What to Know Before Bringing Home a Puppy

Puppy stepping over the logFor National Puppy Day on March 23, dog lovers may be considering adding a new puppy to the family. Before you bring home a new companion, make sure you are prepared for everything that comes with owning a puppy.

Dr. Lori Teller, a clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, reminds pet owners that caring for a new puppy can take a lot of time and money.

She recommends considering how long the puppy would be left alone each day and your own activity level, as many dogs need frequent exercise. In addition, it is important to remember that dogs do not stay puppies forever and often live for 10 to 20 years.

If you feel that you are ready to bring home a puppy, the next step is deciding where to get one. One of the most common options is adopting from an animal shelter.

“Adoption fees tend to be lower than the price of obtaining a dog from a breeder or pet shop,” Teller said. “(Shelter) Puppies usually have had their first series of immunizations and have been spayed or neutered. If you are happy with a mixed-breed puppy, then a shelter is a great place to begin your search.”

She said that there are many pure-bred rescue groups, though they usually have more adult dogs than puppies. Adopting a dog also does not always give you the full information on its history and personality or why it was put up for adoption in the first place.

Another option is finding a dog breeder, who will usually have very young puppies of a specific breed.

“It is important to find a responsible breeder who truly cares for the dogs and works to improve the health of the breed,” Teller said.

To do this, she recommends visiting the breeder’s facility to make sure it is clean and has everything the dogs need. The puppies should be excited to see the breeder and meet visitors, and they should be at a healthy weight.

A good dog breeder is also a great source for learning more about a specific breed. Teller advises asking about any common genetic diseases and what the breeder has done to reduce the chance of occurrence.

“A responsible breeder will ask questions to determine why you want a dog, in general, and of this breed, in particular,” Teller added.

She said the final option for finding a puppy is buying one from a pet store, but this option does not allow people to learn about the puppy’s history.

No matter where you get your puppy, Teller said to watch out for eye, ear, or nose discharge, labored breathing, coughing or sneezing, skin irritations, and pests.

If any of these signs are noticed after the puppy is brought home, it is best to contact the shelter, breeder, or pet store to discuss your options. It can be heartbreaking to return a puppy, so these places may offer to help pay for any medical costs.

“Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian within 48 to 72 hours of bringing home the puppy,” Teller advised. “Your veterinarian will do a complete physical exam and check for problems you may not have been able to detect when you acquired your puppy.”

Puppies need to go to the veterinarian regularly during their first year to make sure that no other health problems develop and to keep up to date with shots. It may seem like a lot of work to find and bring home a new puppy, but it can be extremely rewarding, both for you and your new family member.

Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.