choosing a puppyAll of us have probably known someone who claimed to have picked the smallest or shyest puppy in the litter and found it to be the best dog they ever owned.

Their story is likely true, but most of us may not mind having a few tips on how to pick the best puppy in the group.

Five Questions To Ask Yourself

Experts suggest a potential new dog owner should first ask himself or herself five important questions:

  1. Are there children in the family and what age are they?–After you have settled on a breed, and decided whether you want a male or female dog, check with your veterinarian to see if your decision fits with your family makeup. Some dogs are generally not a good choice for families with very young children and a few breeds do not tolerate children at all.
  2. Are there other dogs in the household?—Bringing a new dog into the mix is something to think about ahead of time. You could explain the situation to the breeder or shelter where you obtain the new family member and ask if it is possible to return your dog within a reasonable time if things do not work out. When you visit your prospective puppy, observe how she gets along with other dogs to determine if she’s combative or so shy she would be afraid of the animals already living with you.
  3. Do you travel for your job or go on a lot of vacations?—You should ask yourself if you or some other member of your family has time to take proper care of the dog, play with him and exercise him daily, if possible, depending on the new animal’s age and energy level. If you plan to take the animal with you on trips, you have to plan ahead. You will have to pay pet fees or make arrangements to board your pet if you do not have someone who can care for it while you are away. If this cannot be done within your budget and your available time, right now may not be the best time to bring a pet into your life.
  4. Where do you live?—Many dogs are too large for an apartment and may need a yard to exercise in. You may have to install some kind of fence to keep your dog from leaving your yard. If you live in a high traffic area, this could be dangerous. You could also be fined and have your dog designated a “nuisance” if it is caught running at large in Ohio. These are important considerations when adding a pet to your family.
  5. Can you really afford a dog?—Owning a dog costs from $600 to $900 a year according to pet expert Cesar Millan. This is in addition to what you initially pay for the dog. In some cases these expenses are already covered, but for the most part you should plan on paying for an initial exam by a veterinarian, spaying or neutering, heartworm testing, routine vaccinations, and health insurance (optional). Ongoing medical care costs about $260 extra for a large dog and about $210 additional for toy breeds. Grooming and training classes are other possible expenses as well as food which is about $120 a year for a medium-size dog, according to Millan.

Six Other Important Things To Think About

Do Your Research

According to veterinarian Ron Hines, who writes articles on the website, 2ndChance.info, a dog’s personality is highly influenced by its family genetics. That is why it is important to think about breeding. Don’t just see what puppy runs over to you first and call it yours. It is important to observe the puppy for a while and both of the puppy’s parents. Of course this is difficult, if not impossible, if the puppy comes from a shelter or a pet store. Read up on the breeds you prefer and make sure they are not prone to hereditary diseases like hip dysplasia. Treatment can get very expensive. Dr. Hines claims that generally the rarer the breed the more subject it is to health concerns because the gene pool is smaller and the dogs are often inbred and more closely related. At Hines’ website many breeds of dogs are listed with information about them. He also recommends websites which pet owners can consult. His personal favorite for a family dog is a Labrador retriever.

Where Do I Get a Puppy (or a Dog?)

It seems there are three choices concerning places to get a dog—a shelter or rescue facility, a breeder, or a pet store.

Pet Store – Few pet enthusiasts recommended buying a dog at a commercial pet store. Often pet shope pups are weaned from their mothers at five or six weeks old and shipped to the store. Many of the puppies come from mills that churn out litters in the worst of conditions. (Weaning is preferred at eight weeks.) The puppy may have been weaned so early that he has not had a chance to learn important things from his mother and his littermates or to interact with them. Also, there is usually no opportunity to observe the dog’s littermates or his parents if you buy a dog in a pet store.

Breeders – Make sure you view several puppies so you can find the one you are most compatible with. A good breeder will always answer questions about your dog’s ancestry. Ask about the temperaments of the dog’s parents and grandparents if you are unable to meet them. Pay attention to the puppy’s behavior. If it is bouncing off the walls at the breeder’s, it will most likely not change its personality when it gets to your house. If you don’t know a reliable breeder, ask your vet, the American Kennel Club or local breeding clubs for a referral in your area.

Shelter or Rescue –  It is important not to be swept away by emotion when you visit a shelter and a dog runs to the front of the cage. If you see a dog you’re interested in, ask if you can take it for a short walk. Try to visit the shelter or rescue facility two or three times before making a final choice. Many people do not realize that up to 25% of dogs from shelters are purebreds that their owners had to leave behind for various reasons.

Observe Your Dog

All dogs have different personalities and temperament. You should try to observe the puppy you are taking a liking to on two or three separate occasions. You should observe their mother and their father if possible, even the grandparents if you can. Watch how the litter as a group interacts and try to get an opportunity to take your pup from the group and observe it individually. By taking these actions you should be able to tell if the dog is dominant, energetic, or a bit shy or fearful or if it is friendly, playful, curious and trusting. You should be able to get an idea of the dog’s temperament and whether it will be a good fit for you.

Handle The Dog Before Buying It

Hug and cradle the puppy. If she whines and wiggles, it may not be a good sign. It may indicate a lack of socialization and may mean the dog will be afraid of new people. A puppy that has been handled from a young age should have no problem being held and should settle down quickly even with strangers. Remember this animal will be with you or your family for 12 to 18 years so a dog that is good-natured is probably a keeper.

Tests You Can Do

There are several things you can do to find out more about the puppy you are intending to purchase including a noise test. This can be done by dropping something on the ground like your keys and watching the reaction of the puppy. If the animal runs and hides, it may be a nervous pup. A puppy that barks or lunges at you it is more likely to be an aggressive pup.

Another test, the separation anxiety test, can be done if you have a chance to spend time alone with the puppy. Spend a few minutes with him and then leave the room and leave the dog by himself. If you hear barking or whining this may not be a good sign. Then again it is only a test, a predictor of possible future behavior, not proof positive you would have a “yapper” on your hands.

It is also recommended you conduct a visual test by checking the dog’s eyes, ears, gums, teeth and posterior area. A healthy pup should have a bright, shiny coat and clear, bright eyes with no crust or discharge. Also check that the pup breathes quietly without coughing or sneezing and that he walks and runs normally without limping or seeming stiff. The latter could be a sign of a hip issue in adulthood.

Get Your New Puppy Checked Out

Once you have chosen your puppy and brought him home, you should take him to your veterinarian for an initial checkup. Bring a copy of your pet’s vaccination and worming records and any other medical records if you have them. If you buy your dog from a breeder, he should give you these.

In the first 12-16 weeks of your puppy’s life, keep him at home except for short visits to the vet. Puppies get their immunity from their mothers, but as they grow there is a gap in immunity until the puppy gets all his shots and vaccines. So although it’s natural to want to show your new pup off, wait until he is a bit older.

Dog Bite Prevention

Preventing a dog from biting you, your child or someone else is very important. Each year, more than 4.5 million in the U.S. are bitten by dogs. We’ve put together a dog bite prevention program aimed at educating kids. To view our dog bite prevention program, please visit this link: Ohio Dog Bite Prevention Program

If you, your spouse, your child or other loved one has become the victim of a dog attack anywhere in Ohio, please contact us for a free consultation with one of our highly experienced Ohio dog bite attorneys. We can be reached at all times by calling 1-888-998-9101, chatting with one of our 24-hour live chat representatives or sending us a website message.