Welcome to our regular blog feature called Ask-a-Trainer Thursday. We take questions from our social media audiences and then ask a positive based trainer for their advice in each situation.
How do I pick a puppy?
When looking for a new puppy, I tell clients to do their research.
If you’d like a purebred dog, find a breeder that loves their job and has a passion for raising amazing well rounded family pets. A good breeder will let you meet the parents and grandparents of the litter (if possible). They’ll also happily supply you with testimonials about previous litters and tests which prove their health background and genetics are in good standing. I also recommend spending as much time with the litter you are looking at as possible and if you feel uneasy at any time, don't feel bad about moving on and continuing your search.
When spending time with the actual puppies, I look for the ‘middle of the road’ personality. A lot of people like the one that runs up and wants to be the centre of attention all the time, or the shy quiet one in the corner. I want the happy one that likes to be with me, but also enjoys exploring and playing with their littermates. Ideally the puppy should seem calm but also happy-go-lucky.
Does that mean that the other puppies are not a good choice? Not at all.
The in your face kind of personality may test you a bit more. They might get demanding, need a lot of mental and physical stimulation on a daily basis or get bored easily for example.
The shy pup hiding in the corner on the other hand might be more prone to developing fear, separation anxiety, or need some confidence building. They may also require a lot of positive socialization exposure as well as might struggle a bit more with change such as a new home and may be nervous with a highly active family.
These are just some examples and it truly depends on each litter and each puppy. In some litters all of the puppies can seem pretty similar personality wise.
Some of the really good breeders I recommend actually pick a puppy for you based on your lifestyle, your experience with puppies and knowledge of that specific breed. Another breeder I’m familiar with, will choose a puppy for you based on whether you want a pet or show dog. She will also ask you if you prefer a male or female and if you have a preferred colour. After sorting through all of the criteria she’s collected, she will pick the pup that she believes is best suited for you.
Another important aspect to be aware of when picking a new puppy is genetics. Genetics can play a big role in the puppy’s health and temperament. If the parents seems really loud and intense (or alternatively really shy and submissive) those traits may show up in your puppy. This is another reason why meeting the family beforehand is an important part of choosing a puppy.
I also like when the breeder has exposed the puppies to different real world scenarios: polite children, various sights, sounds, smells, and gets them comfortable wearing a collar and leash. Being exposed to all of these things at an early age means the puppy is less likely to find issue with them when they are older.
Adopting from a rescue
Another option for finding a great puppy or dog is to consider adopting from a rescue group. Rescue dogs are a bit different because most of the time you can't get an accurate history on them or see the relatives. It can also be hard to tell the exact breed (or breeds) sometimes.
Fortunately, you can get a good sense of personality when you meet them. Rescue groups are also experienced in dealing with lots of different dogs and will be honest if they see issues or problems you may need to train through when you get your dog. If the rescue you are looking at is in a foster home you can get a really good sense of what they are like in a home environment from their foster family.
If the dog is coming from a humane society setting, I tell my clients to just keep an open mind because it can be a harder environment for the dogs. The dog may be nervous, vocal or hyper simply because of the environment. In a home setting, the same dog may be totally fine. I know of one particular dog that would intimidate people when he barked in the humane society setting based on his stress levels, but in a home setting is a very sweet, quiet boy.
I'm here to help
I am a firm believer that if you put your mind to it and take the time and patience to understand how your dog thinks, feels and thrives, all dogs and puppies can be amazing.
Before you consider getting a dog, it’s important to be honest with yourself and the kind of lifestyle you have. Not all dogs can handle quiet, inactive homes and others won’t do well in an active and busy household.
If you’re thinking about bringing a dog into your life, I do offer assistance. I’m happy to help you find a reputable breeder, or evaluate a rescue — so feel free to contact me for further assistance.
Unless the pet store specifically offers pets from a rescue or humane society, it’s best to stay away from these places. It’s hard to walk away from a cute puppy, but in many cases, these dogs are from puppy mills and can cause you big headaches (and vet bills down the road).
No matter what kind of dog or puppy you choose for your family, training should be considered mandatory. Find a good positive based trainer and teach the dog to become the kind of family you want them to be instead of trying to undo bad behaviour down the road. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and you’ll be so happy when you have a dog you can take with you anywhere.
For more information on finding a puppy or to inquire about my school or classes, please feel free to contact me at Impressive Canines using the information below.
Do you have a question?
Do you have a question about dog behaviour in general or why your dog acts a certain way? Leave your question in the comments below and we’ll get a positive based dog trainer to answer it for you.