20 Tips On Getting A New Dog Or Puppy

We all get excited when we have finally decided to get a dog or a puppy. Most people naturally start perusing Pet Finder on the internet, looking on Craigslist, or visiting pet stores. Hold the phone! I have some good advice for you based on my extended experience working with new owners and their canines. There are many mistakes that my former clients have made that can easily be avoided.

General remarks

Tip #1: The whole family or household must be willing to take the leap and be excited about getting a dog or puppy. If not, this can be a real relationship killer and lead to marital discord. I frequently have to deal with couples where one person didn’t want a dog. It is awkward to say the least.

Everybody in the family must want a canine

Tip #2: Service Dogs: Not all dogs are good candidates for service dog work. If you are in need of a service dog, see if you can get one from Canines Companions for Independence(CCI) first. If that is not feasible or practical, you must choose a dog very carefully and also hire a professional force free trainer to help you train your dog. It is usually a 2 year commitment of training and only 1% of all dogs are good candidates for service dog training.

Dogs can be expensive

Tip #3: Dogs and Puppies are expensive. Before adding a canine to your life, make sure you realize that vet bills, equipment, trainers, behaviorists and food expenses add up. According to some sources, the expense of owning a dog could be $500 or more per dog. I think that that estimate is way on the low side. I personally have insurance for both of my dogs and that runs $73 per month. A simple check up at the vet costs me always over $100.

Tip #4: Consider Insurance: I did the math and owning two lab mixes means hip dysplasia could happen down the road and that surgery is super expensive. Besides that, accidents can and do happen and lets face it, dogs get sick. Vet care is costly.

Don’t purchase from a pet store


Tip #5: When purchasing a purebred dog do not buy one from a pet store. In my experience, my clients who have pet store purchased dogs here in Orlando I believe utilize puppy mills to get their supply of puppies. Conditions in puppy mills are horrible and the mothers are always under stress. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, is prevalent in the mothers of these puppies and the stressful environments transfer these homones to the pups through mothers milk. Puppies also model their mothers in their early stages of life. In my experience, all the pet store purchased dogs have developed either expensive health problems or very difficult behavioral issues or both. Don’t contribute to the problem and keep these stores in business. Besides that, I don’t find prices of pet store dogs any cheaper than a reputable breeder.

Tip #6: Purchase from a reputable breeder. A reputable breeder is a member of the American Kennel Club and also belongs to a specific breed organization that sets rules pertaining to health and behavior. They are primarily focused on the advancement of the breed and not necessarily profit. 

A reputable breeder will always take a puppy back if it’s not working out for you. Pet store purchased dogs are no more or no less expensive than a reputable breeder in my opinion. Only buy a puppy from a breeder with whom you can drive to meet the puppy, the breeder and the puppy’s parents.  Never fly a puppy in the cargo hold or alone in an airplane. This is way too traumatic for any puppy and there is some evidence that “shipping” a puppy could develop into separation anxiety, an expensive and problematic issue. 

Meet the puppies and their mother

Tip #7: Always meet the parents of every puppy whenever possible and closely observe their behavior. Are they calm, aggressive, aloof, crazy, etc? If so, you could have puppies that either are genetically predisposed to that behavior or have observed it and will model the behavior.

Tip #8: It is tempting to always go for a puppy rather than an older dog based on cuteness and playfulness.. But, know that puppies are also are much more work. Plan on two years of consistent training, care and management. Just like bringing a human baby home, you need to prepare by setting up barriers, confinement spaces and finding a good positive force-free trainer if you feel you need guidance.

Border Collies can be one of the toughest breeds to raise

Tip #9: Choose your breed carefully. Several breeds are popular but extremely difficult. Shibu Inu, Pitbull’s, Border Collie’s,  and Australian Shepherd‘s are just a few. Pitbull’s require tons of outlets to release pent up excitement and energy. Herding dogs like Aussies are exceptionally smart and require around the clock stimulation in the form of physical exercise but also problem solving and mind games. Lots of time is required for many of these popular breeds.

Tip #10: Puppies, especially the large breeds, need daily off-leash time. Make sure you have a fenced in backyard or dog park available close by that you can use daily for the first two years of life. If you don’t have that, you are fighting an uphill battle. In my experience, you can’t walk a dog enough in order to wear them out in the first two years of life.

Exercise is essential for young puppies

Tip #11: If you are gone from your house more than eight hours in any one day, a puppy might not be right for you. Either choose an adult dog or expect to hire a dog walker/sitter daily. All dogs require attention with daily training including socialization and potty training.

Tip #12: Socializing a puppy to people, dogs, bikes, skateboards, young children or anything the puppy could be exposed to in life before 16 weeks is the most important thing you can do with a puppy. It actually supercedes training.

You can start training at 8 weeks of age

Tip #13: You can start training a puppy at 8 weeks just as long as you use positive force-free methods.

Tip #14: Don’t pull a puppy from the litter until at least 8 weeks. The mother and puppy mates teach each other a lot during this time. The biggest problem I see is that these puppies have a playful bite that is absolutely dangerous if not corrected by mom and the littermates. Dogs have strong jaws and puppy mates teach other puppies the severity of a bite.. If you pull a dog from the litter at 6 weeks for instance, she will not have learned this important skill. It is called bite inhibition. Any reputable breeder will not let a puppy go before 8 weeks.

Tip #15: Don’t buy a puppy or dog off of Craigslist. These breeders are in it for the money and don’t care about healthy pairings with mother and father to get good results genetically with behavior and health. These people also have realized that having a litter is expensive so they try to sell the puppies early at about 6 or 7 weeks.

Tip #16: Try to avoid getting puppies of the same litter. These dogs tend to form a bond with each other which makes training and separation very difficult. Most reputable breeders won’t let you get two puppies.

Avoid getting puppies from the same litter

Rescuing a dog

Tip #17: Instead of rescuing a dog from the county shelter or from a large rescue organization, consider rescuing a dog from an organization that utilizes foster families. Getting a dog this way allows you to interview the foster families to find out what the dog is like. Is she good with cats..other dogs...children? You won’t get this from a large shelters and owner relinquished dogs have notoriously inaccurate bios that previous owners have filled out. Besides that, most rescues that use fosters get their dogs from the shelter anyway.

Tip #18: Consider doing “trial runs” with dogs by becoming a foster family.

Love alone cannot rehabilitate a dog

Tip #19: I have nothing but admiration and respect for people who rescue dogs who have mental or physical issues. I help people every week with these dogs. I think it is easy to feel sorry for a dog that has had a hard life either from hoarding situations or abusive households. But, if you decide to take on one of these dogs, expect to pay for extra training and behavior modification from a qualified trainer. There is also the possibility of one of these dogs needing anti-anxiety medication or further intervention from a veterinary behaviorist. If you are not one of these admirable people, take your time and choose a dog that is both friendly to both dogs and people which should include young children. Additionally, choose rescue dogs that are not noise or sound sensitive. How do you know? Rescue from an organization that utilizes foster families or become a dog foster yourself. Love alone will not change or rehabilitate a dog.

Tip #20: Don’t expect that life is going to stay the same after adopting. Your daily routine will change and your focus will shift slightly to be more dog centered. If you don’t want your life to change in this way, it is not time for a dog.