Adding A Puppy to Your Family

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by Dr. Jennifer L. Scott B.Sc., D.V.M.

With our new normal, COVID-19 has even changed getting a puppy. In our isolation, and stuck at home, people want a puppy yesterday. Finding puppies has become more difficult, and this has led to many not making careful decisions. Some individuals are playing on our desperation. I watched a news release from Ontario where more than one person selling a puppy set up meetings in parking lots with prospective owners, only to be accosted by thieves there to steal the puppies. COVID-19 won’t last forever, but with luck, this puppy will be with you for the next fifteen years, so… slow down and wait to get what you want.

Purebred versus mixed breed. With a purebred dog, you will know what to expect regards to size and behavior. Genetic screening of the parents for flaws improves your chance of a healthy pet, but is not a guarantee. A puppy cannot legally be sold as purebred without registration papers, and it is also against Canadian Kennel Club rules to charge a premium for those papers. Some breeders will replace puppies with genetic problems, but few families will give up the pet that’s become a family member. Current market demand has led to a lot of less reputable breeders producing lots of puppies with serious health issues. Mixed breeds tend to be less expensive, except for some of the crosses that have become popular such as, Labradoodles or Yorkipoos. Many of these designer breeds, rather than having hybrid vigor, have the genetic issues of both breeds.

Buying a puppy from a private home or breeder, you should be able to see at least the mom, if not both parents, and get some idea of the temperament and appearance of the adult animal your pup will grow into. Leave the kids at home (Mom too, if necessary)! The first time you see the puppies, try to make a well thought out decision with your head, not your heart. Having said this, some of the brightest most business-like people I have met in my life are fundamentally incapable of thinking with anything but their heart when faced with a puppy.

Avoid single puppy litters if possible. A single puppy might not be adequately socialized, but this is usually not an issue if other dogs are in the household. For this same reason, avoid taking your puppy before seven or eight weeks of age or later. Most puppies are weaned earlier, but this socialization within the litter and with mom will affect your puppy’s behavior for the rest of his life.

Look around. How clean is the whelping box and area? The dirtier a puppy’s surroundings, the harder it will be to housetrain. Puppies raised in clean surroundings and taken out several times a day to urinate and defecate are well started on their training. They have already learned not to foul the area they eat, drink, and sleep. They have often been introduced to a crate. I start taking my four-week-old puppies outside in Calgary winters to poop and pee, but only for a brief supervised minute.

Has the puppy received its first vaccinations and been dewormed? This should be done between six to eight weeks by a veterinarian who will do a full physical examination. All reputable breeders will have done this. Make sure you can return the puppy if it fails a health check at a veterinarian of your choosing. This is heartbreaking to do, but it can be emotionally and financially devastating to have a puppy with a congenital problem.

Consider an adult dog…. There are several great rescue organizations in Calgary, including the Calgary Humane Society, who’d love to hook you up with an adult dog needing a home. Read, ask questions of knowledgeable people, and be tough at this stage, and with a little luck, the perfect furry family member will be in the house soon, and for a long time to come.