BEFORE YOU BUY THAT PUPPY
Everyone loves puppies! What’s not to like? They are cute and snuggly and fun. They bring us hours of entertainment, with all of their mischief and antics. Most importantly, a puppy will grow into a dog that can provide us with a companionship unmatched by any human. My purpose here is not to discourage anyone from getting a puppy. On the contrary, there are many puppies out there just waiting for their forever home. I do, however, want to provide people with a few things to think about prior to falling in love. Hopefully, these tips will help provide people with the best puppy match for their lifestyle, as well as ensure that the puppy they choose will stay healthy.
- A puppy does not always make the best “gift”. Because of the commitment required, bringing a puppy into one’s life is a very personal decision. Do not assume that a puppy is just what someone else needs.
- Consider shelter animals. Why spend hundreds of dollars when there are so many wonderful mutts and even purebreds available for an adoption fee that often includes spay/neuter, microchip and vaccines? Look on petfinder.com if interested in a specific breed.
- Look into breed traits. A Jack Russell (HIGH energy!) or large breed dog that tugs on the leash may not be the best fit for your elderly mother. High energy dogs are also not recommended for apartments and will require daily exercise. Look into health issues that each breed has.
- Before finalizing the adoption, take it to a vet. There might be something (like a severe heart murmur) that makes you want to reconsider adopting that particular puppy to be your child’s pet. Good breeders and most shelters will give you a trial period, in which you can get your new pet checked out and return them if there is something wrong. Ask about this and maybe even get something in writing.
- Parasites, like intestinal worms, are extremely common in puppies, and many of them can be contagious to children. Parasites are usually something that can be easily treated for, if caught early. Make sure a vet deworms your puppy properly before bringing it home to children.
- Please note that 1 or 2 shots does NOT completely protect a puppy from Parvo, a deadly and VERY common disease we see all the time. Puppies need a series of 3-4 vaccines, given 3 weeks apart, starting at 6 weeks of age. Be wary of shots given by someone other than a vet. Vaccines bought at feedstores are not guaranteed to be taken care of properly. If a vaccine gets too hot prior to administration (like on the drive home from the feedstore), it will be ineffective. We often see dogs that get parvo, because the breeder told the new owner that it “has had all of its shots”. What the breeder may have meant is that it has had all of its shots up until now. If you acquire a puppy that is anywhere from 6-12 weeks of age, there is no way it has had all of its shots, because it is not old enough to have finished its entire series.
- Know that it costs money to properly care for a dog. At the very least, your puppy will need a series of 3-4 shots given 3 weeks apart, as well as a dewormer. It will also need food and monthly heartworm/flea prevention, for the rest of its life. Large breed dogs cost more, because they eat more and their medications are more expensive. Depending on the dog, you will be spending anywhere from $30-70 a month to properly care for your dog. This does not include annual exams, vaccines, medications (other than preventions) and any additional medical expenses (such as spay/neuter, broken legs, eye/ear infections, etc) that may occur. Before purchasing a puppy, seriously consider if you will be able to properly care for it and provide it with the home that it deserves.
- Puppies need training and socialization. Plan on taking it to obedience classes and working extensively with it when it is young, so that it will grow into the dog that you want it to be! (While you’re at it, play with their feet, mess with their ears, and open their mouths. Get them used to this, so that physical exams and nail trims are easier when they are older!) The number one reason a dog is given up by an owner is due to a behavior problem. The majority of these behavior problems could have been prevented if the dog had been worked with early on.
- Make sure your home is prepared for a puppy. Remember that puppies and young dogs chew on everything. Do not have any electric cords easily accessible. Put your medications up high. Invest in a crate to crate train them, and put away any valuable rugs during potty training time. Take a good look at your fence and fix any holes in it.
Again, I hope I did not discourage too many from getting a new pet, as there are so many that need good homes. Puppies and pets are wonderful additions to our lives, and they provide us with much joy and enrichment. With that joy, however, comes responsibility. Understanding the commitment will make your pet-owning experience be the best that it can be.
By: Ryan Roberts, DVM