trust and then interview the trainers by phone.

c. Ask your 6 year old daughter to take care of finding a class.

If you answered “b”, you answered correctly! The best way to find a good trainer is through word of mouth. Then, when you have a short list of good trainers in your area, call and interview them or go on their websites. The trainer should be a positive reinforcement (treats and toys) trainer who offers puppy socialization classes specifically for pups between 8-20 weeks. She should have academic qualifications or certifications as well experience and should have attended a continuing education seminar within the past 2 years.  Not sure what to look for in a good trainer? Click here>> 

Your puppy is 4 months old. You took her to socialization classes and regular outings since she was 9 weeks old. She is friendly and loves people and dogs. What should you do now?

a. Sit back and relax. Your work is done. 

b. Wait to see if she develops a behavior problem. You will deal with it then. 

c. Enroll in basic obedience class. 

If you answered “c”, you answered correctly. Would you stop sending your child to school after kindergarten? I mean, she is a good kid, why does she have to go to school anymore? Honestly, if she ends up in jail, you’ll deal with it then. If you parented that way, your kids wouldn’t grow up to be very productive adults. By the same token, your dog needs to have guidance all the way through those formative years (1-3 years). Dogs should be enrolled in at least one obedience class, but preferable multiple classes until they are about two years old.