It’s no coincidence puppy season falls at the beginning of the New Year. A lot of families get puppies as Christmas presents. Puppies are a lot of fun and may seem like a great gift for your significant other or kids, but there are many important things to consider before rushing out and getting a dog.
Puppies need supplies
If this is your first dog ever or even just in a long time, you’ll need to stock up on supplies. You need to be sure you have a size-appropriate crate, lots of toys and chews to curb chewing, bowls (or even better, interactive food puzzle toys), nutritious puppy food, a bed, a potty patch or pee pads, grooming supplies, training treats, an exercise pen, and that’s just the beginning! Also keep in mind puppies need to see the vet at a more frequent rate for puppy shots. Speaking of the vet, you will also need heartworm medicine and flea prevention. In Texas, it rarely gets cold enough to kill mosquitos (which can infect your dog with heartworms) and fleas, so you’ll need to keep your dog protected all year long. According to www.moneyunder30.com, the average cost of a puppy’s first year is $1,270. I found another site that estimated $6,600!
You need professionals in your corner
Just like you have professional for yourself (personal trainer, financial planner, doctors, etc.) your pup also needs professionals. Maybe you already have a vet in mind, but you want to be sure you have someone you can trust to give you sound, modern medical advice. Even better if it’s someone you can trust through the duration of your puppy’s life. You also want to be sure you have a great groomer. Whether you have a long haired pooch or not, your pup may still need baths, nail trims, ear cleanings and anal gland expressions. You want to depend on a groomer who will take their time with your pet, especially puppies, as one bad trip to the groomer can lead to stressful visits thereafter. You’ll also want to find a trusty pet sitter or dog walker. Most likely, you’ll need someone to let puppy out for a potty and play while you’re out at work. This person can also help you out when you go on vacation and can’t take your pup with you. Finally, you’ll need a dog trainer. Whether you’re looking for group classes or private lessons, you’ll need help figuring out what cues and behaviors you should teach your pup and how to turn those behaviors into lifelong manners. Remember, training can’t start soon enough! If you need any recommendation in the San Antonio area for any of these professionals, please ask! I’m a triple threat: dog walker, pet sitter and certified trainer!
Potty and chew training
This is usually the biggest deal breaker for people deciding against a puppy and choosing an adult dog. Potty and chew training can be a long and tedious process. It’s not impossible to do, and can be done quickly, but our human inconsistency make the process longer.
What kind of puppy
There are so many breeds of dogs out there! I’ve been working with dogs since 2007 and am still learning about new breeds. Most dogs were originally bred for a purpose and the American Kennel Club (AKC) separates them into seven groups. There’s the Herding Group (Border Collies, Malinois, Australian Shepherds, etc.) the Sporting Group (retrievers, setters, pointers, etc.), the Hound Group (Beagles, Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, Greyhounds, etc.), the Non-Sporting Group (Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Dalmatians, Poodles, etc.), the Terrier Group (Scotties, Rat Terriers, Miniature Schnauzers, Westies, etc.), the Toy Group (Chihuahuas, Maltese, MinPins, Pomeranians, etc.), and the Working Group (Boxers, St. Bernards, Giant Schnauzers, Great Danes, etc.). Each one of these groups can be described in temperament and work ethic.
I cannot emphasize this to you enough: when choosing a dog, PLEASE don’t pick based on looks alone. Sure, you may have a certain size in mind, but maybe the temperament of a particular breed doesn’t match your lifestyle. For example, I know many families who get Australian Shepherds because they are very pretty dogs. But without doing research, they failed to realize these dogs can be very high energy, needing lots of exercise and a job to do. Imagine you come home from a long day at work and you just want to sit and watch some TV. Your poor dog has been home alone for eight or more hours now and is ready to PARTY! No rest for you – it’s time to play Frisbee and go on a run and practice some tricks! Or, if not given appropriate outlets to expend some energy, maybe instead puppy will decide to grab everything off the counter, chase the cat around the house and chew up the TV remote. This is life with a high-energy dog. Every. Day. Dogs don’t know what Saturdays are. Or what grueling days in an office are. It is SO crucial to your sanity (and that of your dog) to pick the right companion for your household.
Additional questions to ask yourself: Do I want the responsibility of taking my dog to the groomer regularly? What are the health concerns associated with this breed (or breeds if you have a mix)? How many hours a day can I spend with my dog? What kind of activities will I do with my dog, how often and how long? In general, what kind of personality would I like? Big or small? Couch potato or energizer bunny?
Where to get the puppy from
If you want to get a purebred dog, the first big step is finding a responsible breeder. Questions to ask a potential breeder: can you meet the parents of the litter? What sort of mental stimulation do the puppies get? Will they work on housetraining before leaving for their forever homes? What amount of socialization will they get for the first eight weeks of their life? Can the breeder recommend a puppy based on personality traits that you want?
If you want to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue group, there are things you can look for to make sure you’re getting the best possible companion. First, don’t assume that you’ll find the right puppy on day one. If you’re looking at a litter of puppies, spend some time with them to get to know their personalities. Does one stick close to the humans in the room? Does one seem more prone to exploring? Does one like to lie down and watch the others play? These are all early indicators of what their personality will be. Think about what sort of personality works best in your household.
I highly discourage anyone from purchasing a puppy from a puppy store. Regardless of what the employees of the store tell you, their puppies for sale are coming from puppy mills. In a nutshell, puppy mills are the stuff a dog’s nightmares are made of. Parenting dogs are bred constantly without much time in-between litters not allowing their bodies rest to appropriately nurse puppies in and out of utero. Puppies are usually raised in an extremely overcrowded environment that is dirty with urine and feces and a cesspool of disease. Puppies get “cleared for sale” by “veterinarians” when they are clearly sick. At the puppy store, puppies are left in small cages usually dirty with more urine and feces. When puppy stores stop getting business and go bankrupt, puppy mills lose their only revenue to survive.
Remember, that little puppy will turn into a bigger adult dog who will live at least a decade. If you aren’t sure if you and your family can handle the long-term responsibilities, maybe a puppy (or any other animal) won’t make the best gift. If you are willing to endure the long-term responsibility, do your research to be sure you get the best dog for your family.