It’s easy to get puppy fever. Maybe your friend brought home a cute fluffy pup and now you want one. Maybe your kids have been bugging you for months to add a dog to the family. Maybe you lost your four-legged best friend and it’s time to pick out a puppy to fill that pawprint-shaped gap in your life. Whatever the reason, the easy choice has been made. Now it’s time for the hard choice: What puppy do I get?
First, go through the usual questions:
Do I want a small dog or a large breed? (Does my housing have size limitations?)
Do I want to groom a long-haired breed or do I want the ease of a short hair?
Do I want a male or a female?
Do I want a jogging partner or a fellow couch potato (remember all dogs need some amount of exercise!)
Do I want something that loves attention and will climb all over me, or do I prefer something a bit more aloof that wants to sit next to me instead?
Do I want my dog to have a “job” like herding, therapy, search and rescue or service work? (depending on your answer, you may need a specific breed, or a puppy that comes with specific training)
Do I want to do conformation shows so I need a papered purebred or do I want to rescue a puppy?
Am I okay with a dog that may be more prone to health needs (for example, bulldog’s have special wrinkle care and Chinese crested need skin care), or do I want something with less extra needs?
Are their breed limitations where I live that I need to be aware of?
These types of questions can help you determine the type of dog you are looking for. A great next step is to look up dog breeds on the Australian National Kennel Council or breed association websites, to learn about temperament, health, size, and grooming needs.
Once you have narrowed your list down to a breed or two and are ready to start looking at real puppies, you are at the third and most important step: Choosing a puppy.
TAKE CARE AND DO NOT RUSH WHEN CHOOSING A PUPPY!
It is so easy to see a photo of a puppy and quickly message the breeder with “I want him!” Maybe the colour grabbed your attention, or those puppy dog eyes. But remember, this is going to be a member of your family for 12-17 years. Colour or puppy dog eyes will grow old quick if he ends up not being the dog you wanted.
Absolutely do NOT choose a puppy off a photo. Ask to meet the puppies in an environment where you can interact with them and you can watch them interact with each other.
Even better is being able to visit more than once. While visiting, watch the puppies and how they interact with each other and you. Temperament should be at the top of your list once you have decided on a breed. Of course, we all have different desires when it comes to temperament, but, in general, we all hope for the happy, well-adjusted dog that gets along with everyone.
Look for the puppy that seems confident and comes up to you, but will also leave and be interested in his environment. Both the puppy that shies away from you and hides, and the puppy that comes up to you and does not leave to go explore may have fear issues later.
Make a loud noise. How do the puppies react?
Do some go to investigate immediately? These puppies may end up being more forward than you want, or it might just what you want for a working dog!
Does one puppy completely ignore it? This puppy might be a great dog to have around kids or for therapy work. Did one pee or run and hide? This puppy may be a bit fearful.
Bring something you know the puppies have never seen before.
Do some of them come right up and explore? Do some hide and won’t go near? Do some approach it cautiously, but are soon playing with it/climbing on it/etc.?
Again, we all have our preferences and things we don’t mind working on. You may not mind a bit of a timid dog. But at least this way you will know a bit of what you are getting yourself into.
To help you assess puppies, bringing along another person and a puppy temperament test is excellent. There are many you can get for free with a simple internet search. Some of the tests may not pertain to the puppy you are looking at, depending on age, but you will be able to do at least some of them, and that may help you with your decision. Some dog trainers will even come and help you assess puppies for a fee.
Also remember that dogs go through two fear periods, one of which happens around a year, year and a half. At that time, their temperament may change, so we are not saying “do these tests and you are guaranteed the dog that is right for you.” But it can help you get started on the right foot with training and even what to expect during that second fear period when you will be in charge of how your dog gets through it. Above all, go with your gut. It can be hard to walk away after a few visits and tell the breeder no, but in the long run, it’s better for both you and the dog.