By Dr. Bruce Little
So, you promised your children during the dark, cold months of Winter that you would get them a new puppy when the signs of Spring started to appear. Well, that time is fast approaching in many parts of the country, as evidenced by the crocus blooming and the robins are back digging in the yard. Not only that, but March 23 is National Puppy Day. Whoop! Whoop!! Now the job begins to determine what kind of puppy is right for your family, and where do you get the most healthy and vibrant pet that will become an addition to the family for many years to come. Regardless of the breed, size, or temperament of the puppy you choose, it is your desire to bring the puppy home and treat it as a full-bodied member of the family. You must accept the fact that to have the best puppy you can find, you must become a responsible pet owner. When you acquire a pet, you accept the responsibility for the health and welfare of another living being. You are also responsible for your pet’s impact on your family, friends, and community. A puppy will be part of your life for many years to come. Invest the time and effort necessary to make the years together happy years. When you choose a puppy, you are promising to care for it for its entire life. Choose wisely, keep your promise, and enjoy one of life’s most rewarding experiences the entire family will enjoy.
Family pets can be procured from several sources including purchasing a puppy from a pet store, a private breeder, or one can adopt a puppy from an animal shelter, pet adoption center or other rescue organization. There has been a recent movement by various animal welfare groups and state and local governmental bodies to outlaw the sale of puppies from retail pet stores. Several states and many municipalities have passed such legislation. Frankly, I disagree with legislation that bars commercial breeders from selling puppies to pet stores or pet stores selling pets to the public. The reason stated by the animal welfare groups is that all commercial breeders are “puppy mills.” I have asked several times, but have never received a logical answer from these activists, as to what qualifies a breeder to be a “puppy mill.” In my clinical practice days, I served as the veterinarian for four quality commercial dog breeders who sold puppies to pet retail stores across the country. Every one of those puppies were inspected for physical deficiencies that may have been present that would make the puppy unfit for a caring family, and was vaccinated and treated for both internal and external parasites if needed. My feeling is the animal welfare activists have colluded with the politicians who want to balance their animal shelter budgets by selling dogs and other pets through their shelter facilities. Animal shelters serve a most useful purpose, and families who choose to add a puppy to their household are well advised to first seek out a perfect match from a local animal shelter or pet adoption center. Many shelters today have full veterinary services that examines and performs necessary treatment to the animals that are admitted to the shelters before the adoption process of that individual pet begins. Customarily animals must be given vaccinations, be cleaned, and groomed, and be spayed or neutered before they can be taken from the shelter for adoption. Most shelters require an identification microchip be inserted under the skin as a form of permanent identification. And, of course, payment for adoption fees must be paid before the animal can be taken from the adoption center.
Before adopting a pet from any source, the family must determine what type of puppy would best suit the family circumstances. The pet owning experience will be most enjoyable if you carefully consider which pet best suits your family, home, and lifestyle. The primary reason many pets are given up to animal shelters, adoption centers and rescue organizations is unfulfilled expectations. So, it is very important to make informed decisions by including all the family in the pet choice. Puppies require additional time for housetraining, socialization, and obedience training, as well as more frequent feeding, exercise, and supervision. Therefore, the family must be prepared to accept the responsibility for caring for that new addition to the family, and must be willing to sacrifice the time to train the puppy to become a family member on all counts.
Questions such as who will be responsible for the care of the puppy, will your living quarters work best for a large or a small cuddly puppy, can you afford to give the puppy maximum care by providing for the cost for food, shelter, veterinary services, grooming and licensing? These issues should be taken into consideration before making a final decision on purchasing or adopting a new puppy into the family. Families should involve their children in caring for a new puppy; yet, youngsters need the help of an adult who is willing, able, and available during needed times to supervise the daily care of a new puppy. Does the family already have pets who are established in their turfdom with complete access to most of the home and property? It may take precautions and preparation to keep the older, more established pets from harming the new puppy. The breed of dog can determine the level of grooming required to have a healthy skin and coat. Some dogs shed more than others, so are you willing to have your furniture and clothes used as a collection point for dog hair or would a smooth haired puppy that sheds less work best in your family? All these questions are best discussed and answered by all family members to the best of your ability before purchase or adoption takes place.
Consult with your veterinarian about the need for vaccinations, parasite control, grooming, feeding and general care for your new puppy. The purchase price for a puppy can vary greatly by breed and the conditions under which one buys the pet. However, the purchase price can be only the beginning of costs for your individual pet. To make sure all vaccinations are put in place; some breeders require payment for or delay giving up ownership of the puppy until all vaccinations have been given. Some require an escrow payment up front and they issue a certificate for spaying or neutering to ensure that the puppy grows up to be a pet and not a mother or father. All dogs except those owned and managed by a licensed breeder should be spayed or neutered. It is better from a health standpoint and it makes them less aggressive and easier to manage, both within the family and around strangers and other pets. Intact males and females are more difficult to manage at dog parks, bike trails or parades than neutered pets. All dogs need quality food, proper housing, play toys and play time, and regular visits to a veterinarian for preventive care. In addition, costs can include emergency medical treatment, grooming, boarding, licensing, microchip identification, training, and accessories.
Before bringing your new puppy home, prepare an appropriate place for it to eat and sleep. This should be a quiet place out-of-the-way from other activities and interruptions. You will need to purchase food and water bowls, a leash, and a collar with your contact information on it, and pet food. You should make sure all electric wires are out of reach for the puppy to ensure they do not get shocked or start a fire in the house. Like babies, most puppies will put anything they can get into their mouth, so you must take precautions to make sure the puppy cannot eat garbage out of the garbage bin, human medicines, food off the kitchen counter or table, or lighted candles. Ask your veterinarian about other ways to make your home safe for your new puppy. If you have medical information from your puppy’s original owner, including its vaccinations and parasite control history, be sure to take this information with you on your first visit to your veterinarian.
Be prepared for several weeks of housetraining and some initial medical expenses for wellness examinations, vaccinations, and neutering. If you plan your puppy’s arrival when there is sufficient time to socialize and housetrain it, your puppy will learn faster and more likely grow into an adult dog you’ll enjoy immensely. If your community offers puppy classes at the dog park or at another facility, they are a great way to socialize your new companion and help it learn some basic commands. Frequent, positive contact with people and other pets early in the puppy’s life enhances its future interactions with your family, other people, and other pets.