Checklist for Adding a New Puppy to Your Family
Puppies are so adorable. They have big wide eyes and they readily show love and affection, instantly making your heart melt. This is what happened to me and is how I ended up with my puppy. I'm a vendor at a local flea market, and the vendor that opens beside me each weekend is involved in rescuing abused animals. Someone dropped a puppy off to her one day--they'd found him in a dumpster. The minute I saw the puppy, I fell in love. He was so beautiful--a four month old Chow Chow mixed with a Labrador (often referred to as Chabradors). He had beautiful, fluffy hair and despite what he'd been through, he was very friendly. I told the lady that I had to have him. I didn't think about whether or not he had shots, worms, or the fact that I lived in an small, one bedroom apartment, had absolutely no dog supplies, and had no idea how to care for a puppy. I just knew that he had to be a part of my family.
The first few days were challenging. The puppy had to get used to my husband and me and we had to get used to him. Finding a vet wasn't challenging because there are a ton of them in my city, but we found one, Elam Animal Hospital, that had a "puppy package" for $200 listed on their website that included everything he needed as far as vaccines, de-worming, etc. Since they had this simple, all-in-one price, and they had it listed up front, we went for it. We bought some supplies such as a collar and leash, dog bowl, dog bed, and of course, food and toys (the collar, leash, bed, and dog bowl quickly became too small. We didn't realize how fast Chabradors grow!).
Now here we are two months later, and our puppy, who we named Bear, is well-adjusted. We are moving to a bigger apartment so that Bear can have more space to run around and we constantly research information about dogs in general and Chabradors specifically so that we can give him the care that he needs. In our case, we didn't use a checklist first because of the circumstances in which we acquired our puppy. However, using a checklist and doing research before getting a puppy (or any pet) will really help you to sort things out before diving in.
1. Find out which breeds you are allowed to have in your home.
If you own your home, this step may not be as important, unless you are a part of an HOA (home owner's association). If you are a part of an HOA, you may want to check and see if they have any rules about the type of dogs you are allowed to have. If you live in an apartment, this step is ESSENTIAL before you start looking for a puppy. This was something that I learned the hard way. After I adopted Bear, I found out that my current landlord doesn't allow Chows, therefore we have to move. For us, its okay because we wanted a bigger apartment anyway, but if you don't want to move, make sure you get a breed that is allowed.
Some places restrict the size of dogs that you are allowed to have. You must research different breeds to find out how big a puppy will become as an adult. With mixed breeds, it can be a toss up sometimes, unless the puppy is mixed with two large dogs or two small dogs, so make sure you ask questions about how big a puppy will grow before you adopt him.
Other concerns that you need to be aware of are breed bans from your municipality and insurance company. There are also noise ordinances in some places, which is especially important if you plan to keep your puppy outside when he grows up.
2. Figure out which breed(s) suit your lifestyle.
Before jumping into which breed suits your lifestyle, it is important to assess if having a dog at all is good for your lifestyle. After we adopted Bear, I found out that Chow Chows are not good with children at all. Thankfully, we don't have kids, but my husband's nieces and nephews come over to visit sometimes. Bear does not like them at all! He often tries to control them, and limit which rooms they can go in. We have to really keep Bear in check when they come over.
First, determine if you are financially ready for a dog. You must be prepared for regular veterinarian care, costs of dog food, supplies and toys, and determining if all the members of your family are willing to share the responsibility of having a pet. Once you have a green light for these things, then you can begin to determine which breed is right for you.
Next, research different characteristics of dogs. Different breeds of dog have different characteristics that may or may not suit your lifestyle. For example, one of the most important characteristics to pay attention to would be the breed's need for attention. If you have a very busy lifestyle, you will want a dog that is independent and doesn't need a lot of attention. An English Bulldog, for example, is a spoiled and attention-needy dog. They get severly attached to their human and want to spend as much time with you as possible. If you ignore them, they will show how hurt their feelings are, and it might be hard to get back on their good side. Another example is if you live in an apartment complex, dogs like border collies or other high-energy dogs would not be good unless you have a dog park that they can run in. Otherwise, they'll redirect that energy into destruction and tear up things in your home.
3. Once you decide on which breed(s) you want and/or allowed to have, research the place(s) that you will get the puppy from.
Many animal shelters have beautiful puppies and dogs for adoption who need good homes. A lot of them will already have given the puppies vaccinations, worm treatments, spay/neutering services, and may possibly even give you supplies. They will charge an adoption fee which could be up to a few hundred dollars, depending on the shelter and the services they provide. Most shelters are reputable, but it is still important to do some research on them. Checking news articles and reviews can be helpful.
If you decide to get a puppy from a person, a breeder, or a pet shop, it is very important to do research on them. Make sure that your puppy did not come from a puppy mill because dogs that come from these mills are not properly socialized and could have behavioral problems down the road. If you are getting a puppy from a person or a breeder, make sure that you are able to see the mom that the puppy comes from. If the mom is scared, shy, or aggressive, don't get that puppy.
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4. Get Supplies
Some of your supplies you may want to get before you bring your new puppy home. I recommend getting things like dog crates and/or pet beds, or anything that needs to be assembled beforehand. This way, when your puppy gets home you can immediately begin the training process instead of fumbling with construction.
It is important to have a leash and collar before you get your puppy, especially if your puppy is older and runs around a lot. You don't want to have to begin your relationship by having to chase your puppy around a parking lot. I would also recommend puppy pads or a blanket for the ride home. Your new puppy may not be used to cars and could possibly become car sick.
Other supplies can be bought either before you get the puppy or after you get the puppy. Many pet supply stores allow you bring your pets in with you while you shop. This comes in handy because you can wait until you get your puppy to make sure you get the right type of food, the right sized dishes, etc. You also get to show off your new puppy.
Finally, don't forget to buy a dog tag and put your contact information on it. This is so important in case your puppy gets lost. Microchips are another great option (still get a dog tag even if you get the microchip) and they are relatively inexpensive.
5. Enjoy your new puppy
Now that you've gone through the checklist, and hopefully acquired the puppy of your dreams, enjoy the new addition to your family. Make him or her feel warm and welcome, an begin the bonding process. Don't forget to set the boundaries for your new puppy immediately and you will have a long and happy relationship with your puppy.