It is finally Spring! Springtime is a time of new birth and life. Grass is turning green, trees are budding, flowers are beginning to bloom, and the “birds and the bees” are active (if you know what I mean wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Spring is the time for renewed life on mother Earth as well as new life for the creatures that live on it. This means … lots of little babies!
The longer days, warmer weather, moisture in the air (and no snow…yeah), and plentiful food makes Spring the most perfect time of year for animal babies to be born. Animal babies are everywhere, and not just out in nature. Spring and Summer is also the time of year when a large number of puppies are born.
With all these new puppies around many of us start to contemplate bringing a new furry family member into our home by getting a dog or puppy. Spring means there are a lot more puppies around but there are many older dogs that need homes as well. So you begin to question if you want to adopt a puppy or dog and if you should adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue or perhaps from a breeder or pet store.
You should feel good about your decision and the place you adopt your dog or puppy from, so let’s talk about your options. You can take it all in and make a decision that works best for you.
Dogs can mate any time of the year but like with other animals, breeding often happens in the spring and puppies are then born approximately two months later. Since dogs can breed year-round, some sources indicate there really is not a rise in the number of puppies in the spring while other sources indicate that puppy numbers might be slightly higher in the spring and summer.
Maybe the real reason we start looking to adopt a puppy or dog in the spring isn’t that there are more of them around, it’s that we feel invigorated, full of life, and motivated to want to spend time outside. It’s a time to smile in the sun, take walks, and let the wind blow through your hair and who better to do that with than a new furry companion.
Adopting a Puppy
Adopting a new puppy is a very exciting prospect! That tiny bundle of fluffiness and cuteness is uber hard to resist. Watching them play is about the cutest thing ever, or could it be watching them sleep? When they snuggle up with you or look at you with those puppy eyes, it instantly melts your heart.
Puppies are absolutely awesome but they are also a lot of work. Bringing a puppy into your family means you and your family will need to be spending a lot of time with that puppy, especially the first year. Puppies pretty much need constant supervision and direction during the first few months of life. You need to:
- teach them how to behave in your home and in public
- teach them where and where not to go potty
- teach them where they can and cannot be
- direct them how to spend time nondestructively
- make sure they are staying out of trouble
- take them to obedience training (as much for you as it is for the puppy)
As they continue to grow you will need to continue to direct and shape their behaviors and personality.
If you have a flexible schedule, work at home, stay home a lot, or have family members that are home most of the day, a puppy could be a great choice for you!
If this all seems a bit too much for you for like it wouldn’t fit into your lifestyle very well, maybe an older dog would be a better choice for you.
Adopting an Older Dog
Adopting an older dog can be an awesome choice for some people! You get to bypass the intense, time-consuming, and often destructive puppy stages of life such as potty training and teething.
Depending on the dog’s situation before they were put up for adoption some may already have some obedience training and be house-trained. Although it’s important to know that although a dog may have been previously house-trained many often revert back to bad potty habits for a while due to the stress of homelessness, adoption, and a new home.
Once an older dog gets used to you, your family, your home, and your routine they often settle in contently and are eager to be your and your family’s new best buddy.
Adopting an older dog often means you do not know about that dog’s life prior to adopting him/her. That dog may have lived a blissful, happy life or could have been neglected or abused. Something to definitely keep in mind with an older dog is you are inheriting behaviors that dog has developed up until meeting you. There may be some behavioral issues you may have to work with and be patient and tolerant of until the dog gets to know and trust you, your routine, family, friends, etc.
If you have children be sure the older dog you adopt is used to being around children. Children can be very stressful for a dog that is fearful or just not used to the energy and playfulness of kids. Some dogs honestly just do not deal with children very well.
Purchasing Directly from a Breeder
Purchasing a purebred dog or puppy directly from a dog breeder is usually a pricey decision. Some people prefer to buy a purebred puppy since (in general) you can reliably predict the temperament and behavior of a pedigreed dog more so than a random-bred dog. But, getting a dog from a breeder does not automatically guarantee good behavior or health. Inga Fricke of the Humane Society of the U.S. states “it’s not like buying a washing machine with a guarantee”.
If buying from a breeder is a consideration for you, the American Kennel Club (AKC) stresses the importance of finding a responsible breeder that you trust. The AKC offers tips for finding and working with a responsible breeder.
- Visit the AKC Marketplace: PuppyFinder. This is the official site for AKC registered litters and puppies.
- Check out the AKC’s Breeder of Merit Program. Breeders of Merit are dedicated to producing well socialized, healthy puppies that preserve the breed characteristics.
- Check out the Bred with H.E.A.R.T. Program. Breeders in this program have continued their education and have met specific health testing standards.
- Get a minimum of two references! In essence, breeders work for you so be sure to get at least two recent (within the past year) references of previous clients. Ask those references a lot of questions!
- Visit the breeder’s facility in person. Observe the breeder and the dogs.
- Ask the breeder a lot of questions! The breeder should be patient, informative, explaine things clearly, and have a good rapport with you.
- Find out if the breeder is in good standing with the AKC by calling AKC customer service at 919-233-9767 or emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org
- See the puppy’s parents. Observe their behavior, temperament, and physical health.
- Get a full medical history.
- If you decide to purchase a puppy from breeder, get documentation of the puppy’s pedigree.
Purchasing from a Pet Store
Purchasing a puppy from a pet store is also a pricier and riskier decision. Scouring the Internet, the general opinion and belief is that pet stores get their puppies from breeding farms, or in other words puppy mills.
Many pet stores will swear that their puppies come from reputable breeders, although if pressed, the staff may have little or no knowledge of where the puppy came from or the condition of the kennel. Petfinder.com indicates reputable breeders for the most part will not sell to pet stores because a reputable breeder will want to be sure their puppies are going to good homes.
In addition, when buying from a pet store you are not able to observe the breeder’s facility; the puppy’s parents; the dog’s behavior at the breeding facility; nor are you able to get references of former breeder clients. The pet store might not even have any of this information to give you.
Ask the pet store as many questions as possible about the puppy’s upbringing, breeder, breeder facility, sisters and brothers, etc. Be sure to get documentation of the puppy’s pedigree and definitely be sure to ask about any sort of health or behavior warranties/guarantees.
It is a sad situation because it is not the puppy’s fault that they were born and raised in a puppy mill. My general feeling is that these puppies deserve a home just as much as any other. And I wonder, if puppies are not purchased while they are at the pet store and get “too old”, where do these puppies then go?
Purchasing a pet store and potentially a puppy mill puppy, is potentially putting money into the hands of the puppy miller, which is not a good thing. But I feel it is also not okay to make the puppies suffer for how they were brought into this world. As you can tell, at least for me, purchasing from a pet store is quite a moral struggle. You will have to weigh the pros and cons of this one and see if it is the right choice for you.
Adopting a Shelter Pet
A shelter or rescue dog can be an amazing new family member and companion! I often feel that animals know when they’ve been given a second chance and they are appreciative. I’ve adopted four rescue animals throughout my life and all have been incredibly affectionate, loving, wonderful additions; I can’t imagine not having them in my life.
Pets are surrendered to an animal shelter, humane society, or rescue for several different reasons. Many are found as strays, surrendered as a litter, surrendered by a loving owner for personal reasons, or surrendered because the original owner is severely ill or has passed away. Sadly, others are surrendered or confiscated due to neglect or abuse.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) indicates “Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs”. Of those 3.3 million dogs approximately:
- 620,000 are returned to their owners
- 6 million are adopted, and
- 670,000 are euthanized
You can find dogs ranging from puppy stage to senior stage at a rescue or shelter. If you adopt a dog or puppy from a shelter or rescue you give that dog a second chance at life.
- You are saving the life of an animal that has been given up on, lost, or abandoned.
- There is often a great selection of dogs of all ages, sizes, and breeds (shelters even often have purebred dogs).
- You pay less!
- Dogs receive excellent medical care at the rescue/shelter.
- You help break the cycle of overpopulation. Most rescues and shelters neuter or spay animals prior to their adoption or require it as part of the adoption agreement.
- You help stop cruelty in mass breeding/puppy mill facilities by not supporting their practices.
- You are associated with the shelter/rescue which can be a valuable resource throughout the life of your new pet.
If you adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue they might even have some obedience training under their furry belt and they might even be house-trained! Make note though that even if it dog was house-trained prior to meeting you, they might revert back to bad potty behaviors once moving to a new home. The stress of being surrendered, the adoption process, and moving to a new home with new people can often cause dogs to revert back to some undesired behaviors. But with love and patience these behaviors can often be overcome quite quickly.
A downside to adopting a rescue puppy or dog is that the dog’s history is often not known. Similar to adopting an older dog, the dog may have had a happy life before meeting you and may fall in quickly and nicely with their new home and new routine, or you may inherit some behaviors and fears the dog has developed in it’s prior life.
Don’t let this hold you back, with patience and love even dogs with ‘issues’ can become blissfully happy and content members of your family.
If you have/will have children and are considering adopting an older dog from a rescue or shelter, try to find out if the dog is accustomed to being around children. Children can be very stressful for a dog that is fearful or just not used to the energy and playfulness of kids.
A great website to find an adoptable dog is Petfinder.com. Petfinder.com is a directory of nearly 14,000 adoption organizations and animal shelters across the United States, Mexico, and Canada. You can see dogs available from all of these organizations all in one place.
Adopting a Puppy or Dog
When deciding to adopt a puppy or dog it is important to consider your life and lifestyle as it is right now as well as your potential lifestyle and family in the future. When you bring a dog into your life they will be there for many years so it is important to keep that in mind. Bringing a new pet into your life is a big decision, one you should not decide on impulsively but think about and consider extensively before moving ahead.
Have you recently brought a new puppy or older dog into your home?
Tell us about your new family member below in the comments.