What you need to consider prior to taking this leap into puppy ownership.
Christmas is around the corner and you have decided to get a puppy. Now what? Here is a list of points you may have not considered. No need to rush into a 10+ year commitment and regret it right out of the gate! Remember, this gift doesn’t come with a return receipt and is unlikely to be an easy re-gift option either.
Picking the RIGHT puppy starts with understanding normal puppy behavior. This can be challenging for us because we tend to gravitate to the puppy that is outside of the swarm of wet puppy noses. We tend to feel compassion for the puppy that is the outlier, the lone ranger. You know, that cute little bugger that is NOT with the pack, rather set apart from the rest. This is a warning sign that this puppy is more likely to be fearful and anxious. We find that this is a common denominator for adult dogs with fear, anxiety, and socialization challenges.
Give the puppy a personality test before you purchase. You can get a good idea of how challenging your puppy will be to train by following this simple test. Upon picking up the puppy, gently lay the puppy on it’s back while supporting it on your lap or arms (pending how big the critter is). Normal behavior would be for the puppy to struggle for a few seconds, but then relax and submit to the position he or her is placed in. IF the puppy doesn’t give any struggle, this can be a sign of complete submission and even fear paralysis, which could present in a submissive urinator OR fear aggression in later years. IF the puppy struggles and refuses to submit, this can be a sign that the puppy will be a tough critter to train or an independent thinker.
How much time do you have in your life to commit to your new puppy? A puppy is a toddler. For those of you with children, you know what I mean. For those of you without children, you will soon understand what I mean. The puppy is a loose cannonball…. a cute loose cannonball. They require A LOT of time to train them into the family member you want them to be. If you are unable to commit to hours of potty training, puppy classes for socialization, exercise, and interrupted sleep for midnight potty breaks, then a puppy is NOT for you. Look into adopting an adult dog that has already been potty trained/socialized.
Do I purchase from a breeder, a shelter, or a pet shop? If you elect to adopt, I’m pretty sure there is a special place in heaven for you ? There are so many animals that end up the in the shelter that never know the love of a family. What an amazing gift you give by adopting and yet receive from acquiring the unconditional love of a dog.
If you purchase from a breeder, please visit the site (not meet at the local shopping parking lot), meet the parents, and access the living conditions. Unfortunately, there are a considerable number of backyard breeders and puppy mills that claim to have champion bloodlines, but they are likely irresponsibly breeding.
If you purchase from a pet shop, please know that most of these puppies are being purchased from a broker (the middleman between the breeder and the pet shop). You will have no way of knowing where the puppy came from. The reality is that the majority of responsible breeders never have a problem selling their pups directly to the family and seldom sell to a pet shop.
Could there be a better season than winter to purchase a puppy? The short answer is YES!! Spring, summer, and fall tend to be much easier seasons to potty train your puppy.
Picture this… it’s 2 a.m. and you just woke up to your little bundle of joy is whimpering. It’s potty time. You stumble out of bed, grab the pup, and head to the front door. You open the door to meet a brisk arctic blast to the face and step into a knee-deep snow drift. Guess who isn’t going to pee let alone poop outside in these conditions. And can you honestly blame the critter?
Obviously, this is regionally dependent, but where I come from, this is the reality of potty training in the winter.
If you have read this list and are feeling weary, please stop dead in your tracks and rethink your initial decision to purchase a puppy.
Again, this could be a 10+ year commitment and you certainly do not want to regret a lofty Christmas wish later on down the road. However, if this list leaves you feeling empowered in your quest for the right puppy, rock on! Go get that little critter and enjoy the wonder of the human-animal bond. It will truly be the gift that keeps on giving.
Carrie Vigeant D.V.M., mother of 3 boys, entrepreneur, wife, and foodie.