How to Adopt a New Puppy Responsibly

Many puppies get adopted on impulse. Trust us; we get it. Those engaging big brown eyes draw you in. Their pudgy little butts and bulging bellies. The relentless little wagging tails. And of course, the puppy breath. Oh, the puppy breath. It’s no wonder we swoon over puppies.

Friday, March 23 is National Puppy Day, and there are lots of fun ways to celebrate, whether you are a dog owner or just a fan of dogs. But perhaps the most exciting way to celebrate this fun event is to adopt a new puppy. We love puppies! We are all for adopting them. But the truth is, incorporating a new pet into your home is hard work—and lots of it. The honeymoon can come to an abrupt end after Charlie pees (and poops) on your favorite rug, chews your expensive leather shoes to shreds, and keeps you up nights on end with his pitiful puppy cries.

The Most Important Considerations When Choosing a New Puppy

Since over 3 million dogs are surrendered to animal shelters or rehomed every year, Ambassador Animal Hospital wants to increase your chances for a successful, lifelong adoption as you choose your new little canine family member. With some careful planning and realistic evaluating, you can find a precious puppy that will be a good fit for your family and add years of memories and good times to your life. Here are our top tips for success:

Familiarize yourself with the breed

While it is tempting to be drawn to a particular breed because you have fallen in love with the long floppy ears or curly tail or because it’s the star of your child’s favorite movie, you must resist this urge and look beyond physical attributes when choosing a breed.

All puppies were not created equal. Different breeds have unique temperaments, typical behavior challenges, and specific needs. Some breeds are prone to skin allergies, are more likely to have respiratory issues or other problems that can be time consuming and expensive to manage. Some need significant space and time to run and explore. Others are notorious for having separation anxiety and eating the couch while you are at work. Still others are inclined to insist on being the alpha, or pack leader, in the family and need a strong dog handler to keep the proper hierarchy and balance in the home.

If you are rescuing a mixed breed from a shelter, learn whatever information might be available about the puppy’s parents. Maybe there are obvious clues to suggest this or that breed. And rely on the astute observations of the shelter staff. Having a working knowledge of these and other things can help you choose a breed that’s a good match for you and your family.

Know how to recognize a few early indicators of a puppy’s temperament

While a puppy’s temperament and personality is not fully developed by the typical time of adoption, there are some early tell-tale signs to look for when you observe a puppy among her littermates. Consider a “middle-of-the-road” kind of puppy—a puppy who exhibits a certain amount of cheer and curiosity and social engagement, but who also seems relaxed and undemanding.

Unless you are up for a big challenge and/or love working with strong, spirited dogs, avoid a puppy who seems to bully his littermates or come at you too assertively. On the flip side, a disengaged puppy who isolates himself from the others can be showing early signs of elevated fear and anxiety. In the right hands, both of these puppies can become beloved, well-adjusted family members, but they will likely be a greater challenge that you might not want to take on unless you are confident that you are prepared for it.

If you are unsure of which puppy to choose, the breeder or shelter workers often have helpful insights, as they are experienced and have spent more time observing the litter. Ask if you can move the puppy to a quiet place to interact with her. Also, some shelters are open to a “trial adoption” and will let you take a puppy home for a couple of days to get a feel for the fit. A puppy returned after only a couple of days, who is still adorably adoptable is much better off than a puppy displaced after several months, where adoption is more challenging and bad behaviors and habits may have taken root.

Inquire about the puppy’s early socialization

Some of a puppy’s most critical socialization happens before the time of adoption. You want to make sure the owner or shelter staff or volunteers have loved on and otherwise handled your puppy. Puppies love physical affection, but if they are neglected during this early phase of life, they can start to develop a fear of people (and other dogs, too, if they are separated from their litter and mother).

Those early weeks with mom and siblings are a formative time when a puppy learns how to be a puppy. They learn proper social etiquette and early lessons about pack language and rules. These lessons set puppy up for good social skills her whole life. For this reason, it’s best to choose a puppy who has spent at least 8 weeks with her litter—10 is even better.

Assess your lifestyle and the resources you have to give a puppy

Many problems dog owners encounter can be avoided by simply choosing a dog that best suits your lifestyle and resources. A bad match is much more likely to lead to anxiety (for puppy and people) as well as behavior and/or health issues. Gather the members of your household and take a realistic assessment of what you can devote to your puppy by way of time, attention, energy, and financial resources. An honest, accurate estimation will guide you to the puppy that’s just right for you.

How long will your furbaby spend alone each day? Who will take primary responsibility for training? Do you have the time and financial resources for puppy classes if they are needed? Is your home big enough for the breed you are considering? Are you willing to incorporate a regular exercise routine into your life for your puppy? Is anyone in your family allergic to dogs? A little bit of research and forethought before you adopt can give you a much better chance at success.

Bringing Your Puppy Home

Before you have chosen the perfect puppy (or rather once he has chosen you) be sure to do your homework in preparation for bringing your furry friend home. Ambassador has some great tips to make your puppy adoption and transition smooth.

One of the most important things to remember as you consider this big commitment, is that a puppy is a long-term relationship. Do not enter into it lightly or impulsively. When an adoption goes sour, it hurts the puppy and the family. That puppy will grow to love you and depend on you for his provisions, safety, and security. Losing that bond can cause harm to him if he should get rehomed. The more questions you can answer before the adoption, the more likely it is to go well. And when it does, you’ll make a best friend for life!

We are here to support you in adding to your family with a puppy. Call us or make an appointment to come in a talk with us if you’d like personal guidance in choosing a dog that best fits your family. We also have affordable puppy packages so that families can save money on early life wellness care while getting their new fur friend set up to be happy and healthy for life.

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