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Spring and Summer are popular months to bring home a puppy. Chances are, you are ready to welcome one into your home if you’re reading this article.
Before you head to the shelter or breeder, make sure you’re prepared for the responsibility of being a pet parent. Here’s a helpful checklist to simplify the process, featuring tips and resources for aspiring dog moms and dads.
Pick Your Puppy!:
This may be the toughest decision you’ll make in the dog adoption process. How can you choose just one dog? Remember, however, that adding a puppy to your family is a life-long commitment and you have to ensure that your lifestyle complements the dog’s needs. But, how do you know what a dog needs?
Study Up on Breeds
Research the type of breed – herding, hunting, toy, etc. – even if your dog comes from a shelter or rescue. Breed is a great gauge of size and temperament, so you should become familiar with a dog’s heritage. For example, terrier breeds range in size from tea cup to enormous, and are mostly independent, whereas herding breeds are medium to large in size and tend to crave lots of attention and, thanks to their herding instincts, are at their happiest when everyone’s at home.
What type of residence do you have? An apartment, a townhouse with a little backyard, or a country manor with rolling acres? Sure, many big dogs live happily in city apartments, but wouldn’t it be nicer for them to have room to run around and play fetch. Some smaller dogs are very athletic as well, and may not fit the fancy lap dog stereotypes associated with toy breeds. Additionally, the size of your dog should suit your ability to handle it appropriately. For example, it would be tough to walk a 150 lb Mastiff when you weigh less, which could result in injuries for both canine and human.
Check the Coat
Do you have time and resources to take care of a long-coated Maltese? Perhaps you know that huskies and Golden Retrievers are super shedders? Or are you more of a hypo-allergenic designer poodle-mix person? Keep in mind in all cases, the type of coat isn’t just about possible allergic reactions in humans, but concerns the necessary daily grooming required, which also helps to maintain healthy skin underneath all that fur.
Ask About Puppy Personality
Consistent, proper training is important with new puppies and even older dogs that are new to your family. There are dogs specifically bred and trained for work, such as therapy or service. A good breeder or rescue will know the temperament and personality of their dogs and be able to tell if you are compatible. Ask as many questions as possible and tell them pertinent information about you and your family. If you fall in love with a shelter dog that is known to exhibit anxiety or aggression, it can still become a wonderful part of your family if you have the patience, time, training, and TLC to meet their needs.
Accommodate Your Lifestyle
How would you describe your lifestyle? How much time can you spend with your pup daily? Does your ideal weekend include curling up with a book and a stroll around the neighborhood or outdoorsy activities that take you to different places? Or do you fall somewhere in between? You may think big dogs need more activity than smaller dogs. Don’t let the breed size fool you! There are small dogs who need daily, vigorous exercise and big dogs who are happy to lay at home, adoringly watching you go about your day. Study up on the breed, and research as much as you can on mixed breeds, so that you can determine appropriate ways to expend a dog’s energy level if you adopt.
Research Shelters, Rescues, Breeders!:
“Adopt, Don’t Shop!” is always a good message to keep in mind, but it really depends on your circumstances. You may be allergic to dogs and can’t risk your health by adopting from a shelter or rescue. Or you may have young children and prefer to bring home a tried-and-true family dog breed that is comfortable around small kids. In both cases, seek out breed-specific rescue organizations such as Rescue Me! that can assist in adopting appropriate breeds. Here is an article that will be helpful in exploring dog adoption.
Find a Local Rescue or Support a Charitable Organization
Search the web for local shelters and rescues where you can meet the puppies. You may want to visit a dog pound or high-kill shelter where it is possible to walk out with your new four-legged family member on the same day. Rescues, on the other hand, have a longer adoption process. When adoptable dogs become available, rescues typically give first choice to pre-approved applicants, so be sure to read through each organization’s procedure and requirements. Some organizations also specialize in specific types of dogs, such as The Sato Project, which is dedicated to rescuing the abandoned dogs of Puerto Rico, or Tiny Paws Rescue, which focuses on smaller dogs. A convenient way to look up adoptable dogs from a variety of organizations is PetFinder, which is also a good resource for finding local shelters and rescues.
Question Your Breeder
If you decide to go with a breeder, be sure to ask about the pup’s parents and for a picture of the mother, if possible. Also, see if the breeder is open to you and your family visiting the facility. Not all breeders are created equal, so be diligent in assessing the quality of the breeder and not solely basing your search on their website. Take a look at this list of questions to ask before selecting your breeder.
Beware of Puppy Scams
No matter which route you take to bring a puppy into your life, be careful of scams targeting potential new pet owners. According to this Better Business Bureau report, there are thousands of people being fooled by internet puppy scams. As the saying goes, “Seeing is Believing,” and the report recommends meeting the puppy in person and, if that is not possible, paying by credit card for a record of online transactions. Never wire any money and always be on guard when dealing with someone you’ve found on the web. The pet you bring home will be a part of your family for many years, if not decades, so take your time and do your homework.
Once you’ve chosen the perfect animal companion, check out our two-part article on essential items for new puppies!