Puppy planning 101

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Shopping for a new puppy? Congratulations! Here’s how to choose the right breed and prepare for his arrival. 

So you and your family have decided to add a puppy to your household! There are many things you’ll need to consider to ensure you buy just the right breed for your home, family and lifestyle. And you’ll also need to prepare for his arrival so that he becomes a valued member of your household as quickly as possible! Keep these tips in mind.

1. Make a plan

First of all, establish that everyone in the family is on board with introducing a puppy.  Lay down some basic rules: who will feed him, take him out in the yard, walk him, train him, and groom him, where will he sleep, and so on.

2. Choose wisely

Age matters

Most people think that getting a dog means getting a puppy, but for families with small children or elderly relatives, an older dog may work out better. An older dog will have outgrown his puppy silliness and boisterousness, be house- and lead-trained, and should have some basic manners. If this is your preference, let the breeders know when you make your inquiries, as they may have an older puppy or young adult, or even a retired show dog, available for a new home. Rescue groups for a particular breed may also have a suitable dog.

The right breed

Consider the size of the dog and the ages of your children before committing to a particular breed. A rambunctious large-breed puppy might accidentally knock over a toddler, whereas a very small-breed puppy may get hurt if children play roughly with it.

Many family-friendly breeds will happily welcome everyone into their homes. Some owners may be better suited with breeds that are known to devote themselves to just one or two people, and that will deter intruders rather than greeting all visitors indiscriminately with a wagging tail. Consider which temperament will suit you best.

Coat care

Long-haired or smooth-haired? Be prepared for coat care regardless of the dog’s breed, but know that long hair requires a grooming commitment. Be sure someone in the family is willing to take on this task. A short-haired breed will cut down on grooming time, but the house-proud owner should be aware that many dogs will shed profusely all over the upholstered furniture unless regularly and thoroughly groomed!

Busy or laid back?

Some breeds are very active and require lots of exercise – in their traditional working roles, these dogs have been bred to spend long hours outdoors and on the move. If yours is a couch potato family, then choose a breed known for its more laid-back attitude. An energetic puppy forced into inactivity will find ways to amuse himself, including wrecking your home out of boredom!

If you have ambitions for training your new companion for performance events such as obedience, agility or field trials, pick a breed known for its intelligence, trainability and suitability for such activities. Remember that these breeds are also likely to need a lot of exercise.

3. Reach out

Once you have narrowed down suitable breeds, it’s time to contact breeders! If you have your heart set on a rarer breed, be prepared to go a long distance as you may not find a breeder locally; it’s also likely you’ll be put on a waiting list for a future puppy.

Have your questions ready

Ask questions of the breeder – she won’t mind sensible questions. Enquire how long she’s owned the breed, what dog-related activities she participates in, the guarantees and references offered, what health tests were done on the parents, and at what age she lets her puppies go to new homes. Also ask if you can return the puppy if he doesn’t work out or if you can no longer keep him. A reputable breeder cares very much where her puppies go, and if she cannot take the puppy back herself she should offer to help re-home him. Be prepared for many questions from the breeder too, regarding your suitability as a new owner.

4. Puppy-proof

The next step is to puppy-proof your home! Move houseplants up high (many are toxic), ensure trash cans are out of reach or have dog-proof lids, keep medications and cleaning supplies behind closed doors, hide electrical cords, don’t leave small or precious objects within his reach, and ensure he can’t get into the cat litter box if you have one. Puppies are curious and insatiable chewers – anything they can reach will go into their mouths.

The importance of crate training

Using a crate is a very effective way to housebreak a puppy. Dogs have an instinct to seek out a “den”. A puppy will consider the crate his den and will not soil it unless absolutely necessary. It will also become his retreat when he wishes to nap undisturbed. A crate is also essential when travelling: a dog is much safer in a crate than roaming loose in your vehicle.

Puppy shopping list

What will you need for your new puppy? There are a number of things you should have on hand before you bring him home.

  • First, you’ll need the basics – a collar and lead, and an ID tag from your local municipality.
  • Some puppy food is necessary, of course – ask the breeder what food her litters are raised on – and food and water dishes, too.
  • He’ll need some toys for entertainment – try squeaky toys, soft toys and chew toys to determine which type he prefers.
  • Buy some basic grooming supplies such as a brush, comb, shampoo and nail clippers. Depending on the breed and coat care required, more specific items might be needed later if you are intending to look after his coat yourself – e.g. electric clippers and different kinds of grooming shears and brushes.
  • In your home, you’ll need a crate to confine him on occasions; it will also help housetrain him. Baby gates will help keep him out of certain areas of your home until he is completely trustworthy.
  • For bedding, use a towel or blanket that can be easily washed.
  • You will probably want some books to educate yourself on your new companion. A breed book or two and a basic reference book on behaviour and training will be useful.

Bringing home a new puppy is a time of excitement and anticipation for your family. Careful preparation beforehand will ensure your new pup has a great start in life.