I have been blessed with one of the best floofs in the world.
She has been an extra in Shakespeare plays, an honorary Hufflepuff, volunteer mother to a tiny kitten, and one of the best hiking companions I could ask for.
But Rory wasn’t the first dog in my life. In fact, my parents would still argue to this day that I was lucky enough to come from a family who knew enough about dogs to guide me toward some important decisions when it came to choosing and raising my dog. So today I’d like to pass on some of that puppy starter kit wisdom, complete with a few pictures of a dog of my own.
- The Right Breed: I have a full-bred Australian Shepherd, but my family has always proudly been the owners of muts. There can be a value in seeking out a purebred dog, because research can then tell you what that dog will most likely become, but you also need to remember that choosing a purebred also means paying a lot for a dog that is more likely to have major health issues. I chose a shepherd breed because they are less likely to be over-bred, but even then Aussie’s can have serious heart issues. Either way, if you decide to go the purebred rout, make sure to both research and regularly be in communication with your breeder. Choose a private breeder. Do NOT support puppy mills.
- The Puppy Trust Test: So you’ve found a breeder you like. You’re ready to go meet the litter in person to pick your pup. But how do you know which one is right? There are two things you want to look for when picking the right dog: peace and trust. Contrary to what most dog movies will tell you, keep an eye out for the dog that doesn’t lunge straight for humans when you go to meet the puppies. You don’t want a terrified dog, but an energetic puppy can often lead to a dog who doesn’t always want to listen to you as an adult. Once you’ve found the calm, collected pup in the group, pick him or her up with one hand and hold the dog over your head. A dog who flails and gets nervous in your hands is less likely to trust you, while a dog who relaxes and acts like this is completely normal has already decided you’re a keeper.
- When should I bring my dog home? If you’re working with a breeder and have the option to bring home your dog whenever, the experts will say a puppy can come home from the mother as early as 8 weeks of age. I brought Rory home at 10 weeks, but I could have waited until she was a full 3 months old. Basically, the longer you can keep a pup with the mother, the more time your puppy will have to learn social dog graces. Rory was less prone to nipping and aggressive playing, because her mom had already taught her those behaviors were unacceptable.
- The Blanket Trick: Sleep with a blanket or towel in your bed for at least a month before you bring your dog home. Then when your puppy comes home, give the blanket to your pup. This will help them get used to your smell and associate it with comfort and home.
- Monthly cost for a new puppy: You will need to take your pup to the vet every 6 months for the first 2 years of their life. So including the cost of vaccines, neutering/spaying, training, treats, food, and toys, you should budget for about $75 per month until your puppy’s second birthday.
- The Ice Cube Trick: My mom has always said that puppies are a great training manual for being a human parent someday, especially because they will wake you up several times throughout the night until their bladders get bigger. After you let your puppy out, they will often go straight for the water bowl, which will only mean more breaks from sleep for you throughout the night. To prevent this, put the water bowl up for the night and offer your puppy an ice cube to munch on in the middle of the night. It will slake their thirst, help with teething, and (most important) it won’t make them have to pee again.
- Training and Grooming: No matter how well-trained your dog is, there is value in going to at least one round of training classes with your pup. It’s an opportunity for you and your puppy to bond and for you to socialize your dog in a safe space. The same is true for taking your dog to a groomer at least once when they’re young. This will teach them to not be bothered with people touching their paws and head and can help make them more comfortable around new people overall.
What about you? What tips do you have to share with your fellow canine parents? If you’re interested, I’d love to share some starter tips for kittens as well!