Things to consider before adding a new puppy to the family:
The purchase price is only the first investment in a happy, healthy family member. It is very important to consider many other questions before taking home the puppy you saw advertised.
Most humane societies or rescue organizations have a calculated estimate, and should be able to provide you with a list of expected expenses for the first year. Additional veterinary exams and vaccine costs, fees for spaying/neutering if not already completed, licensing fees, toys and food should also be considered. Larger breeds will eat more food and may also need multiple sized toys as they grow to ensure they are not likely to ingest toys that become too small. If it is a breed that is likely to develop allergies, specialty diets may be needed and these may incur more expense.
If you are purchasing from a breeder or individual pet owner, be sure to get documentation of previous vaccines. Unfortunately, some individuals may say the puppies has vaccines completed, but one set of vaccines is not adequate protection against Parvo virus or distemper. The puppy needs additional vaccines at specific time intervals to have the best protection, similar to human vaccinations.
Consider pet insurance as soon as purchasing or before you get your puppy. Purebred puppies may already have insurance and you only need to continue this. Most pet insurance companies offer a 30 day free trial. Many people are unaware of the costs involved if your puppy becomes ill, or has an accident . Treating for Parvo virus or a broken leg can easily cost more than a thousand dollars and this can be cost prohibitive for many people.
Have your puppy examined by a veterinarian within a few days of arrival to ensure he or she does not have any congenital or health issues you were not aware of such as heart murmurs, hernias, skin or joint issues. Many breeders request you to do this for their own health guarantees, if they provide one.
Find out what food the puppy is eating and make sure you have some of this food on hand when you bring your puppy home. Diet changes of any type can cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset and diarrhea if done too rapidly. We recommend transitioning to a new diet over a weeks time. This means mixing 3/4 of old food with 1/4 new food for a few days, then feed 1/2 and 1/2 for a few days, then finally 3/4 new food to 1/4 old food, and lastly to 100% new food.
Plan where you are going to keep your puppy, get a crate or puppy pen before you bring him home. Find out if the puppy has been crate trained by the breeder. This may only consist of being separated from it’s siblings for short periods of time and placed in a crate with a toy. This may not seem like much, but it is very helpful in making the puppies first few nights away from the rest of the litter less stressful for both you and your new puppy.
Have a puppy Kong or toy at home for the first night. All puppies chew, so having something available can be helpful from day one. Again the breeder may send the puppy with a familiar object (toy or blanket) to help the transition.
Traveling with your puppy in a crate or carrier is recommended, especially when they are small. It keeps them safe and contained and can minimize mess if the puppy vomits or has diarrhea during the car ride. You can take baby wipes, additional towels or bedding with you for the trip home. Many puppies will get car sick, and will need to be exposed to short, frequent car rides to ‘grow out ‘ of being car sick.
Ask the breeder about the schedule the puppy is on. When does he get up? how often does he eat? Have they started house training? Trying to mimic the same schedule will help when adapting to the new routine.
All puppies can benefit from puppy classes. These can be socialization classes (where they learn impulse control) and manners when playing with other puppies. This can be very beneficial for shy puppies, or very small breeds. This is also beneficial for puppies that have had limited contact with strangers (basically non family members) as most classes have owners interacting with all puppies. Some classes focus more on basic obedience such as walking on leash, and commands such as sit and down etc. It is important that you ask when enrolling to make sure to understand what will be covered.
It is rare for puppies to learn everything expected of them by taking just one set of classes. Many facilities have multiple class levels available.
When considering puppy ownership, be sure you plan to spend the time needed for training either in a class setting or on your own. Well behaved dogs have spent time learning how to be well behaved. They do not know intuitively know how to become a terrific pet, and may develop bad habits when left without training.
Puppies require time and monetary investment to bloom or grow into the best family pet they can be!
Written by Susan Herbert, Registered Veterinary Technologist.