First published 5/2018
Congratulations on your new puppy
It is exciting to get a new puppy, especially when you have kids, but puppies are a big responsibility and making sure that you are prepared can help ensure that your new puppy is exciting in all the right ways. Picking out the right puppy for your family, providing all necessary veterinary care, and raising your puppy in a structured, supportive environment are the main things you can do to make your relationship with your puppy, and eventually, your older dog, a long and successful one.
The decision to get a puppy should not be a spontaneous one. Before you start to look at puppies, ask yourself why you want one. Puppy is a long-term responsibility, and if you don't have the long-term in mind when considering getting a puppy, you should rethink your decision. The second thing to consider is your lifestyle and family structure, as well as how your future plans fit in with having a new puppy. If you are away from home several hours a day, getting a puppy might not be the best idea. If you are getting ready to move or start a family, that might not be the best time either. It all depends on your resources, experience, and dedication. You should just have a good idea of what you're getting into.
We ended up with an unplanned for puppy when my son was 6 months old. Fortunately, I was home, and we have a lot of experience with dogs, but house training and providing a young puppy with the attention he needed were much more difficult with a young baby of my own.
Another important thing to think about is what type of puppy fits with your personality or lifestyle. Are you looking for a large, small or medium dog? Do you want a dog that is very active or one that is more laid back? Are you interested in a dog that is good with children or one that tends to bond more with a single person? Is there an activity you enjoy, like running or hiking, that you would want to share with your dog?
There are many books about traits and tendancies of different breeds of dog. The Right Dog for You, by Daniel F. Tortora is one that I am familiar with, and it is very helpful because it also rates the consistency of the traits of each breed, some breeds have a large variance in their friendliness, for example. Do your research, and don't just pick a breed because you like the way they look.
Consider if you want a purebred dog or a shelter rescue. Some people like to get purebred dogs because of the predictability in size and temperament as well as expected activity level. If you choose to go the purebred route, you should spend a lot of time talking to potential breeders. Breeders who ask you a lot of questions and have put a lot of time and research into the breeding of their dogs tend to have better quality dogs. They should be a resource about their particular breed. They should also have screened their dogs for common genetic problems like hip dysplasia and heart problems. They should have a contract with or without a spay/neuter clause, and they should have some kind of clause about taking the puppy back if it doesn't work out. A breeder who doesn't seem particularly interested in you and your plans with your new puppy is probably not one you want to get a puppy from.
There are many wonderful dogs and puppies available for adoption through shelters. It is harder to tell in some cases what your shelter puppy will end up like as an adult, but if you know what to look for, you can find a really great puppy at the shelter. There are also many young adult dogs at the shelter, so you have a better idea of their temperament and size. Of course, there is the sense of satisfaction you get for providing a home for a dog or puppy who really needs one.
Money is an important consideration. The purchase price or adoption fee for a new puppy can be just a fraction of what a new puppy costs. Food, supplies, veterinary care, and training are all things to think about and budget for with a new puppy. Healthy puppies typically require 2-4 vet visits for the exams, vaccines and tests needed to get your puppy off to a healthy start. Your puppy will also need heartworm and flea preventatives and, typically, spaying or neutering. Of course, sometimes puppies get sick or injured. You will likely need a crate or pee pads for your puppy, a leash and collar, harness, bed, treats... Also, can you train your own puppy or do you need to pay for training? Will you need to hire someone to walk your dog when you're away from home? Is he going to doggie daycare?
Lastly, do you have the time you need to put into training your puppy? An eight-week old puppy should only have to wait 2-4 hours between potty breaks. Is someone going to be home to let him out? Socializing puppies is vital to ensure they grow into well-adjusted adult dogs. It may only require an hour or so a day, but you should be prepared to take your puppy places so that he is not afraid of or aggressive to new people and things as an adult. Socialization requires preparation and forethought. You want to make these new experiences fun for your puppy, not scare him by exposing him to things he's not ready for. If you're going to take your puppy with you, he will need to be able to walk on a leash, and good manners go a long way to making him welcome. So, obedience training, whether you do it on your own or attend classes, takes time as well.
Getting a new puppy is exciting and fun. It can also be a lot of work and a lot of expense. Planning ahead, rather than making a spontaneous decision can be the difference between a wonderful, rewarding, bonding experience and trouble, even possible failure. A puppy is a lifelong commitment, taking a few weeks or months to make the right choices is such a short time in comparison. Plan ahead and have a great dog.