It’s wonderful that you’re thinking of adopting or buying a puppy. Here are some important things you need to think about when you’re choosing a puppy to adopt.
The usual way that people choose a puppy, is just to go with whichever one endears himself or herself first. The cute one, the precocious one, the one who falls asleep in your arms… but think ahead.
You can avoid veterinarian bills and more, by choosing a puppy wisely.
Of course, the most obvious thing to know is that you shouldn’t adopt a puppy that’s younger than 8 weeks old. Up til then, mama’s breast milk, and the play time within the litter, are critical to long-term health.
Here are other basic considerations for choosing a puppy:
- Choose the right dog breed for you. Meet some adult dogs and their owners, of the breed you’re choosing a puppy from. Dog shows and obedience training schools are great for this.
- Strike up a conversation with a dog obedience training instructor and see if you can get a bit of free information on the pros and cons of choosing a puppy of your favorite breeds.
- Ask a local veterinarian, what things you need to know as a new owner before choosing a puppy of that breed.
- Find out what health problems your chosen breed might be prone to, and learn about preventing, detecting and treating those issues.
- Screen your puppy breeder for reputation and professionalism. The right breeder will have medical paperwork on hand for the puppies and their ancestors, and will use breeding techniques that result in the healthiest possible litters.
- If possible, bring someone with you to visit the breeders – preferably someone who owns that specific breed, or at least someone who has owned several dogs.
Choosing a Puppy Breeder
- Your local kennel clubs and breed-specific associations will be the best resource for choosing a puppy breeder that’s already proven their worth to the community.
- Be picky about your breeder. If the operation isn’t clean, if the puppies aren’t happy, etc – move on to the next breeder.
- How much do the breeders play with and handle the puppies? A good breeder will do lots of human-to-puppy socialization, and even some basic obedience training, right from the beginning of the pups’ lives.
Ask how often the puppies are handled, whether they’ve met many strangers, etc. The more, the better.
- Pay special attention to the manners and temperament of the breeder’s adult dogs.
- If your breeder has a waiting list, then that’s a good sign! Choosing a puppy breeder that’s popular, and meets the other criteria I’ve listed here as well, means they’ve been successful.
- Ask to be introduced to the parents and grandparents of the litter. Ask questions about them. Heredity is a big factor in puppies’ lives, so you’ll get to know a lot in advance this way.
- Also, the breeder should be able to show you registration papers with all the details of whelping, pedigree, and any vaccinations they’ve already received. They should expect to show this information to anyone choosing a puppy from their litters.
- Ask lots of questions, even questions you already know the answers to. Test the breeders’ knowledge and willingness to engage you. In particular, ask about care and feeding requirements.
- Ask whether this litter of puppies was the first litter from the mating pair.
- Can you return the puppies to the breeder if there’s a problem?
- If you’re “on the fence” when choosing a puppy breeder, with more than one breeder seeming a good choice, ask for past customers who’ll let you contact them for a reference.
- A great breeder will have tons of advice for you. Take this advice to heart – they do, after all, raise this breed of dog for a living! Their livelihood is tied-up in making happy, healthy dogs.
- Some of that advice should include instructions about when to give puppy shots, when to spay or neuter, and so-on. They should also offer you their ongoing help.
Choosing a Puppy from a Litter
Here’s what you do once you’ve decided which breeder you’re going to choose a puppy from.
- Watch the puppies interact with each other, before you “introduce yourself” to them. You want one that’s playful and active, but not one that’s dominant.
- A healthy puppy of any breed should have a rolly-polly appearance – not fat and not skinny.
- Check each puppy from head to toe for any signs of problems.Check the eyes for cloudiness or dimness, make sure the coat is shining and clean, and check his butt for seepage or debris.
- Know in advance what breed-specific health problems to watch for. Ask the breeder if the parents and the litter have been screened for these problems. Expect them to show you paperwork to support that screening. Read any vet records on the pups carefully, and ask questions if you have any.
- If you’re choosing a puppy from a larger breed, such as German Shepherds, Boxers, Labradors or Rottweilers, ask about hip dysplasia. In these breeds, the parents should have been screened for this before breeding.
- A puppy who struts with his head up and tail wagging, is a good sign. Choosing a puppy that’s outgoing and comes to introduce himself or herself to you, is a smart move. A shy or nervous puppy is not a good choice.
- Think about your own energy level, and choose a puppy with about the same level of activity.
- Do repeated hearing tests. When the puppies are facing away from you, clap your hands or drop your keys.
The puppies should turn and investigate the noise. Keep in mind that a deaf puppy will notice his litter-mates checking something out, so you need to repeat this a few times and pay attention to which ones are alert, vs which are responding to littermate attentions.
- Pick up a puppy that you’re preferring, and cradle him. If he squirms and squeals just a little, that’s ok – but if this continues, if he doesn’t settle down, that’s not good – it’s a sign that either this puppy hasn’t been socialized enough, or is resisting socialization.
- Touch the puppies on every part of their bodies, looking at their reactions. There should be no problem with you touching the ears, paws, mouth, and nose – if anything, they should become playful.
After you’ve decided on a specific puppy, you should ask if your own veterinarian can examine the puppy before you buy.
Conclusions on Choosing a Puppy
As you can see, the above steps for choosing a puppy will help you not only find the pup you’ll bond with closely, but also help you avoid heartache and financial strain in the long run.
Once you bring your puppy home, it’s time to start working on puppy socialization and obedience training right away. These are critical to every dog, regardless of breed and temperament, so don’t neglect them!
That’s it – choosing a puppy carefully will make you and your family very happy in the long run. Enjoy, and good luck!