I’ll never forget the day I met my Miniature Poodle puppy, Jäger. It was truly love at first sight. Here was my little baby! Squeeeee!!!
I didn’t get Jäger on a whim, though. That moment we met was the culmination of months of research and soul searching as my husband and I sought to bring home the “perfect” puppy. He’s 6 now, and he really is perfect for our family and just the most wonderful dog.
Even if you’ve gotten a puppy before, you still may need a refresher on where to start, so here’s some advice from the experts. You’ll have your dog for 10 to 15 years (or more!), so don’t rush. Take your time now to make a good choice, and it will pay off with a lifetime of love and happiness.
This is a good time to talk about who will be responsible for the care of the puppy and come up with a plan to meet your pup’s needs, especially if everyone works full time.
“Do you work from home, or will someone be home to care for the puppy and let her or him out to go potty?” asked Diane Wilkerson, adoption center director for PAWS Chicago. “If not, can you stop home during your lunch break, or hire a dog walker?”
You can also use doggie day care services or even ask your boss if your puppy can come to work with you. More companies are seeing the value in allowing well-behaved dogs in the workplace. It never hurts to ask!
What kind of puppy?
Before looking at puppies, think about what type of dog will fit best into your family and create a wish list. Do you live in an apartment? You probably want a smaller or less-active dog. Avid joggers need a larger, high-energy dog for a running companion.
My husband is allergic to dogs, so we knew right off the bat that we would need to bring home a hypoallergenic breed. The flip side of the coin was we had to budget for regular grooming. (I actually learned to groom Jäger myself, which saves us a lot of money!) Don’t be fooled by anyone who says a non-shedding dog won’t need professional grooming. All dogs with hypoallergenic coats need at least some grooming, and many need a lot of grooming, which can be expensive.
“Research dog breeds (and mixed breeds) to learn some of their characteristics, personality traits, and energy levels to find some that are similar to yours,” Diane said. “It’s impossible to guarantee that your puppy will always possess all the characteristics and energy levels you might be looking for, so also keep an open mind about adopting an adult or senior dog.”
How to choose
When looking at several puppies, think about your wish list. Perhaps you are looking for a small to medium-sized non-shedding puppy who will get along with kids and does not need too much exercise. Go with your gut, but also ask for help from the breeder, a dog breed organization, or shelter staff. “Shelter animals come in all shapes, sizes, and energy levels, and will have volunteer adoption counselors available to help match you with the right puppy for your lifestyle and experience level,” Diane said.
Future adult size is fairly predictable in purebreds, but it can be a little tricky to pinpoint when looking at mixed-breed puppies. And no, the size of the paws don’t always indicate how big or small a puppy will grow up to be. Use common sense. If you want a small dog, don’t adopt a Lab or Pit Bull mix. When in doubt, ask for help.
As for temperament, think about what life is like in your family. “A quieter pup may not be a good candidate for a family with multiple children, but that busybody puppy may thrive and excel and become the darling of the soccer team,” said Teresa Murphy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breeder in Glen Ellen, California.
A word of advice: Don’t let looks be your main factor when choosing a puppy. “It is human nature to be attracted to what is easy on the eye,” Teresa said. “Window dressing is just that. Character and soundness of a puppy should be the first priority.”
Create a puppy wish list
In an ideal world, what is your perfect puppy? It helps to actually write it down. Note if something is non-negotiable, such as “must be friendly with kids” or “cannot weigh more than 40 pounds.” Consider these important points: Energy level, size, grooming needs, shedding level, barking habits, and kid-friendliness.