How to choose a new puppy

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If you're thinking about getting a puppy, read this first to be sure you make the selection that will best suit your family's needs.

While some puppies are spontaneous purchases from a friend or neighbor, many are planned at least briefly in advance. If you are thinking about getting a puppy, give some thought to the suggestions that follow that may be able to help you make a suitable choice.

1. Narrow your choices to a few breeds that interest you

Do you want a large or small dog? Long-haired or short-haired? Friendly or ferocious? Family or show dog? Mutt or pedigreed? If you decide on a watchdog, for example, be sure you can protect children and neighbors in case the animal should mistake them for intruders.

2. Do your homework

Browse information about various dog breeds on the Internet, at the library, or in the bookstore. Information is plentiful for the conscientious consumer, so take advantage of it to learn all you can about your potential canine companion. Some breeds have weak hips or misaligned jaws that can diminish hopes of having a show animal that wins ribbons. Others are good with kids, which may be a primary consideration. Find out what you need to know.

3. Consult experts

Once you have narrowed your selection to a particular breed, contact someone who raises this type, like a breeder, or a pet shop owner or veterinarian to ask questions about the animal's habits, food, aptitude, and other considerations. If you plan to make money from breeding two dogs, find out how old they should be and how frequently they should have litters, as well as the usual number of puppies per litter.

4. Visit potential suppliers

Answer newspaper ads, stop by the community dog pound or go to a pet shop for a look at the type of animal you're interested in. See whether it looks healthy by examining its coat for shiny, clean fur that is free of fleas or ticks. Watch how it interacts with other animals or whether it stays alone or appears ill.

5. Interact with the puppy

Does it seem interested in you or does it back off? Is it engaged in playing with the other puppies or is it a loner? These may be clues to its disposition, so take note as you pick one out.

6. Find out what comes with the puppy

Will the owner provide pedigree papers? Is a one- or two-day food supply included? Has the puppy had required immunizations, been checked by a veterinarian, or treated for worms? Does it come with a box to travel home in or a food bowl? How about grooming supplies or medicine, if needed?

7. After bringing home your new pet

check its feces for diarrhea, blood, or worms. Watch to see if the animal eats and drinks properly and if it vomits after eating. Any problems of this type may mean your animal should be seen by a veterinarian or returned for a refund or exchange.

Many of us recall a time when we simply took in an orphan puppy that we found wandering alone. Sometimes the adoption worked well; other times it didn't. Follow steps like those listed above to maximize your chances of a successful match.