So you’ve decided to add a new family member – Congratulations!
You’ve done your research and decided to add a new family member. There are a few things to consider when choosing the right pet for you –
1. What age is best?
The most common age to get is a young puppy from 8-12 weeks of age. Many people like the cute puppy stage and don’t want to miss it! This gives you the assurance that your puppy has proper socialization and positive experiences from a young age. This is also a good age to introduce a puppy to other pets, kids, or other family members – they will grow up familiar with your particular living situation.
However, if you picture your ideal dog as a calm family companion able to be loose in the house and not chew or have accidents, consider adopting an older pet. With an older dog, what you see is what you get – most rescues are able to test if dogs are good with other dogs, cats, and kids, and are equipped to find a dog that is best suited to match your family. Adopting a dog over 1-2 years of age can provide a ready made family companion – they have generally outgrown the puppy stage and are now ready to be the family pet everyone imagines when they want a dog!
2. What breed is best?
There is a huge variety in the different dog breeds, you should think about -
Or maybe a mixed breed is best – mixed breeds often have fewer health problems than purebreds, and can be wonderful pets. Keep in mind that oftentimes the dog will exhibit the personality traits of the breeds it is made up of!
3. Where do I get my new pet?
A wonderful option to consider is a rescue group or animal shelter. There are an estimated 3-5 million dogs given up to shelters every year, and of these, 25% are purebred. If you’re looking for a certain breed, there are also purebred rescues. Every breed out there has a rescue for that breed alone! From cute, cuddly little puppies, to young adult dogs that come housebroken and are past the chewing stage, to senior dogs who come as ready made companions, rescues always have a little bit of everything! Check out www.petfinder.com or visit your local animal shelter to look for your next best friend.
Don’t be surprised, a good shelter or rescue group will want to learn a little bit about you before allowing you to adopt a pet. They will generally have an application for you to fill out, will check your references, and often request a home visit to be certain they are making a good match. Though this may surprise people, you will come to appreciate that they are working in the best interest of the pets and trying to reduce the chances that a pet will be surrendered a second time.
Many people will also seek out a responsible breeder for a particular breed. A good breeder should be knowledgeable about their breed and help you decide if that breed is the right match for you. Beware of irresponsible or ‘backyard’ breeders, who have too many dogs, keep them in unsanitary conditions, or who just seem interested in making a sale. Traits of a responsible breeder include:
• Breeding for health and temperament, not ‘looks’ or a fad
• Practicing genetic health testing
• Keeping a puppy until eight weeks of age/not letting it go too early
• Having only one or two breeds
• Having a manageable number of dogs/breeding only one litter at a time
• Willing to take the dog back, should at any time you be unable to care for it
• Questioning you to make sure your family is a good match for the breed or a particular puppy
• Willing to answer your questions regarding the breed, health problems to consider, and your particular puppy
A responsible breeder can be a valuable tool to help you decide what type of dog is right for you, and can provide a healthy well rounded puppy!
Now that you’ve gone through the process of selecting your new dog or puppy, what’s next? There is a lot to consider when you bring that new pet home.
What do you need?
New pet owners need to consider the supplies they will need to start out with a new pet. We have listed some common products to start out – remember this is just a check list and an associate can help you prioritize and discuss options best suited to your needs.
New puppy/dog checklist:
❑ Collar – get an adjustable buckle collar that will grow with your pet
❑ Nametag – THE most important thing you can get for your pet! It may save your lost pet’s life one day.
❑ Dog License (if needed in your area) – in some areas required by law
❑ 6ft leash – provides the best control for obedience training.
❑ Longer leash for training – it is important not to let your new dog off leash. By using a 15-30 ft non-retractable leash in an open area it allows your dog freedom, but keeps them safe.
❑ Crate – dogs are den animals. Most dogs enjoy their own area and are comfortable in a crate or kennel. This cuts housebreaking time in half and keeps your pet and your home safe! Be sure the crate is the appropriate size for the dog when full grown.
❑ Travel crate – if needed until the dog can wear a safety harness
❑ Car seat/travel harness – to keep dog safely restrained while traveling
❑ Crate pad – to provide comfortable bedding while the pet is in the crate
❑ Dog Bed – for an option other than your furniture! Use with caution with new puppies as they may chew!
❑ Baby gate(s) – to keep pet safely confined in a small area.
❑ High quality pet food – Please see our brochure Pet Centered Nutrition to learn about the highest quality pet food.
❑ Storage container for food – to keep food fresh and pest free.
❑ Canned food – for extra palatability.
❑ Soft, palatable treats for training – it is important to use small, soft treats for training that the pet eats quickly so they understand why the treat was given.
❑ Crunchy biscuits for other treats – good for stuffing Kong® or other treat dispensing toys.
❑ Plush squeaky toys – most dogs love these! Also can use a large one as a ‘comfort toy’ for puppies.
❑ Treat dispensing toys – good to keep energetic puppies busy or to slow down eaters who ‘gulp’ their food.
❑ Kong® – THE most important toy for dogs! Every dog should have one each time they go in their crate or their owner leaves. Stuffed full of yummy treats, it helps create a positive association with the crate, and by keeping them busy helps curb separation anxiety.
❑ Brush – grooming is important for skin and coat health
❑ Toothbrush kit/toothpaste – brushing a puppy’s teeth from a young age helps get them used to being brushed when they need it later in life.
❑ Nail clippers/styptic powder – trimming nails monthly is an important part of grooming
❑ Dog Shampoo – it is important to use dog shampoo, not human shampoo, on your puppy
❑ Enzymatic Cleaner – accidents will happen! It is important to clean up your pet’s accident with an enzymatic cleaner, not just a regular household cleaner, or your puppy will smell where the accident was and will want to keep going back to the same place.
❑ Taste Deterrent Spray – puppies chew everything! This bitter tasting spray keeps furniture and other items safe from puppy teeth.
❑ Pet Bowls / Placemat – it is important pets have their own place to eat and have fresh water available at all times
❑ Bell to hang by door – a quicker way to house train. The bell hangs on a door so the puppy can alert their owner in another room when they need to go outside.
❑ Poop Scoop/Waste disposal bags – Important for keeping the yard sanitary
❑ Flea preventative – Start early to keep fleas away before they become a problem.
❑ LOTS to chew on! – Puppies put EVERYTHING in their mouths. The more appropriate chew items you provide for them, the less likely they are to chew YOUR things.
• Bully Sticks
• Raw frozen bones
• Filled bones
Remember the first trip is always the most extensive, most of the items you only need to buy once!
Puppy Proofing Your House
Whether your new pet is a puppy or adult dog, they will naturally want to explore their new surroundings. You will want to inspect your home for possible dangers before your new pet comes home, as they will naturally mouth things they come across. Remember: puppies are like toddlers — everything goes in their mouth!
Check your house for anything at waist level or below, including:
It is important to never leave your puppy loose and unsupervised indoors or out, they WILL find things to get into! Indoors a baby gate or crate can safely confine your pet while you are gone. Outdoors a fenced yard or tie out will allow your pet some extra freedom to explore, but don’t leave them outside without close supervision, and never when you leave home.
You have done all your homework, gotten all the supplies, puppy proofed your house, and made a commitment to share your heart with a new pet. Getting off to the right start is very important, and you will need to help your dog get comfortable in his new surroundings. Both grown dogs and puppies remember the first things they learn in a new place for a long time.
Focus your first days and weeks on teaching your pet the things you want him to learn. When he is being good, behaving appropriately, or staying out of trouble, give him plenty of praise. Take the time to teach him what you want him to do, rather than scolding him for making mistakes. It is important to never punish a behavior you do not see being committed, as late punishments can actually make matters worse. You have just three seconds after a behavior has happened to correct it, otherwise your pet does not associate the correction with the bad behavior.
To give your puppy the best start in life, it is important to understand the stages and development of your new best friend. Once your puppy is home you will want to make every effort to expand the puppy’s environment and expose him to new things. During the early stages of your puppy’s life he should be around as many different people and animals as possible. This is called “Socialization”, and is important to help your dog develop into a well adjusted family pet.
For your puppy’s safety, it is important your dog is fully vaccinated by your veterinarian before it is allowed to interact with other dogs.
Stages of Puppy Development and Socialization
Understanding your puppy’s development can provide you the tools to best socialize and train your dog depending on their age. Below is a brief description of what socialization steps are appropriate at what age.
Weeks 3 through 7
Starting at three weeks old a puppy can see, hear, and smell. They also begin to walk, bark, and play with their littermates. During this time it is important that your puppy is exposed to humans in a positive manner, as they will learn to interact and develop attachments to them. It is also important that the puppy stays with its mother and littermates during this time. No puppy should leave its litter before eight weeks of age. The first set of vaccines should be given around 6-8 weeks or as recommended by your veterinarian.
Weeks 7 through 12
Your puppy is now eager to explore anything new that may be added to his environment. At this time, you should have a good idea of how your puppy is going to interact with other animals and humans. Between 7-9 weeks you may notice that your puppy becomes more cautious of sudden movements and loud noises. During this time it is best to avoid frightening or painful situations, because it is possible to cause a lasting fear if they have a traumatic experience during this time. If your puppy is scared by another dog for example, it is possible he will carry that fear for the rest of his life. It is also important that your puppy receives his vaccines during this time. Although socialization is important, until he has at least two sets of shots to guard against disease he should not be exposed to too many other dogs or unfamiliar surroundings.
At this time it is appropriate to start house training. Research the training method that is right for you and your puppy. For more information, see our education pages Housebreaking Your New Dog or Puppy and Crate Training for Dogs.
Weeks 13 through 16
You may notice that your puppy may test their boundaries and not respond to basic commands. It is important that you are consistent in your commands and corrections during this time. You will also notice that your puppy is chewing any available object – this is a sign that teething has begun! Make sure you have plenty of appropriate chew toys on hand so that you can encourage appropriate chewing behavior. During this time frame your puppy should receive its last round of vaccines and rabies vaccine as recommended by your veterinarian. Once fully immunized, your dog is safe to interact with other dogs and frequent dog parks or other play groups.
This is the beginning stage of independence for your puppy. You will want to keep your puppy on a leash at all times unless in a confined area – puppies that have stayed close to their owners or have come when called may fail to do so at this stage. It is important to reinforce commands like “sit” and “come” during this time. It is important to keep up the socialization process during this period – puppies who miss opportunities to meet a variety of new people and pets can grow up to be adult dogs that do not accept new people or other pets. Prevent this by socializing your puppy early, and continuing on for the rest of his life. Enrolling in a puppy kindergarten and then basic obedience class during this time is very helpful! It is at this age you will also want to make an appointment with your veterinarian to have your puppy spayed or neutered.
During this time your puppy will reach adolescence. It may occur earlier in small breeds, and later in larger breeds, as larger breeds mature more slowly.
Remember the bigger your dog will be as an adult, the longer he will stay a puppy – and the more patience you’ll need!
Most veterinarians will spay or neuter puppies between the ages of four and six months. It is important that you have your puppy spayed or neutered before they reach adolescence because this is the time period during which unwanted gender related behaviors begin. If you have a male dog, he may begin to lift his leg to mark his territory, and a female puppy may go into heat and could become pregnant during this time. Spaying a dog before her first heat cycle will decrease her chances of developing mammary cancer later in life by over 98%. There is no truth to the old wives tale that a female dog needs to go through one heat. During this age you will also want to increase the amount of exercise your puppy is getting and challenge him with new fun games and training exercises. Remember, young adult dogs have lots of energy, and a tired dog is a good dog!
During this time your puppy will mature into adulthood. You may see this sooner in small breeds and later in large breeds. During this stage the dog should be fun, energetic, and playful, yet start to settle down. Often times this is the BEST stage to adopt a dog, when they are through the chewing stages and have started to settle down into a good family pet. It is important to continue exercise and training during this time to be sure you have a happy, well adjusted pet and family member.
By understanding these phases of your pet’s development, you can help develop a calm, confident dog that is a pleasure to be around. For a positive pooch at any stage of life, remember:
PetPeople tips for successful pet ownership:
1. Do your homework! Be honest with yourself about your lifestyle and the personality of the pet that would be a good fit for you. Research breeds and characteristics before getting your heart set on a particular breed. There are many resources such as surveys and questionnaires at shelters or online that will help you find the right match.
2. Think about the positives and negatives of getting a puppy versus rescuing an adult dog. Decide what is important to you and what would be the best match. Nothing is cuter than a puppy at play, but don’t forget all the work that comes with a puppy. The inevitable accidents in the house, chewing, and middle of the night wake up calls are not for everyone!
3. Have a plan for housetraining and follow it consistently. Decide if you are going to crate train your new pet or follow another plan before you bring them home.
4. Research puppy kindergarten and obedience classes and sign up early! Many of the best classes fill up early, and this will be an important initiative you don’t want to delay. Research the trainer to determine if you are comfortable with their training style and philosophy.
5. Socialize your new puppy or pet early and often. Expose him to positive pets, people, and situations as much as possible to ensure a happy and well adjusted family member.
6. Make an appointment with a veterinarian within the first week of getting a new pet. If you are getting a puppy you will need to follow a schedule for early vaccinations. Regular visits to your veterinarian are important for good preventative healthcare.
7. Begin getting your new pet accustomed to being handled, groomed, and used to dental care, nail trimming, and ear cleaning right away. These will all be easier to manage if your pet knows what to expect and is rewarded at the end of the session.
8. Plan on welcoming your new pet at a time that is good for you. The more time you can spend with your new pet during the first few weeks together, the better your relationship and initial training will go. Your success will be a reflection of the attention you can give to your new family member.
The best thing you can do is take the time to properly prepare for a new puppy or dog. By doing your homework to find the best match for your family, stocking the proper supplies, and taking the time to properly socialize your new pet, you are setting both you and your dog up for success.
We are here to help. Please feel free to ask the associates at PetPeople questions. We believe that no question is a bad question. While we don’t know everything, we are passionate about our business and pet care and will do our best to share experiences and be a valuable resource.
Thank you for allowing us to share your journey. Best of luck and don't forget to post pictures on our Facebook page!
Puppies can ALSO
If you’re ready for this combination of fun and hard work, then a puppy could be for you!
Thinking about adoption? Visit our Rescue Partner page for a list of local groups.
Are You Ready?
Getting a puppy can be one of the most rewarding experiences a family can have! They provide lots of love, affection, and fun. However, they are also a lot of hard work! If you’re thinking of adding a new addition to your family – are you ready for the extra work and time it takes to raise a puppy or new dog correctly?
There are several important things to consider:
~A puppy can be a commitment for ten to fifteen years
~Puppies cost money – an average of $1000 the first year and $500 to $1000 a year thereafter, including food, toys, supplies, grooming needs, and most importantly veterinary care.
~Puppies need time, attention, and training – be prepared to commit to a good deal of time every day to get your puppy adjusted to a new routine. Training time is also a must to help teach your best friend appropriate manners. If you haven’t had a puppy in your family recently, consider using a professional trainer for obedience classes. They are an invaluable resource.
Your Neighborhood Store for Pets
At PetPeople we are a group of dedicated and passionate pet people. We are so enthusiastic to engage our customers, exchange information, and work together to solve common pet problems. We hope you will continue to come to us with questions, problems or situations regarding your pets’ care. It is our goal to be a partner with you and your veterinarian in the health and well-being of your pet.
While we are happy to advise you and share our knowledge with you, we would never propose that our recommendations be used instead of consulting with your veterinarian about any concerns or issues. You know your pet better than anyone, and should always use your best judgement regarding obtaining the best care for your pet. ©2015 PetPeople Enterprises, LLC