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It’s official, puppy fever has taken over your household and you’ve decided to add a four-legged family member. But before you rush out to find the closest puppy, there are many things you need to take into consideration.

“When the time is right to get a puppy you first need to see if you have the room, time and finances for the type of dog you want,” says WVMA Member, Dr. Richard Weaver. “Do you live in a small apartment? Do you have a yard for a bigger dog? Do you have the time to enjoy a high energy dog? Do you want a dog that is good with kids? Do you want a long hair or short hair dog? Do you mind a dog that sheds?”puppies

After finding these answers, there is one more important question: Would you like to buy from a shelter, rescue or a breeder?

If you choose to go through a shelter or rescue, Dr. Weaver recommends spending a lot of time with the dog before deciding to add them to your family.

All rescues, shelters, and breeders who sell over 25 dogs a year are required to be registered with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. To receive their license certain criteria must be met. To learn more about these requirements, visit https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Programs_Services/DogSellerLicensing.aspx.

If you choose not to go through a shelter or rescue, you will need to find a breeder and visit the parents of your potential puppy.

“See if the parents are friendly and fun because personality is a trait. If you like the parents, then go and see the puppies,” recommends Dr. Weaver. “Often, there will be an alpha and a quieter puppy. The alpha puppy will need a little more training than the quieter one, but both can become great dogs.”

After deciding on the puppy or dog that is best for you, the breeder, shelter or rescue should give you a 7-10 day period to return the pet after you have it examined by a veterinarian. According to Dr. Weaver, they should also give you the vaccine and treatment history for the animal.

“The next step is to set up an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible, they want you to start out with a great puppy,” he says.

For your first veterinary appointment, Dr. Weaver recommends bringing the whole family. While the exam will vary from clinic to clinic, a general first appointment will consist of the doctor reviewing the information provided by the breeder/shelter/rescue, and then checking the puppy from nose to tail.

“We talk about the exam as it is performed and are looking to see that all the senses are functioning normal. We will put the puppy through a few tests to assess its personality by holding it like their mom would, holding them like a football and placing it on its side,” he says. “We then check to see when it was dewormed and check a fecal (stool) sample for worms. Don't worry if your puppy has worms, I like it because it is developing the immune system and it is very easy to treat. We recommend that the puppy gets vaccinated at 8, 12, 16 and possibly 20 weeks of age. Why possibly 20 weeks? Twenty five percent of puppies are still susceptible to Parvo virus at this age. We will also start heartworm and flea preventative at this stage too.”

Once your puppy is home, it’s time to start training them.

“To help with housebreaking, I recommend getting a kennel based on the full size of your dog,” says Dr. Weaver. “The puppy will be kept in the kennel at all times except if you are watching him or her.”

When you are watching your puppy, he recommends having them on a leash that you are either holding or are attached to.

“When I am in the kitchen, I will put an eye hook under the cabinet and I will put the puppy on a four-foot leash. This way the puppy is keeping his area clean. If he poops or piddles within the leash area, I will shorten the leash,” he says. “A puppy does not want to sleep in a dirty area, it will walk a few feet away and make that area its bathroom.”

When you see your puppy start to have an accident, he recommends that you clap your hands or make a loud and startling sound. Then pick up your puppy and take them outside. If he poops or piddles outside give him a treat. It won't take him long to realize if he poops or piddles outside he or she will get a treat. After two months of no accidents, Dr. Weaver believes you can consider them house broken.

“Remember, one accident a week is 52 a year,” he warns. “I do not want that in my house.”

Another benefit of using this leash method is that it will prevent the puppy from chewing on children. If the puppy is on their leash and starts to chew on the children, they can simply move out of reach of the leash and the puppy will have no one to play with.

“After a few times, the puppy will know not to chew on the children if they want to play,” he says.

When it comes to feeding your puppy, Dr. Weaver recommends sticking with a name brand pet food that doesn’t give your puppy gas or cases of diarrhea or vomiting.

“Let the puppy have as much food it will eat within 15 minutes. This sounds like a lot, but remember this is a growing puppy,” he says. “After your pet is around five months of age you will be able to see how much food they will need daily to maintain a great weight.”

Before setting the food down for your puppy, make them sit.

“They need to listen to earn their meal,” he says. “I also recommend having them eat their meal out of your hand for the first few weeks, so they learn not to be protective of their food.”

When your puppy is six months old, it is time to have them spayed or neutered.

“You can do this earlier, but I wait until after all their adult teeth are in because some pets do not lose all their puppy teeth,” says Dr. Weaver. “By taking the extra puppy teeth out at the same time as the spay or neuter, they do not have to go under two anesthetics.”

While it is good to get your puppy used to regular baths, he warns against bathing your animal too much as it can dry out their skin.

“I recommend bathing your pet when it smells like a dog,” he says. “This may be only three times a year or once a month. The dog only sweats from its tongue and the four pads of its feet so it may not smell as quickly as you think.”

No matter where your new family member comes from or what breed they are, by working with your veterinarian you can ensure they are a great fit for your family and lifestyle.

If you have any questions regarding the best type of dog for your lifestyle, or what getting a puppy entails, contact your local WVMA member veterinarian. To find a veterinary clinic near you, visit https://wvma.org/findaclinic.

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