Thursday, March 23 is National Puppy Day. As many of us think about getting a puppy, there are many things to consider.
A dog’s age, breed and temperament, combined with your lifestyle and personality, all play an important role in determining what kind of dog is the best fit for you and your family. Adopting a puppy has certain advantages—you will be able to choose a dog with the best temperament for you and ensure he gets a proper education before behavioral problems or bad habits develop. But puppies bring added responsibilities, too. During the first few months, a puppy requires more of your time than an older dog for housetraining, socialization, feeding, and entertainment, as well as additional training as your goals change and your puppy matures. If you do not have the time for a puppy, consider adopting a full-grown dog that has already gone through the puppy stage. But if you’re sure that you are ready for the responsibility of puppy ownership, you should consider the following:
What Breed of Puppy is Most Appropriate for Your Lifestyle?
- Are you very active and outgoing? Do you have a large home, yard or park nearby? If so, a larger-breed dog may be the best choice for your family. But, if you tend to be less outgoing, live in an apartment or condo, or have small children or other small pets, you may want to consider a dog that will be smaller when full-grown. Do your research on the characteristics different breeds tend to display, but remember that while breed can have an impact on a dog’s personality, you should base your decision primarily on what you know about the puppy’s background and what you observe about his temperament.
What is the Right Temperament for Your Family?
- Temperament has nothing to do with a dog’s size, breed or upbringing—temperament is something innate in a dog. A dog’s temperament has a lot to do with how easily he can be trained and, while good training can improve certain traits in a dog, training does not change the dog’s temperament.
- Even when a puppy is very young, there are clues to what his temperament might be. Within the litter, watch how the puppies run and play to determine where each puppy stands in the litter’s pecking order. More confident puppies act assertive by standing over the other littermates. Less confident puppies act submissive by rolling over or lowering their heads.
- If you are considering a puppy at a shelter or rescue that is no longer with his litter, find out as much as you can about his background and behavior from staff members and volunteers who have walked or played with the pup. Ask whether he’s been socialized with other dogs and how he behaves in a variety of situations, such as during feeding, walking, and being put in a crate or kennel.
- Also observe the individual puppy you are considering when he’s alone with you. A well-adjusted puppy will follow you freely when you lead him. Drop a soft glove or cloth near the puppy and watch his reaction.
- A confident puppy will approach the object immediately to investigate. While this puppy could grow up to be a well-adjusted dog, it is likely to be strong-willed and might be a challenge for a soft-natured person.
- A less confident pup may jump and move away when the object is dropped, but will usually return fairly quickly to investigate. Less bossy than the more confident puppy described above, this puppy will most likely make a great pet.
- The puppy that takes longer to approach and runs around the object acting as if it is alive and might attack is a little timid, but should still make a wonderful pet with proper, gentle training.
- The puppy that barks at the object, runs away and crouches down or refuses to return to the spot has a more nervous temperament and could be a difficult pet. More patience will be required during training.
- Finally, lift and hold the puppy in your arms. A pup that settles in and remains still is likely to be calmer and more easily trained than one that wriggles and tries to escape.
Training Your Puppy
- Once you’ve chosen your new addition to the family, be sure to start training as soon as you bring him home. By introducing the expectations and rules of your household early, he will quickly acclimate and feel more comfortable and secure in the knowledge that he is part of a pack that has a calm, consistent leader.
Just like people, puppies come in all shapes, sizes, and temperaments. Do a bit of research first, then visit your local shelter. Determining what breeds and temperaments would be the ideal fit for your family will help ensure that the puppy (or dog) you bring home will become a permanent part of your household.
Vicki and Richard Horowitz, of Woodbridge, are dog behavioral therapists and trainers with Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company. For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.dog-training-new-haven-ct.com.