Pet Connection

Pup Pick

11 tips on choosing the puppy who’s perfect for you

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Looking at puppies is fun, but choosing a puppy is a decision that can impact your family life and your relationship with the dog for years. Here’s how to find the perfect puppy match for your personality and lifestyle.

1. Look at several litters if possible. Don’t choose the first puppy who runs up and jumps in your lap or looks the prettiest or seems to be the boss. Seeing a number of puppies will help you make a better decision by showing you a range of personalities and helping you to eliminate extremes in both personality and size. Biggest isn’t necessarily best, and neither is smallest, loudest or quietest.

2. Watch puppies as they play together. Who’s in charge, and who gets beat on by other puppies? Which puppies get along with everyone? For most people, the middle-of-the-road pup is the best choice.

3. Every puppy is an individual. Some are serious, some are clowns, some are reserved, some are everyone’s best friend. Before you go to see a litter, write down what kind of personality you’re looking for in a dog, activities you enjoy and your own personality traits. Ask the breeder to show you pups with the qualities you’re looking for. (Walk away from any breeder who says they’re all the same.)

4. Avoid puppies who seem fearful, shy or extremely nervous. You may feel sorry for them, but living with a dog who is afraid of people, loud noises or new experiences can be frustrating.

5. If you’re serious about getting the right puppy, don’t make up your mind on the first visit. Come back on another day and look at the puppies all over again. You may find that the best puppy for you was sleepy during your first visit and didn’t make a good impression, or maybe had just gotten up from a nap and was wilder than usual.

6. Temperament is important, but so is good health. Ask to see up-to-date health certifications from board-certified veterinary specialists for both parents. Meet the parents -- at least the mom. Temperament is inherited, and parent personalities are clues as to what you can expect from a puppy as he matures. You should see happy, easygoing adult dogs.

7. Avoid purchasing two puppies from the same litter. They’ll bond to each other instead of to you. Instead, get your first puppy trained and through adolescence, then bring in a second one.

8. Don’t bring your children when choosing a puppy. You’ll be under too much pressure to take the first one that appeals to them instead of the one that's right for your family. Bring the kids only when it’s time to take the puppy home, and ask the breeder to keep other pups out of sight.

9. Don’t let price be the deciding factor. Sure, a $250 puppy may seem like a better deal than a $2,500 puppy, but if the breeder doesn’t have proof of health certifications on the parents, doesn’t provide good veterinary care or socialization and doesn’t feed high-quality food, veterinary bills and pup psychology sessions may increase the cost of the dog in the long run.

10. Don’t be in a hurry to take your new pup home. Depending on the breed, the best age for puppies to embark on their new lives is when they are 8 to 12 weeks old. Puppies in that age range are more mature. They’re generally able to sleep through most of the night, making them more easily housetrained.

11. In short, use the Goldilocks principle when making your selection: Choose a puppy who’s not too big, not too small, not too aggressive and not too shy -- he should be just right.

More advice on finding and raising a puppy can be found at fearfreehappyhomes.com.

Q&A

Is temperament

color-coded?

Q: I’ve heard that Labs have different personalities depending on their color. Is that true?

A: That’s a persistent myth about many breeds, including Labrador retrievers. For instance, chocolate Labs are thought to be difficult to train. Some people believe black Labs make the best hunters. Yellow Labs have a reputation for being mellow.

In other breeds and species, Dalmatians with liver-colored spots are said to be more laid-back. Black pugs have a reputation as high-energy criminal masterminds, while fawns are said to be sweet and gentle. Orange cats are sweet while tortoiseshells have “tortitude.” Calico cats are clowns.

In some breeds, temperament differences are seen between working and show lines of dogs and may be associated with color -- as in the idea that black Labs make the best hunting dogs. But all colors of Labs can make excellent companions, family dogs and hunting dogs.

In any breed, breeders may select for a specific color and temperament. Any time breeders select for a particular coat color, they may unintentionally end up with a particular behavior characteristic. Conversely, when breeders select for temperament, ending up with a desirable color or pattern is a bonus.

In Labs, at least, the two genes that decide coat color are unrelated to anything else about the dog, including personality or temperament. All three colors can appear in a single litter. And genetically speaking, yellow Labs are yellow only because they have a recessive gene from each parent giving them that color. Without those recessive genes, they would be black or chocolate Labs.

Just as in the human population, personalities differ among individuals, and not along color lines. A Lab is a Lab is a Lab. Color doesn’t affect temperament, but parents and ancestors do. Remember the saying: No good dog is a bad color. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

THE BUZZ

How dogs adjust

to vision loss

-- Common causes of blindness in dogs are glaucoma, cataracts, corneal ulcers, dry eye and other severe corneal diseases, and retinal diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy. Factors in a dog’s ability to adjust to blindness include how quickly vision is lost and whether vision loss is painful. A dog who loses vision slowly generally copes well, but rapid vision loss, even if the condition isn’t painful, can require an adjustment period of a few weeks. To help vision-impaired dogs get around, talk to them so they know where you are, and take them on the same route on walks so that they learn the trek by smell.

-- Play-fighting is cute, and it’s also an important developmental stage for kittens. They bat at things with their paws, practice stalking and pouncing and roll with and bite each other. Rolling over and displaying the belly is a sign of trust, but it’s also a defensive measure -- claws out and paws kicking. During play fights, kittens learn boundaries with each other, including how hard they can bite without causing injury. As they leap, kick, slide across the floor and bite at a littermate’s tail, they acquire agility, coordination, resourcefulness and the ability to deal with the unexpected.

-- Does your pet need to lose weight? The following tips can help. Feed small meals frequently instead of leaving out food all the time. This allows you to control the amount of food your pet gets and prevents hunger pangs. Put kibble inside a puzzle toy so your pet has to move to get at it. He’ll exercise his brain, too. Feed chow hounds separately so they can’t steal another pet’s food. Schedule several short walks or playtimes daily, and gradually increase the length and pace as your pet becomes more fit. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

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