March 12, 2010

I’ve noticed as I visit schools around the country that my new DOGS book is very popular with all the kids,  from Texas to South Carolina to this week in New Jersey.

Children love dogs, and whose child hasn’t begged for a puppy of their own? A dog can be a wonderful companion, but it is important to make the right choice for your family. Here are six important things to consider before you bring a puppy home:

1. Do some research on types of breeds before you choose a puppy, and make sure you are choosing a breed that is compatible with your own family’s lifestyle. Some breeds need lots of daily exercise - are you an active family? If you choose a breed that needs plenty of attention from family members or else it becomes bored and destructive, you’d better be sure there are people around during the day. Some breeds require large amounts of grooming - is this something you’re willing to take on? There are many questions to ask, but the point is to do your homework before you buy. The American Kennel Club website is a good place to read about all the different breeds as you think about which dog is the right one for your family.

2.  When you choose a puppy, look for one that is lively and alert. Make sure that its eyes and nose are clear and without any discharges. A well-cared-for puppy should be clean, look well rounded, and have loose,  soft skin. If the puppy looks listless or the kennel is dirty, do not buy. You will be much happier if you start off with a healthy puppy.

3.  Which puppy of a litter should you pick: the active one that trots right up to you and licks your hand, or the shy one that is cowering in a corner?

Your best bet might be neither of these. A puppy that is too friendly to everyone might make a real pest of itself. The other one might be too timid and shy away from strangers.

Choose an independent-looking puppy that will accept your petting but is also perfectly content playing with the other puppies in the litter.

Simon, Seymour. DOGS. New York:  Collins/Smithsonian, 2009, pg 30.

4. When you bring your puppy home, keep things calm and relaxed. Don’t have everybody crowding around, picking up the puppy and trying to play with it. It needs a chance to explore its new surroundings in its own time.

5. When they are alone for the first time at night, most puppies will cry or yelp all night long. This is only natural and is nothing to worry about.  Don’t punish the puppy for crying - this will only make it more frightened. On the other hand, don’t take the puppy into bed with you,  either. Then it will expect to sleep in your bed every night. Instead,  try to make sure the puppy gets lots of exercise during the day so it’s tired at night, and try wrapping a loudly ticking clock in an old, soft blanket, so the puppy hears something beside it. Even if all this doesn’t work, don’t worry. Most puppies will calm down after the first few nights.

6. If your puppy comes with a diet sheet, follow the instructions. Introduce any changes gradually. Generally, puppies should be fed three small meals a day until they are six months old, then twice a day until they are one year old. Full-grown dogs can be fed either once or twice a day. Your vet may recommend a special vitamin supplement or some other additions to your puppy’s diet. Naturally, you should follow these recommendations.

Next week, we’ll talk about early training. A great measure of your dog’s successful integration into your family depends on how well you train it as a puppy. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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