"But, Mom the puppies are really cute. I'll take care of it. Honest. We need a dog. I'll walk him and feed him. Pleeeeeese, can't we get a puppy?"
The age old parent-child exchange about getting a puppy. The big decision to bring a baby canine into your family. How the passionate promises of feeding, walking, and cleaning up after the puppy pour so easily from your child's lips. You know, however, you'll be the one doing all of the above and more. Of course, puppies are adorable, soft, cuddly, entertaining, annoying, labor intensive, and sleep disrupting. But, most likely you'll cave and get one anyway.
Companion dogs are members of the family, and the puppy you add to the mix needs to be a good fit. Emotions run high over that furry, roly-poly critter whose antics can melt the heart of the stone. Take a deep breath and do your homework before making the commitment. Don't get a puppy at Christmastime. The excitement of the holiday will make it a very difficult time for the puppy and your family. Wait until the holidays are past and you can focus on introducing a new family member correctly.
Here's a puppy picking list for you that will help in selecting just the right one for your situation whether you go to a breeder or a shelter.
1. Beware of puppy mills, backyard breeders, and pet stores. A healthy puppy is paramount to a great experience in adding a dog to your family. A reputable breeder and shelters who make sure the dogs are given their shots, and have been vet-checked are your best choices.
2. Be realistic about the size of dog to choose. Too big and too little are the same problem. Look at your home, yard, and the age of your children. Young children aren't going to be able to walk a Great Dane when it reaches 8-9 months of age. A teacup-size dog may be cute for you to carry in your purse, but a young child can easily, albeit, unintentionally injure a small dog.
3. A purebred dog can be quite an investment, depending on the breed. If that's out of reach, many shelters offer excellent programs that include all shots, spaying, neutering, microchipping, and more. At either a breeder's kennel or a shelter, runs should be clean, the dogs well cared for, and records available.
4. Like a baby, a puppy needs a lot of equipment - a crate (yes, it's a necessity), a bed, collar, puppy food, toys, and a leash for starters. Regular vet visits during the first year are important too. They need shots, and health checks as they mature. Count the cost of responsible dog ownership before proceeding.
If you get the through the first list and decide to continue, let's check out the next step--selecting a puppy. I've gotten both puppies and adult dogs. We've gone to shelters and breeders with successful adoptions. The puppy personality test can be used successfully with adult dogs, as well as pups. Every dog has a distinct personality, just like people. Breeds are distinct in their pluses and minuses for your particular situation. Collies are beautiful dogs, but are you prepared for high maintenance hair? Males and females are different too. There are lots of things to consider.
The puppy personality test will show you how social, dominant, submissive, and how sensitive the dog is. These are extremely important in how quickly and easily your furry bundle of joy will adapt to his or her new home. Remember humans are the alpha dogs in the house, and you want a dog that easily accepts the proper position in the household.
1. Place the puppy a few feet from you. Then kneel down and call him/her, clapping your hands, and gently coaxing. The puppy may charge at you and lick or bite at your face and hands, or some may cautiously approach you, or not at all. You'll be able to quickly assess how confident, and how social the dog is. A puppy who comes to you readily with tail up, is an ideal response. If the puppy jumps or bites at you when he comes, shows aggressive behavior, while the dog who is hesitant or cowers with tail down is a fearful, shy dog.
2. Kneel down and gently roll the dog on his/her back, and hold for about 30 seconds. Does the dog struggle the entire time? Maybe he/she doesn't struggle at all or the puppy may struggle for a few seconds and then settle. This little exercise shows the dominance tendencies of the dog in a social situation. The more the dog struggles, the more dominant and aggressive he is. One who struggles and then settles is ideal. He's willing to accept restraint. The puppy who doesn't struggle or avoids eye contact is overly submissive and fearful.
3. Another dominance test is bending over the puppy and interlacing your fingers under the dog's belly. Lift it gently off the floor for 30 seconds. Does the puppy bite at you, struggle, lick your hands? The response will tell you how the dog accepts dominance while he/she has no control.
4. Sensitivity to touch is tested by pressing a finger and thumb on the webbing of a front foot. Exert increasing pressure on the webbing until you get a response while counting to 10. Stop immediately if the puppy shows any discomfort. If a dog responds before you can count to five or six, its sensitivity is high. Think about kids pulling on ears, or a tail, or tugging at loose skin. A highly sensitive dog may react by snapping or biting.
5. Homes with children are noisy places. Check out the puppy's sensitivity to sound by hitting a large metal spoon on a pot a couple of times. If the dog listens, walks toward you, or appears curious, he/she is't overly sensitive and isn't deaf. If a dog cringes or hides from the noise, he/she may not be right for your family. If there is no reaction at all, the dog may be deaf.
6. Retrieving a ball is a test to see if the dog is willing to work with a two-legged alpha dog. If the dog doesn't cooperate and willingly participate, don't expect that to change.
Now is not the time to rescue a sick or poorly socialized puppy. A home with children needs a well-adjusted and healthy dog who's a willing learner. You may like the "spunk" in a nippy puppy, but that's a behavior that will take time, consistent training, and patience to change. A shaking, shy one may tug at everyone's heartstrings, but the dog needs the same training as the dominant personality. Fear biters, and piddlers come from this group. Piddling and nippy dogs aren't fun as they get older. That behavior can be changed, but only through consistent training as is needed for the overly spunky puppy.
A nice, balanced personality is the best choice. House training, and adjusting to home life is quite enough for a puppy to handle, and for you too. A special needs puppy is best left to owners with experience, and the right home environment.
A puppy can be a great addition to your family. Sophie, the black Lab our daughters grew up with came from the county shelter and was a terrific companion for 10 years. She waited everyday for them to come home from school, napping in the shade of the maple in our driveway. She also surreptitiously gobbled a pound of hamburger out of a grocery bag while I unloaded the car. Life with dogs is always interesting.
Resource Link: American Kennel Club