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Scotch Pines Dog Training

Choosing A Puppy

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Choosing a Puppy--Be Cautious!
   Searching for a new puppy is like being a teenager eager to fall in love--you’re ready to give your heart to the first wiggly pup who licks your chin. But a hasty choice can mean a decade or more living with a biting, timid, or neurotic dog and expensive vet bills. Training is essential, but it can’t cure bad genetics. Here are four rules to help you choose the puppy of your dreams:
     1. Meet the parents: Don’t even look at the puppies until you can pet both sire and dam. Puppies not only inherit personality traits but learn behavior from them as well. Are they healthy, happy, and friendly? If you like the parents, you will like the puppy.
     2. Visit the Puppy’s Birthplace: Was the pup raised in a clean place with access to a separate potty spot? A dog is born with an instinct to not soil his living quarters. If a puppy is forced to potty in his playpen, box, or cage at the pet store, that instinct is destroyed. The puppy will be impossible to housebreak, and you can expect about 17,000 smelly stains on your carpet during his lifetime.
     Has the puppy been raised with dogs but handled by humans? Puppies need seven weeks with their litter, never a day less, to learn to socialize with dogs. But after nine weeks left with the litter, they begin to bond more with other dogs than with humans. Clarence Pfaffenberger's research for Guide Dogs for the Blind concluded that puppies bond best with humans when they are removed from the pack at exactly 49 days from birth. This doesn’t mean a 16-week-old pup won’t love you--it just means he would have been more intensely devoted to you taken from the litter earlier.
     CAUTION: Don’t buy from any breeder who requires a lot of notice or even refuses to allow you to enter the home or meet the dogs. Reputable breeders keep things clean enough to show on short notice. If the breeder's health or life circumstances prevent them from keeping up, they will downsize or hire help.  (You will be asked  to remove shoes and wash hands to protect their dogs, and you won't be allowed to touch fragile newborns.)   Puppy mills who keep dogs in crowded, filthy conditions, or breeders with nasty dogs to hide typically refuse to allow visitors.      
     What about ordering a pup from a website full of pedigrees, show ring champions, and beautiful pictures? HUGE CAUTION!: Fancy websites created by professional webmasters don’t guarantee friendly, healthy puppies, regardless of pedigrees and ribbons. There are some wonderful breeders behind those websites, but there are also puppy mills who only stay in business by shipping sight unseen.
     I recently had an experience with two vastly different breeders behind two equally beautiful websites. Instead of having a puppy shipped, I drove from Boise to New Mexico to buy a red toy poodle advertised on a gorgeous website. The breeder consented to my visit.   But after my 1000 mile drive, she refused to allow me to enter her home or meet the parents. She said there were so many dogs there wasn’t a square foot of standing room, the dogs weren’t all groomed, they would be upset with a visitor, and she couldn’t remember which was the sire anyway!
   To me that meant she had unkempt dogs with nervous temperaments overcrowded into a feces-strewn house, breeding indiscriminately. But she carried onto the porch an AKC pup for $1600! Finally she reluctantly brought out a few adults who mostly shied at my touch. The next day she emailed asking why I hadn’t bought a puppy. When I answered honestly, she threatened to sue me for libel!! Nice gal. What kind of customer support would I have gotten?
   In spectacular contrast, a breeder of champions near Salt Lake City who also sells puppies online invited me into her home with no notice at all. Two beautifully groomed toy poodles ran out to lick my face as I was ushered into an immaculate home where four or five happy, well-loved poodles lived in heaven. I was shown plush fenced lawns and meticulous recordkeeping. After removing my shoes and washing my hands, I was even allowed to visit the spotless nursery and watch young puppies toddle through a doggie door to piddle. I petted a sweet young mama dog nursing her fat week-old puppies and eagerly put a deposit on one--for less than the puppy mill had asked!!
     With such vastly different breeders posting equally convincing websites, what can you do if you can’t spend the time or gas money to personally check them out ?
     3. Get References: Ask their veterinarian whether the parents and pups are healthy, well cared for, and pleasant. Ask what health screening the puppies receive. But remember that veterinarians only see animals brought to them, not the conditions in which they are raised. Sometimes vets will unknowingly write recommendations that end up on puppy mill websites.
   So find out the street address of the breeder and call the neighbors. Offer to pay a local veterinary technician or the librarian or someone to visit the home. Check whether any complaints have been made to the local animal control. Check for online feedback on different websites. Word of mouth opinions are valuable.
   But what if you (bless your heart) are getting a pup or adult dog from a shelter? Then you must rely completely on the attitude of the dog.
     4. Evaluate the puppy: Spend a lot of time petting and loving the puppy. Without scaring him, see how he reacts to sounds and quick movements. Test his dominance level by holding a paw gently while talking happily. If he tries to pull his paw back, gently keep it while cooing nicely. A very dominant pup will mouth or even bite at your hand. A nervous pup may whine or get frantic. A well-balanced pup will make a few pulls, maybe implore you with his eyes, and then just decide to let you hold his hand.  
   Whether considering a puppy from a local ad, a shelter, a basket in the parking lot of the grocery store, a professional, or a distant website, don’t be in a hurry. Follow these four rules--Meet the Parents, Visit the Birthplace, Get References, Evaluate the Puppy---and you will have a great chance of a sweet relationship with a happy, healthy dog.
Vivian Stoppel
Retired, Founder
Scotch Pines Dog Training and Boarding
New Plymouth, ID

Vivian, together with her husband, Will, founded Scotch Pines Dog Training in 1994 in Payette, ID. When she retired, Will took on the mantle of trainer in addition to operating a boarding facility. In 2006, their daughter April Stoppel Jantz became the owner/trainer, currently giving classes in Nampa, Boise, Meridian, and Fruitland. Will and Vivian continue to operate Scotch Pines Doggy Camp in New Plymouth. From its founding through today, thanks to the support of veterinarians throughout the Treasure Valley, 12,000 dogs have been enrolled in Scotch Pines Dog Training. www.//scotchpinesdogtraining.com

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