Puppies are cute. There is just no arguing that. Hard to resist—and just as deliciously overwhelming as a toothless smile from a baby—puppies are as tempting to take home as Eric Dane. Before taking that leap, here are some things every mother should consider:
1. A Puppy Grows Up
We can’t keep our puppies from aging. If the fountain of youth had been found, mothers would be the first know about it. Dogs become adults in just two years. All those family members who beg and plead to get a puppy—making promises as empty as an off-leash park in 10-below weather—will probably be less enthusiastic once Rex is no longer a novelty in the home.
2. Puppies Are Small Creatures With Big Needs
A puppy is a baby, requiring plenty of attention and training. As a mother, you know that all the interrupted sleep can make you as batty as a belfry. Patience may be in short supply if the little bundle of fur has also come with sleepless nights, separation anxiety or a need to destroy. If pet-parents are working, a pup will get lonely and look for a release by chewing, or worse, may not be able to “hold it” as long as you might think.
Your furry pal also needs proper socialization in order to grow up to be friendly with people and other dogs. Do some reading on this issue, as it is extremely important.
Some dogs go through an adolescent rebellion phase. No, they don’t tell you that you know nothing and that “all the other dogs are doing it,” but they do test limits. This happens between 1 and 2 years of age.
3. A Dog’s Temperament Should Match the Pet-Parent’s Lifestyle
Folks, if the dog stays home all day, make sure it’s a couch potato. Some breeds can wait patiently for playtime and then let all that energy out like a switch has been flipped. Others need regular exercise or they get mopey. Born just a couple months ago, with mother and litter being its whole world, a pup should not have to adjust to being left in a crate for hours on end, not knowing if anyone is ever coming back. Doing some research in advance may save everyone from headache and heartache by avoiding a mismatch.
4. Don’t Give a Puppy as a Surprise Gift
A dog is a commitment for at least a decade, and there are enough homeless or shelter pets out there. Unless the puppy is for someone like a spouse, who has already expressed a strong desire, don’t do it.
5. The Almighty Dollar
The cost of being a pet-parent is more than the initial layout. There are veterinary bills to pay, as well as medications, both remedial and preventative. Quality dog food is expensive, and some dogs go through toys as quickly as a kid goes through Halloween candy. Poop bags, collars, leashes and grooming supplies all need to be factored in. Then there’s grooming …
6. Dogs Don’t Worry About Cleanliness
“Maybe I will get a dog that doesn’t shed!” you say. “Then I won’t have to worry about all that infernal vacuuming!” Not so fast! No shedding means that the hair grows, and that it will need to be cut regularly. Dog grooming could end up costing more than your own hairstylist.
7. Do Not Bring the Children Along to Pick Out a Puppy
Kids really do mean it when they promise to help look after Fido. It’s the parents who don’t read the fine print on the agreement. The statute of limitations for cashing in on that promise is exactly 10 minutes. Inevitably, Mom will end up taking care of the needs of the pet, so why not make life easier by making sure you choose the right puppy?
Talk to the breeder or the shelter volunteers to get a sense of a puppy’s personality, but also do the R.A.P. test. This does not involve checking a dog’s response to you while you make rhymes and beatbox sounds. It stands for Receptive, Attentive and Playful. Take some time to sit with the puppies and observe them. A puppy should want to be around people, without shying away. It should be curious when you talk or make sounds, rather than being in its own little world. It should be playful without being over-the-top crazy.
8. Consider Rescuing or Adopting a Dog
Animal rescues and SPCA facilities are filled with outstanding pets. Dogs that are up for adoption sometimes get a bad rap. People assume that there must be something wrong with them. This is not necessarily true. The dog has just not been matched with the right owner or something else has happened. Some are there because their pet-parent died or moved for work and couldn’t take them along. On the plus side, skipping the puppy stage by adopting an adult dog may be a lot easier than training a puppy.
9. Don’t Get a Dog for All the Wrong Reasons
Companionship is the only good reason to get a dog. A dog doesn’t care if it wins ribbons or if it looks pretty. It wants to be with its pack (you) and have fun. There is a reason we feel good looking into the eyes of our beloved pet and stroking its fur.
If property protection is the goal, get a fence. Don’t leave a dog tied up all day or pacing in a tiny enclosure. If the dog is in the house for the sole purpose of guarding the contents, perhaps an alarm would be more suitable. It can be turned off when the homeowner returns, and it doesn’t need food.
Get a dog because you want to spend time with it and develop a bond from which you can both benefit. Get a puppy if you want that bond to last even longer.
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