So You Want a Puppy? Are You Sure?

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My little Tasmanian devil of a puppy!

I recently became the proud owner of a 10 week old Border Collie. Having had two previous Border Collies that passed away at the age of 14 I surmised I was savvy enough to do it again. The reality of my decision bit me pretty hard!

Making the transition from two perfect old calm dogs to a Tasmanian devil of a puppy is not easy. I found myself saying what I hear owners say to me all the time, “but my old dog never did that”. Yes, I am sure he did, and we have forgotten!

A few words about puppies. They do not come pre-programmed. They do not know that we have a certain set of human rules that we expect them to live by. It takes an amazing amount of time and patience to teach puppies what it is we want and most of us are in short supply of both.

If you are considering bringing home a tiny bundle of fur have a plan in place first. Here are some points to consider before your pup comes home;

  1. What breed of dog will you choose? Before you make your decision ask yourself the following questions. What is your lifestyle? How active are you on a daily basis? How much extra room is there in your day for dog training and dog walking? An active puppy with no outlet for his energy will find something to do. And you will not like it! Think barking, digging and chewing on furniture.
  2. Research rescue groups or breeders in your area. Do not rely on internet sites with cute pictures of puppies. Many of these sites are just glorified puppy mills. Know where your puppy comes from. If you buy from a breeder, meet them on their property and you should be able to meet the mother. Research health issues for your breed and know what health guarantees the breeder offers. For information on health issues by breed, see The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals: http://www.offa.org/ 
  3. Veterinary care. Interview veterinarians in your area before you bring your puppy home. Get recommendations and then visit the office. Meet the staff and ask questions. They should be friendly and receptive to your inquiries. Be armed with knowledge and information about your puppy’s breed and healthcare. A few topics to discuss with your vet should include nutrition, what age should you spay or neuter, titers, what vaccinations are required by law and when they should be given.
  4. Housetraining plan. Bring your pup home when you or someone in your house will be available to teach the puppy good toilet habits. Pee pads are great for short term use but your puppy will still need to learn that he needs to go outside to use the bathroom. A crate is a wonderful tool to help with housetraining but it should be introduced slowly. Hide treats in it and make it a wonderful place to be.
  5. Exercise pens. When you can’t watch your puppy he needs to be in an area with toys, water and his crate. You can’t watch your puppy every minute of the day. Using an exercise pen allows you time away from your puppy and teaches him to entertain himself and develop some independence.
  6. Toys. Make sure you have a good supply of toys, balls, teething rings, interactive food toys, toys that talk, toys that squeak etc… Rotate your toys every few days.
  7. Training plan. Get your pup in a class when he is under 3 months of age. Do not wait until your puppy has had his complete series of shots. Research trainers in your area that offer safe socialization time and training for your puppy. Socialization does not mean taking your young puppy to a dog park! See the American Veterinary Society for Animal Behavior and their statement on puppy socialization: http://avsabonline.org/uploads/position_statements/puppy_socialization.pdf

Bringing home a puppy is a lifetime commitment for you and your family. Taking the time to prepare before your puppy comes home will make the process easier. Get the right dog for your family then you can truly appreciate the joy and laughter that a puppy can bring.


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Positively Expert: Donna Elliott

Donna Elliott is the owner of Mutts With Manners in Atlanta, Ga. Donna is a certified dog trainer through the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.


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