There is nothing cuter than a puppy, except maybe two puppies. And maybe cute is just the right thing for you, or maybe all the things that go along with cute, such as puddles on the floor or chewed up shoes, aren’t high on your list of the most desirable attributes in a new dog. You’ll need to think about whether a puppy or an adult is the right choice for you. Many of the same issues you thought about when you decided to adopt a dog are also ones you need to examine when deciding what age he should be.
If you get a puppy, you’re starting with a clean slate. “You can make a pup what you want him to be,” says Diller. The drawback, of course, is that his training has to start from scratch, as does housebreaking. A puppy is a baby, and he’ll need more of your time and patience than an older dog. Do you have enough of both to housebreak and train him, as well as the sense of fun and adventure to play with him? Puppies tend to be destructive when they’re bored, so they need a lot of exercise and supervised play.
An ideal match for puppies is a family where one adult is home, you can also adjust your schedule to accommodate housebreaking trips and some of the playtime that he craves. If all the adults of the household have to go to work, it is still possible to get a puppy. Plan to acquire him when you have some vacation time and spend that time bonding with him and getting him established in a regular routine of exercise and feeding – not a vacation routine but the kind of schedule you are both going to have to live by once you’re back at work. And when the honeymoon is over, if you visit him during your lunch hour or hurry home straight after work to spend lots of quality time with him, he’ll grow up to be a happy and well – adjusted dog.
What to look for in a Puppy:
Once you’ve decided you have the time and patience to raise a puppy, you want to make sure you get one that is healthy, social and compatible with you personality and experience. So what’s the best indicator of a sound, reliable pup?
“Look at the puppy’s relatives, as many as you can meet – the father, the mother, the brothers and sisters,’’ says Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D., an applied animal behaviorist in private practice in Littleton, Colorado. “They will all give you some indication of the characteristics the puppy will grow into having.’’
“The best guidelines are the parents,” agrees Bauman. “Are they high – energy? Low – energy? Obedient? This should give you an idea of what you’re going getting.” Bauman cautious against getting a puppy too young. He should certainly not leave his mom before he’s eight weeks old. “The longer a puppy stays with his mom, the more she will teach him about how to behave, which means less work for you, the new owner,” she say.
If the litter of puppies you are looking at is purebred, consider letting the breeder choose the right match from the litter for you. “The breeder the has been with the puppies since they were born and will have a good idea of what the different personalities are like,” Diller.
“But when in doubt, pick the middle – of – the road female puppy in a litter – she’ll be a bit more easygoing, not too shy, not too pushy,” advises Diller. Particularly when you’re selecting your puppy from mixed breed litter, err on the side of caution by opting for a female, especially if you think the pups are going to grow up big.
Many breeders and trainers are in favor of evaluating a puppy’s temperament at six to eight weeks of age by putting him through a series of tests designed to determine his level of dominance. For instance, one test involves holding a puppy on his back to see If he fights to get away (a dominant personality), if he accepts the situation after a small effort to escape (a normal personality), or if he gives in right away, licking the tester’s hands (a submissive personality).
The goal here is to try to match the dog’s personality to the prospective owner’s. “I would not want a dominant male going to family with small kids,” explain Sanders. “And you have to be careful with any puppy that’s very timid. He can turn into a fear biter later on.”
While this sort of testing can be a helpful guide for any litter of puppies, whether purebred or mixed breed, it will not be the perfect crystal ball for predicting the adult behavior of all puppies. “I have seen different behaviors at sex weeks, nine weeks and four months – all in the same pup,” say Bauman. “Try to meet the pup’s relatives and examine what the breed was originally intended to do,” advises Dr. Hetts “Don’t be surprised by the natural herding instincts of Shetland sheepdogs and Australian Shepherds,” she says. “An Akita, originally a fighting dog, may have a low threshold of aggression toward other dogs.”
If you’re adopting a mixed breed pup, use the same thinking. A Shepherd mix is likely will dig and bark; and a dog with a bit of Doberman or Rottweiler will probably try to strut his macho stuff. Your dog’s behavioral instincts are unlikely to cause problems. Just keep such potential traits in mind when you set about training him.
The Dog that wasn’t born yesterday:
If the house is empty for much of the day and a new dog will be alone with just his toys, his water bowl and his bed, you might want to consider getting an adult dog. It could be easier on you and him, because the more mature dog will be better at keeping himself entertained, and he won’t miss your company quite so much. Also, he won’t need your absolute and undivided attention when you are home.
What’s more, he may already be house-trained. He might also know what you’re talking about when you start using basic obedience commands. One possible disadvantage is that he will be shaped and molded by his life experiences to a certain extent, experiences beyond your control and about which you may know nothing.
Then again, there’s a good chance you might know a great deal about him if you are in the lucky position of “inheriting” an adult dog from a family member or friend. Adopting a dog this way is the perfect solution for all involved.
In the event that your adult dog has a few unappealing habits, be assured that an old dog can be taught new tricks, once he has unlearned the old ones. With the help of obedience classes, a professional trainer, or maybe just a good book on dog training, the two of you can be on your way to beautiful and mature friendship.