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Pre-Puppy Considerations

In This Chapter

Your puppy may be the only family member you get to handpick. You choose based on anything from looks to personality type. Make the most of it!

In this chapter, I walk you through five questions to ask yourself when choosing a breed, or mix of breeds, to suit your lifestyle.

Why Do You Want a Puppy?

Raising a puppy is a project, a fun project mind you, but a project just the same. From the onset, your puppy needs to be housetrained, which requires repetitive trips to his area throughout the day, and initially, the night too. And the excitement doesn’t stop there. Depending on the breed, your puppy may need constant attention. Between grooming, exercise, and meals, the only activity more energy-consuming is raising a child. Fortunately, puppyhood only lasts about a year!
I don’t want to turn you off of the idea of purchasing a puppy — you can find few things as rewarding as raising a puppy successfully. Through the nurturing phases, you’ll get to know your puppy and will exalt his humanly qualities (devotion, love, and attentiveness) to anyone who will listen. But puppies are not all love, fun, and games — they’re a lot of responsibility too. You’ll need to be as mindful of their needs as you would any other baby, from feeding them on time to providing water and places to sleep. Housetraining is another project in itself and it will take time and patience.

Travel considerations

We can’t leave out the question of travel. Do you enjoy the flexibility of flying out on a moment’s notice? Does your career pull you away for days at a time? If you’re nodding your head yes, think this through. Do you have a friend or family member lined up who welcomes the responsibility of a puppy? Do they tolerate the adolescent mischief that strikes puppies from the ages of 7 to 11 months? Or, can you afford to pay someone to kennel your puppy or dog or to stay in your home while you’re away? Kenneling a dog can cost between $15 to $100 each day, depending on where you live and what extra bonuses you purchase to embellish your dog’s stay, such as extra walks, training lessons, or a deluxe suite.
Of course, if you’re committed and willing to make the effort of raising a puppy, you’re in for a real treat: Truly no other species can offer you the same level of devotion as a dog. You’ll note moments between you and your puppy, or between your puppy and your children, that you’ll remember for a lifetime. You’ll take photos of your puppy and then reminisce when he gets his first gray hair. Raising a puppy is one of life’s great rewards. The question is, are you up for the adventures in between?


If the thought of midnight potty runs leaves you feeling cool to the idea of raising a puppy, perhaps you’d be better suited to adopt an older dog. Shelters are filled with them, and rescue clubs for specific breeds can be found easily by calling or visiting the American Kennel Club ( Even puppies older than 6 months are beginning to have better bladder control.

What’s Your Day Like?

Take a moment to think through your typical day, from morning to night (as it is now without a puppy). In Table 2-1, I use a typical schedule created by one of my clients, Joe, who outlines a typical day with his family. Create your own  table showing your typical routine in one column and how you will change itto fit puppy care into your schedule in the other column.
Table 2-1                                           Making Room for a New Puppy
Joe’s Typical Day
Changes Joe Makes to His Schedule
My alarm rings at 7 a.m. I often hit the snooze button a couple of times before getting up. I have to leave for work by 8:30 a.m. I’m usually rushing.
I’ll set the alarm for 6:30 a.m. (and not hit the snooze button!) and will walk, feed, and play with the puppy for 30 minutes.
I usually come home on my lunch break for 30 minutes. I read the paper during this time and if it’s a nice day, I sit outside.
will come home on my lunch break and make the puppy a higher priority than reading the paper. On the days I can’t come home, I have contacted a local dog walking professional to come for the puppy’s midday outing and feeding.
My mother comes over at 3 p.m. to watch
the kids, who get off the bus at 3:30 p.m.
My mother is willing to help out pro vided that we find a breed she can manage. The kids have committed to playing with the puppy for 30 minutes before settling down to do homework and play computer games.
My wife gets home at 5:30 p.m. She usually goes out for a walk with the kids or a run on her own. I get home 6:30 p.m. and we start dinner.
My wife is reorganizing her schedule to get home at 5:15 p.m. to take care of the puppy. She’ll start dinner earlier, postponing her run until I get home at 6:30 p.m. I will get dinner on the table.
Dinner is on the table between 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. After dinner we either come together in the family room, or everyone goes off to play, work on the computer, or do homework.
Family time will be moved into the kitchen until the puppy is trained and won’t pee on the rugs in the rest of the house. The kids can do their homework on the table and hang out with the puppy.
The kids go to bed at 8:30 p.m. My wife and I go into the bedroom by 9 p.m. and watch TV until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.
I will be in charge of the last puppy outing at 11 p.m.
I asked my client Joe to summarize his life story. Here’s what he wrote:

My children have wanted a puppy since they could talk. Now they’re 7 and 9 years old and we feel ready for this challenge. We have a house and 1⁄2 acre of land in a busy neighborhood. Neither my wife nor I know anything about dogs, but we like them and want to make raising this puppy our family project. Even my mom, who is elderly and planning to move in with us in a few years, is excited. Her one condition is that we pick a breed that she can handle. We plan to fence the yard, and we’re all looking forward to taking the new puppy with us on family walks and to the kids’ activities.

So what’s your story? How are you planning to care for this new addition to your family? A dog is like no other species in the world. As a puppy, he’ll bond with you as he would another dog, and between his emotional affection and his potty schedule, you’ll quickly feel as though your puppy is your newly adopted child. With this relationship comes the responsibility of integrating your puppy’s schedule into your life and civilizing his manners. (Flip to Chapter Teaching Everyday Etiquette to find out how to better your puppy’s manners.) With this next year planned, organized, and behind you (I will get you through the year, I promise!), you’ll be delighted by the relationship that enhances the next decade and a half of your life. Anchors away!

Who’s under Your Roof?

The following sections help you decide on a breed that will be best suited for your lifestyle, now and in the future. For example, if you’re single now but are considering the “marriage and children” route, you want to get a breed or a mixed breed that will groove with the chaos and taunting of young children. When deciding on a breed, consider the following: Are you single, retired, expecting to have children, or planning to invite your parents to live under your roof as they age?


Children add a lot of dynamics to anyone’s life: Your furry, four-legged child is no exception! If you’re a newly married couple eager to title your puppy as “our first child,” you’ll have to socialize your puppy extensively with babies so that he doesn’t feel displaced when you bring in your second, human child. Map out your life now, and then look five or ten years into the future to determine what breed will enjoy living with you over the long haul.

Just me

You’re single, free, and have few responsibilities to tie you down! Even though the constant companionship of a puppy may sound dreamy, it’s a major responsibility. When bringing a puppy into the home, you very suddenly become a parent of sorts. With that responsibility comes all the commitments and demands that properly raising a puppy requires. If you dig sleeping until noon, forget it. Your puppy will have you up before dawn and often in the middle of the night for several weeks. If the joy of sitting at the cafe for hours at a time tops your list, cross it off or forget about getting a puppy.


Most cafes frown upon inviting in anything but the human species. Walking, grooming, and feeding your puppy all require a mindfulness that leaves your carefree days in the dust. If you’re truly up for the challenge, remember that your puppy will be your responsibility for well over a decade. If you plan to fall in love and eventually share a household with someone of the opposite sex, socialize your puppy with that group so that he won’t get his hackles up when that special someone sweeps you off your feet. Also, think about whether you might have a family of your own some day. Choose a breed that enjoys children and start socializing that puppy with kids from the get-go! (Flip to Chapter Life from His Paws: Understanding Your Puppy’s View of the World for more on puppy socialization.)

Just us

Just you and your honey — and now puppy makes three. Ah, owning a puppy together is your first true test of cooperation. Raising a puppy is a lot easier with two to share the responsibilities, but consistency is a key factor. If the two of you join forces, following similar guidelines for structure and training, your puppy will mature quickly and thrive in the consistency. If one of you wants the puppy on the furniture and eating from a dish at the table, whereas the other prefers a more civilized approach, your puppy’s worldview will be skewed and he won’t know which rules apply and when.


Have a heartfelt talk with your honey, ideally before bringing your puppy home. Your topics of discussion should include:

– Where will the puppy sleep?

– What are your separate visions and hopes for adding a dog to your life?

– How will you share responsibilities, from feeding and walking to exercise and training?

 What are your feeding philosophies, from kibbles in the bowl to handouts from the table?

– How much money will you apportion to health maintenance, training, and grooming?

To avoid arguments, you should discuss ahead of time how you will raise this puppy and what rules make the most sense for your lifestyle and future situation. Here’s your first opportunity to try out the roles of parenting. Your puppy will live and love most serenely in a household where you can both agree.


Planning a family? Avoid protective, guard, or fighting breeds unless you’re committed to early socialization and training — and lots of it! I discuss these breeds in Chapter Picking the Right Kind of Puppy for You.


Maybe you’re retired empty nesters. That’s terrific because you’re probably home more often, which means you can be attentive to your puppy’s schedule. However, remember that a young puppy’s needs can be very demanding. If you already did the 4 a.m. diaper-changing thing, and you’d rather skip these experiences than relive them, consider an older puppy. Also pay close attention to the exercise requirements when choosing your puppy. You need to ensure that you and your soon-to-be-adult dog will be a solid match.

And baby makes four! (children under age 5)

Raising a puppy with children under the age of 5 is a tremendous undertaking, and it’s one that often creates more stress than it’s worth.
Until the ages of 5 to 7, a child can’t grasp another’s feelings — whether the other is a person or pet. Though a tight squeeze may signal love from your three-year-old to you, it could instill panic or pain in a young pup. A squeezed puppy may bite defensively even if under normal circumstances he wouldn’t react this way. If you don’t control this situation, the puppy could mature into a dog with an innate fear of young children or into a dog who’s immediately tensed in their presence.


Are you ready to take the plunge? If you’re getting a puppy to raise with your young children, you may suddenly feel like you have twins (only one may be slightly furrier than the other). Flip to Chapter Kids and Puppies for tips on raising kids and puppies together.


If you have a needy toddler, postpone getting a puppy for at least a couple of years. Your child needs all your attention to develop a strong sense of self. A puppy not only will pull you away from your parental duties but will challenge and rival the toddler for your attention. This situation is a nightmare in the making. Introduce the puppy only when your child is more emotionally steady and is also excited and ready for the addition.

If you’re convinced this is the right time to add a puppy to your family, always consider the option of an older puppy. Find a 6- to 10-month-old puppy who has been given up for reasons such as human allergies to the puppy or a move. After they’re past the intense nipping phase, puppies are less likely to think of the kids as younger siblings. Also helpful is the fact that an older puppy may be more capable of controlling his bladder, if he’s not already completely housetrained.

Us and a few more (families with children over age 5)

Got kids over 5 years old? I’d guess that at some point they’ve begun lobbying for a dog as a holiday or birthday gift with the promise “We’ll take care of him ourselves . . . Pllleease?!”


If you feel yourself about to cave, realize one thing: No matter how much your children promise to take part, the puppy will always be your responsibility. Kids can’t be expected to remember everything. Many still have to be reminded to tie their shoe or flush the toilet. Even though they take part in the daily responsibilities, you won’t be sidelined. You’ll be the coach, the cook, and the social director for your children and your new puppy.

This isn’t to say that your kids won’t help out. But, if you head into the project thinking they’ll do all the work, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Your best bet is making the puppy a fun family project from the start. Involve the whole family in all the early decisions, from what breed and personality to choose, to where the puppy should eat and sleep. Other activities may fall into your hands, but if you make those activities look like fun, you may have them clamoring to take part. The greatest joy is seeing your children parent the puppy. Only yesterday they were the ones in diapers!


With all the chaos and comings and goings of a family with children, I caution you against protective or territorial breeds. These breeds may suffer from career stress when trying to keep track of all the activity in your home, and they may subsequently lash out at the unsuspecting children. Unless you can dedicate your family to a consistent and extensive training program, stick to roughand-tumble, ready-for-play breeds who accept everyone as long-lost friends.

A whole menagerie (other pets)

Is your house a zoo? Are you trying to replicate a dog pack in your living space? Sharing your life with many animals can be a harmonious existence — or a complete nightmare. How you plan, introduce, and treat each pet is the dominant factor here. Choosing a breed or mixed breed with the right temperament also influences how well he will be accepted into your existing group.

A variety of pets


If you’re adding a dog to a household of other critters, spend a long time searching out a breed that isn’t genetically programmed to corral, maim, or kill those other critters. Even though your Siberian husky may accept your bunny rabbit in his hutch, when Hopper races across the floor, your growing puppy may not be able to curb his impulses.

Search out a breeder who has exposed his puppies to other animals at a young age. If the breeder had cats and you also have cats, your puppy may actually think he’s a cat! Provided he’s not terrorizing your kitty, allow the strong friendship to develop. For more tips on handling initial introductions, see Chapter Home Sweet Home.

Other dogs

Do you have an older dog or a multitude of other paws parading through your kitchen? What do you hope the dogs’ relationship will be like with a new puppy? Even though most dogs play well with other dogs when introduced properly, few relish the relentless chaos and interaction of a young pup. As your puppy matures, a strong relationship may develop. However, some dogs would prefer remaining your only pet. Imagine if your spouse brought in a new, younger spouse to keep you company. If your dog can’t get enough of you, adding a puppy may not be his first choice. For more tips on introducing a puppy to your resident pets, flip to Chapter Home Sweet Home.
If you’re trying to decide what breed is compatible with your dog, put yourself in his paws. Two Jack Russell Terriers have a lot in common and could spend the whole day digging in the garden or listening to creaks under the floor boards. A Jack Russell Terrier and a Rottweiler, on the other hand, is a combination similar to oil and water. Though I’m sure some exceptions exist, bringing these two under the same roof will be anything but relaxing for the dog, the pup, or the members of the household. By nature, Rottweilers are stoic, serious-minded, self-contained dogs who are mindful of their surroundings. Jack Russell Terriers, however, are the poster dogs for chaos and impulsivity. Think about both the breed you have and the one you’re thinking of adding, and make sure, at the end of the day, they’ll have enough in common to coexist.


Picking from the same breed groups, as described in Chapter Picking the Right Kind of Puppy for You, is a good way to go: Two herding breeds can get along well, as can two hounds or two terriers. You can mix from the different groups, but avoid the extremes!

Personality is also a factor. If you coexist with a sweet, gentle dog and then bring home a dominant, bossy puppy, be aware that the new pup will have your resident dog whipped in no time. This is sad to see. After all, you know who came home first. A bossy puppy may rule your roost in the end, regardless of house order or your personal wishes. However, you can simplify your life by choosing dogs whose personalities mesh.

What Are You Looking For in a Dog?


When searching for your perfectly suited companion, don’t ask yourself what sort of a puppy you want. Instead, ask what sort of dog you want. All pups traverse their first year through the typical phases, from curiosity nipping to their defiant adolescence, but how they mature is largely predictable based on breed-specific characteristics.

Because it’s the adult dog that you’ll be living with, choosing a breed that, when mature, is compatible with your vision should be priority number one. Most people find an 8-week-old Golden Retriever puppy irresistible, and many melt at the sight of a Shar-Pei puppy, but fast-forward ten months: Will your likes and dislikes line up with the adult versions of these puppies?
In this section, you first take a look at yourself. Take this opportunity to examine your lifestyle and decide how a dog may mesh with it. After you’ve chosen a breed to match your ideals, you can then focus on a specific personality type that will match your temperament. Just think — this may be your only chance to handpick a new best friend.

Looking at yourself

Before you venture into Chapters Picking the Right Kind of Puppy for You and Finding and Choosing Your Puppy, which deal with choosing your puppy, take a good look in the mirror. Use the following questions to outline who you are and what you hope to get out of the experience of raising a dog. If other people are involved, factor them into the equation as well. With this knowledge, you’re more prepared for the puppy selection process.

How much free time do you have? Since you only have 24 hours in a day, consider how much extra time you have left over. Are you craving something to fill that space, or do you end each day wishing for extra hours to get everything done?

What do you enjoy? TV, gardening, reading a book, hiking, work, coffee breaks, socializing, and shopping are a few examples. Take a moment to list five things you enjoy. If more than one person needs to be considered, place your lists side by side.

Can your adult dog join you in these activities? Sure puppies are cute, but until they’re vaccinated and housetrained, they need a structured routine and limited exposure to outdoor environments. Additionally, a young puppy may not want to leave the “den” (your home) and may need time to develop physically before joining you in any strenuous activities, such as running long distances or hiking. This question targets the adult dog your puppy will grow into and outlines your chief activity for the next ten months: namely, raising your puppy.

What’s your personality like? Are you controlling, relaxed, permissive, structured, intense? Be honest with yourself. In choosing a breed, it’s better for all involved to choose one who will understand and flow with you. If you’re getting your dog so that he can bond with a specific family member, make matching their personality traits the highest priority.

What personality traits make you feel uncomfortable? Think of this question in terms of other human beings. Does someone who is too relaxed cause your fingers to strum? Can you feel your buttons being pressed when you’re dealing with a person who needs a lot of direction? Does someone’s intensity overwhelm you? If these human traits bug you, more than likely the dog versions will too.


No matter how much you may like their looks, don’t pick a breed with qualities that may add stress to your life. Stress affects everyone badly — from you and your family to, most of all, your puppy. Too much stress will force you to take a quick review of your lifestyle, and, unfortunately, the newest addition is usually the first to go. For example, Border Collies are stunning, but if their intelligence and intensity aren’t directed, they can make a cup of coffee nervous.

Creating your dream dog

Now, remember you get to pick this relative! Before you analyze the different breeds, make a quick study of your dream dog by circling your ideals, from their energy level to intelligence and demand for attention.

I want my dog to have a lot of energy/moderate energy/a little energ y on a daily basis.

I want a dog who’s super bright/is smart/doesn’t think too much.

I love/am interested in/am not that committed to training my puppy.

I am eager to/am willing to/don’t want to groom my dog.

Again, be honest with yourself. You may not find the thought of training your dog appealing. Though I can argue the merits, at the end of the day you’ll be happiest with a dog who is simple-minded and eager to go with the flow. Personally, I’m not committed to grooming. Though I adore many long-coated breeds, if I were to bring one home, it would quickly become a tangled mess, which wouldn’t be fair to the puppy!


Though an intelligent dog sounds like the right choice, smart dogs sleep less and need a lot of direction, which places high demands on your time and energy. If your schedule is full or chaos is a part of your day, choose a relaxed dog with average smarts. And yes, you can predict this in an 8-week-old puppy. Chapter Finding and Choosing Your Puppy tells you how.

Take some time to consider yourself, and then move on to choosing your puppy. You can use this book to shoot for the stars or to simply ensure your puppy potties in the right place.

Sarah Hodgson

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