Mother’s Day is just around the corner… and you see more people and families out having fun with their dog (s). The image is so enticing; you decide to add a puppy into your own family. Before you run out and get leashes and all the latest and greatest pet paraphernalia, you should do your home-work.

Bringing a new puppy into your home will require a fair investment of time and money. If you educate yourself thoroughly and follow through during the first several months with your puppy, you will have a wonderful companion for many years. Here’s some tips to guide you through the process.

#1 Do Your Research.

Selecting the right dog for your family is the first step in ensuring that your new puppy spends the rest of its life with you. Too many pups are brought into homes for the wrong reasons, and countless pups are turned over to shelters when families decide that they can’t handle the dog. No matter how adorable a breed might be or how well-behaved the neighbor’s dog appears to be, it may not be the right dog for you. Take a good look at your family lifestyle and your ability to devote the right amount of time to your new pup.

By answering these questions, you can narrow down the breed that best suits your family:

  • How active are you and your family?
  • How often do you travel?
  • How long are you away from home during the day?
  • How big is your home and yard?
  • Are you willing to hire someone to come in a couple of times each day and care for your pup if you work full-time?
  • Are you able to hire a professional trainer to work with you and your new pup right away?
  • Can you cover all the expenses involved in owning a dog?
  • How much time or money are you willing to devote to grooming?

#2  Consider the Source.

Animal shelters and rescue groups are a wonderful place to begin your search. Because of the countless animals turned in every year, you can rescue and save the perfect companion that would best suit your family. When adopting a new puppy or dog from a shelter, look for traits that will work within your family lifestyle (size, energy level, breed or mix of breed). If it is an older dog, learn as much as possible about the dog’s history. Determine if the dog is good with children and does not display aggression
towards people or other dogs.

If you want a specific breed, check with breed rescue groups. These organizations often rescue dogs from shelters or get them from homes where they are being surrendered. They foster these dogs and assist in finding the perfect family that will create a forever home.

If you decide to go direct to a breeder, a good place to start is with the AKC (American Kennel Club). They can provide contact information for breed clubs that can direct you to reputable breeders.

Ask these questions to evaluate the potential breeder:

  • How long have they been breeding dogs and often do they breed new litters?
  • Are dogs and puppies kept in kennels or integrated into an area in the home?
  • Are the puppies socialized around a variety of noises, children, and people?
  • Are both parents on site and can you meet them?
  • How knowledgeable are they on the genetic health of the breed and have they had any problems with health issues in past litters?
  • Are the puppies guaranteed against health defects and are they willing to take the dog back?
  • Do they emphasize temperament or conformation (the physical characteristics and appearance) in their lines?
  • How old are the puppies when they allow them to go to new homes?
  • Do they ask you questions or provide you with references?
  • How clean is their home and the area in which the pups are raised?

Make sure you are comfortable with the answers your potential breeder provides and check their references.

DO NOT, under any circumstances, purchase an adorable puppy from a pet store. There is no guarantee that these pups come from reputable breeders. In addition to health and genetic issues they’re likely to have, these pups experience stress in critical developmental periods and some don’t adjust well.

#3 Evaluate by personality, not cuteness

You have determined the breed, selected the breeder and are now ready to pick out your puppy. They are all so adorable, but there is a process to selecting the right one from the litter. Pay attention to the personalities of the puppies in the litter. You will get a general idea of the hierarchy within the litter and will be able to see which pup is “top dog,” which ones are middle-ground, and which ones are at the bottom. Each type of personality is different and requires different needs and attention than the others.

The top dog needs an owner with plenty of time and a serious commitment to training. The middle puppy is relatively laid back and, while it still needs guidance and training, it will not be overly challenging. The passive or shy pup tends to be submissive and either overly passive or fearful. They require a lot of training focused on building confidence and self esteem. Not all personalities are good for every family. Your breeder or a trainer can also assist you in selecting the right puppy from the litter.

#4 If you think two are better than one, think again.

The two will bond more with each other than family members, be less likely to focus on training (if one ignores you, the other likely will too), can suffer from anxiety if separated, and may engage in aggressive behavior over food, attention or toys. While it is possible to successfully have a multi-dog household, it is best to wait until the first puppy is trained and with you for at least 1-1.5 years before adding the second dog to your home.

Selecting the right puppy for your family requires thoughtful research and planning. By taking the time to go through the process properly, you will have crossed the first hurdle to enjoying the right dog in your life.

#5 Remember to SPAY and NEUTER your pets!

— Gila