By Teena Patel
Most pet owners, when choosing a puppy, rely on the “cuteness” factor of the puppy or dog. Even though this is the wrong way to go about it, a lot of us just can’t help it. So here are a few pointers that will help you out the next time you, your family or a friend is looking to give a forever home to a canine companion.
Although there is a lot more to evaluating a puppy then what you will see in the two videos below; this is a great way to begin your search for the right guy/gal for your family.
1) Evaluate your self, your household, family, and life style with great care. Be precise and honest in your judgments; especially when evaluating your life style. Very frequently I hear people wanting to get a dog, because it will help them be more active… if you are not active now, you will not be when you get a dog. The newness does ware off, and in the end it is the dog who suffers from lack of exercise and mental stimulation resulting in all sorts of behaviors we like to call “inappropriate.”
2) If you are looking to rescue a dog, consider fostering the puppy or dog for a few days first. This gives you the opportunity to really assess the dog away from an environment that is otherwise so stressful on the dog. Also, it will help you determine: a) if you really are ready for a dog, and can fully commit to taking care of one, and b) what you really are looking for in a puppy or dog.
3) If you are looking for a pure breed, still consider rescue. Every pure breed has a rescue group tied to them, and in many cases you will find on local to you. Rescue groups frequently get puppies in as well, so you are not limited to an age which is a common misconception. I would strongly suggest, even if you are not interested in rescuing, that you talk to someone who is very familiar with and experienced in handling and dealing with that particular breed. Relying on pet shops and back yard breeders to give you that information is false hope. Their business is to sell.
4) Do all your research in finding out medical conditions that particular breed is prone to. An experienced breeder, one that is in it for the betterment of the breed, will only breed those dogs and to those dogs that will improve the line. They are very knowledgeable in all aspects of the dog, including how structure impacts performance in a dog.
5) When choosing a puppy, it is very important that a puppy is willing to cooperate without struggling, mouthing, or any other sort of tension when being handled. Watch the following two videos for the difference in temperament of two puppies born in the same litter.
6) This is not to say that the puppy that puts up a good fight or one that clings onto your hand as you pull away, will not make a great companion for you. It is to say, those signs should be evaluated and considered seriously. Not everyone is experienced or has the patience and time to deal with a puppy who will grow up to challenge everything you say. However, in some instances, (especially for working dogs) pet owners who stick to following rules and consistency, do very well with these types of dogs.
7) Choosing the right dog first and foremost requires an evaluation of the pet owner to be. I can not stress the importance of that, and also allowing the dog to choose you.
8) Puppies learn to respect rules and boundaries at a very early age and that is around 4-5 weeks of age. This is because around 5 weeks of age a puppy is ready to eat solid food, and can be weaned off mom. Puppies normally begin to increase their distance from mom, occasionally rubbing up on her attempting to feed. It is normal for mum to nip, or snarl or push the puppy in an attempt to say “no” or “no not right now.” Since most dogs are removed from mom at this age (to be sold in pet shops at 8 weeks of age), these puppies have not had the opportunity to learn that. This results in dogs who are pushy, persistent and need to be corrected and reminded consistently and repeatedly. The longer it takes a pet parent to get on board to following rules from a dog’s point of view, the more of a challenge this relationship will be.
9) Every dog’s first lesson in life should always be to learn RESPECT. It is our responsibilities as pet parents to seek assistance on how to teach this lesson effectively.
10) Just like we all have different personalities and temperaments, so do other animals. It is important to recognize that and find a suitable match and to coexist.
Teena Patel is a Certified Dog Trainer and Behavioral Counselor. She received her certification in 2000 and now owns and operates The University of Doglando in Orlando, Florida. Patel earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Central Florida in 2000, where her research focused on animal behavior and cognition. In addition to owning The University of Doglando, Teena spends much of her time on community outreach and youth education, and has been a speaker at many schools and youth programs, educating children about responsible pet parenting and canine enrichment.