The Pets Doc

Dr. Kevin Watkins, DVM

812-273-1803

Picking A Puppy – Find The Right Match For Your Family

Is a puppy on your Christmas wish list? This month, I thought I would share some valuable tips for selecting the right breed for you and your family, and some things to keep in mind when you visit a breeder.

There are so many different breeds to choose from, how do you know which one is the best match for you? In the context of your own personality and lifestyle, consider the characteristics inherent in a particular breed. Which characteristics are predominant, and how does that fit with your lifestyle?

Some dogs are quiet, some more dominant. Some breeds are herders, some protectors. Some require lots of physical and mental activity, while some prefer to lie in the same place for hours. There’s a world of difference between a Bloodhound and a Border Collie.

Once you have decided on a breed, it is still important to recognize that each pup is an individual with a unique personality. Therefore, it is helpful when both parents are on the premises when you go to select your puppy. Never select a puppy based only on his behavior with his littermates. Remove the puppy from the litter and play with him individually.

As you carry him away from his litter mates, observe whether the puppy seems worried and more interested in returning to the litter, or does he seem relaxed and interested in what is going on around him now? You may not want to choose the one who runs and hides from you, and should probably avoid the one that growls and bites aggressively.

Don’t be afraid to ask the breeder some specific questions about your puppy’s history. Responsible breeders will be able to provide detailed information about health care and socialization that has been done with the litter. The breeder should also be knowledgeable about the character and history of the breed.

The ideal age to adopt a puppy is 7 weeks old. The eighth week of life is known as the “fear week,” and dramatic changes during this week can be traumatic and may have life long impact for a puppy. Imagine how frightening it would be to suddenly be removed from your mother and littermates, and placed in the hands of unknown humans.

Another word of caution to all you “softies” out there – two puppies at once, while cute, may not be the best idea. Littermates tend to stick together and bond to each other, rather than to their new family. It is a rare individual who can bond with more than one puppy at a time and keep their focus off each other long enough to properly socialize and train them.

On a final note, don’t forget the pound puppies. They need homes, too. The local animal shelter is a great resource for information and a new family member.

Margo Watkins, Pet Behavior Counselor

Pawsitive Pet Behavior Blog