By Vedrana Gjivoje, DVM
I’ve been a veterinarian for 22 years, a wife for 20 and a mother for almost 18. In that time span I’ve raised 8 dogs and over 15 cats of my own and have ‘medically ministered’ to well over 5000 dogs, lots from puppyhood. Over these years, I’ve been able to look back, like a Monday morning QB, to observe and assess the good and the bad of getting a new puppy. As such, I’ve come up with a short list of do’s and don’ts to enhance your experience and maximize your success in a short and concise fashion. I’ve drawn on my experiences as a medical practitioner as well as an ‘in the trenches’ dog owner and member of a bustling household. I share it with you now, in January, to give you ample time to cogitate and prep for the upcoming spring.
1. First and most importantly, figure out what kind of dog breed might best suit your personal or family profile BEFORE committing to a specific puppy: not all dogs or all breeds are suitable for all people or all families. Numerous websites exist to help you maneuver a match, including www.akc.org/find-a-match. Also, please consider the mixed-breed puppies offered through shelters and rescue groups, as they abound.
2. If you have young children, consider waiting until the youngest is at least 7-8 so he/she can reliably follow instructions, offer some assistance, and contribute less to overall chaos.
3. If you have kids under 10, plan extra training time into your life schedule, as you will need to train both the puppy AND your children, daily, to ensure the smoothest path with the greatest success.
4. For purebred puppies, ask any prospective breeder for 3 references (one being their veterinarian) BEFORE you commit to the puppy. Try to select a breeder near enough so you can physically go meet the litter and select the puppy yourself rather than choosing from a photo or letting the breeder chose for you. Do your homework upfront.
5. Choosing temperament: within a litter of puppies, best to pass on the shyest and the most exuberant. Choose a socially outgoing pup with medium exuberance.
6. Best time of year to get the puppy is in the spring and early summer: this gives you longer days and warmer temps to aid in the toilet training and exercise process. It’s much easier taking your puppy out at 5 am in balmy June than in frigid or snowy January.
7. Use a crate: It will stream-line toilet training, give your pup a cubby hole, and provide safety for your furry bundle and your house/belongings.
8. Exercise your puppy every day and until he is spent. A tired puppy is a good puppy and will be less destructive and more compliant to your training.
9. Plan to attend a local offering of Puppy Kindergarten ASAP, a unique and developmentally time sensitive puppy class offering a triple benefit: basic obedience, interaction and socialization with other puppy ‘peers’ through which your pup will learn how to be a well-adjusted dog, and socialization to other humans (the various puppy owners)
10. Be consistent: all family/household members have to be on the same page about all aspects of the pup’s training and assimilation, otherwise the pup may receive conflicting info and become confused and harder to train.
Once you pick your puppy, similarly pick a quality veterinary team to partner up with to see you through all your puppy’s pediatric health needs.
There is so much more to this subject, but this is a great place to start. Enjoy and have fun!