By: Arden Moore
Before you bring any dog home, assess yourself. Do you have what it takes to be a responsible pet parent? Are you willing to commit the time to housebreak, exercise, socialize, and groom your puppy? Did you budget money for its needs?
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What you won't find is a perfect dog. Each canine possesses good and bad traits. But here's how to increase your odds of finding the puppy that's right for you.
Step 1: Assess yourself. "It's important to recognize your own personality before choosing a dog," says Dr. Tripp.
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"If you're a strong leader, it makes sense to get a powerful dog, but if you know that you're a pussycat at heart who'd rather pamper, then a toy breed or a dog with a passive nature would be a much better choice."
Step 3: Select based on temperament, not size. More than 400 breeds exist in the dog kingdom, from the itty-bitty Chihuahua to the mega-big Irish wolfhound. (See What Your Dog’s Breed Says About You to help you figure out what’s best for you.) And, in between, plenty of wonderful mixed breeds. Don't be fooled into thinking that the larger the breed, the higher the energy level.
Testing a puppy's temperament is not an exact science, but try this popular technique. Gently roll each of your puppy finalists on his back, and watch his reaction. Generally, docile puppies tend to relax in your hands. Avoid puppies that fight free or try to nip you-two possible early signs of aggressiveness.
Step 4: Know where to look. There certainly is no puppy shortage, but where you choose to adopt a puppy is critical. Leading veterinary experts recommend three sources: responsible breeders, breed rescue groups, and humane animal shelters.
"A responsible breeder shows genuine interest in the breed, maintains good medical records of the litter, invites you to visit several times before the puppies are ready for adoption and, most important, is willing to take the puppy back if you are no longer able to keep it," says Beckie Williams, DVM, a house-call veterinarian who breeds Pembroke Welsh corgi puppies in southern California. "Reputable breeders also provide proof of genetic testing on the quality of the litter's hips and eyes and records of any genetic diseases." And for a pet-quality pup, you won't spend any more than you would at a pet store, where you have none of these benefits.
Breed rescue groups cater to second-chance dogs: purebreds that have been abandoned or lost, or are likely to be put to sleep. Finding a purebred through a rescue club is a viable option, especially if you're familiar with that particular breed.
Animal shelters often have puppies or young dogs. Quality shelters are more than just adoption centers. They are also places that offer obedience and puppy socialization classes and provide handouts on behavior and training tips. Major pet supply stores often donate space in their stores so that shelters can showcase their adoptable puppies and alert customers about area veterinary clinics. These stores are not, however, in the business of selling puppies.
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Step 5: Check for overall health. Look beyond your puppy's cuteness, and pay attention to her physical appearance, advises Beckie Williams, DVM, a house-call veterinarian who breeds Pembroke Welsh corgi puppies in southern California. Use this checklist.
Are they clear or cloudy?
Are they clean and odor-free?
Are the gums pink?
Any over- or underbite?
Any discharge or dryness?
Free of mats, fleas, lumps, and odor?
Free of debris or fecal matter?
The 5 Steps to Picking the Perfect Puppy
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