By Linda Michaels, M.A. Psychology — Del Mar Dog Training
This is an excerpt from Linda’s new book, Do No Harm™ Dog Training and Behavior Manual, available to download here.
Adopting a dog or puppy
Shelters and rescue groups are great sources to find your forever companion – and what a great feeling you will have when you save a life! Adoptable dogs are already neutered/spayed and have up-to-date vaccinations and microchips. Although puppies are extremely and impossibly cute, a house-trained adult dog may make an easier transition into your home life.
Local and breed-specific adoption agencies, shelters, and rescue groups have thousands of good dogs of every breed, size, age, and description who are looking for forever homes. Check out Petfinder or the Best Friends Animal Society. Research the rescue or shelter and try to find a rescue group or facility that has met not only your dog’s biological needs, but is aware of her emotional, social, and cognitive needs, a rescue who supports “Do No Harm™”/force-free training methods. Rescues and shelters who already use the Hierarchy of Dog Needs guide help insure your dog has been treated well in their care.
Adopting during the holiday season is especially popular. For example, the Helen Woodward Animal Center holiday adoption drive partners with nearly 3,500 animal organizations worldwide to find homes for orphaned pets.
If you choose not to adopt: How to identify a good breeder and a healthy puppy
Avoid supporting online puppy mills that typically ship a puppy to you. You want to verify the breeding protocols so you will receive a healthy puppy.
Here are some questions you should ask your prospective breeders.
- May I visit the place where your puppies are bred?
- What can you tell me about the health of your dogs’ ancestors?
- Who bred each parent and how can I get in touch with them?
- What did the grandparents die of, and how old were they? Just like people, the best predictors of puppy health are the longevity of parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
- What sort of temperament and personalities do the parent dogs have? Temperament is genetic and personality is the result of how that temperament is modified by socialization and the dog’s environment.
- What kind of socialization do you give your puppies?
- What do you feed them?
- Do you vaccinate them before they leave for their new homes?
See Kerosote, 2014, for a brilliant account of the factors impacting dog longevity.
The best breeders raise your puppy indoors around a variety of people, including strangers and children outside of the immediate family. They also introduce the puppy to dogs outside of the litter and home-dogs, so your puppy is both people and dog-friendly.
Visit the mother dog and inspect the entire kennel grounds to insure that the facility meets your standards of kind treatment and cleanliness. The adult dogs should not be fearful or aggressive.
Be prepared to wait for a puppy. Good breeders won’t release a puppy under seven weeks old and they breed a limited number of litters per year. If possible, visit your puppy regularly from weeks 4-8 to nurture the human-animal bond.
By the time your puppy is seven weeks old, they should have been
- Handled every day
- Met dozens of people, including calm children
- Heard all sorts of noises on a low to medium level
- Met numerous vaccinated friendly dogs of all ages and breeds
- Had remedial housetraining, chew-toy training, and prevention of separation anxiety training.
A good breeder:
- Provides medical records of tests performed. That’s what we call “papers”. If the breeder has not posted their dogs’ health certifications on their websites, ask if these tests had been done, and if they have not, remove these dogs and this breeder from your list immediately. If you don’t, you could be setting yourself up for a painful emotional experience and huge financial risk with the puppy.
- Provides health guarantees
- Provides several generations of pedigree lineage
- Encourages you to check their veterinary and other references.
For a breeder referral, you may contact a breeder who lists on the Puppy Culture Breeder Map, although there is no Puppy Culture certification process and these breeders are self-selected. You may want to visit the AKC Future Dog Owner pages as well.
How to select a puppy from a litter
Choose a puppy that all members of your family like, and a puppy that likes everyone in the family. Choose a puppy that is huggable if that is important to you, however, most dogs do not like to be hugged; it is a human desire. Contrary to popular myth, the most easily-trained pick of the litter is often the middle puppy rather than the largest, smallest, most, or least active puppy. Choose a puppy who can hold their own ground without pushing the other puppies around. Observe the puppies interacting with each other and with their mother for at least two hours in order to evaluate current behavior, elimination habits, and chew habits already being practiced.
The Do No Harm™ Dog Training Manual was designed as my own personal guide for teaching basic manners classes, and evolved into a reference manual for my private behavior consultations. Created as a practical guide for either or both training formats, it is also helpful for pet parents who want an inside look at dog training and behavior, as well as for those who seek force-free solutions for specific problems. Written with love for the “heartbeats at our feet”. You can purchase the manual here: