This chapter gives you the scoop on what makes puppies tick — and ways to evaluate the best possible puppy for you. In Chapter Three you will find:
Timing — when to look at a litter, when a puppy can go home with you and whether two puppies are a good idea.
Picking a puppy — going in person and all the considerations that can help you make a good choice, along with tips on how to evaluate a puppy’s personality.
Picking and shipping a puppy long-distance — things to know if you send for a puppy from out-of-state.
Developmental periods — how a puppy develops to the twelfth week and how that affects the kind of dog she will become.
There is a general agreement that between six and eight weeks is the best age — right in the middle of the socialization period. There is a general consensus that six weeks is too young because it interrupts the puppy’s socialization to other dogs by removing him from the litter. At seven weeks old a puppy has already formed his personality. Some experts say that exactly forty-nine days of age is the perfect moment for a puppy to leave his nest. While I don’t think people should be marking their calendars and getting too crazy about this, it is true that the forty-ninth day comes up again when personality testing is assessed, so there really may be some essential developmental milestone for a young dog on that day.
Many canine experts feel that taking a puppy younger than eight weeks away from his litter can be a problem because that puppy will miss out on essential interactions with his littermates. Every young dog needs time to learn basic social-pack skills from his brothers, sisters and mother, but if a puppy goes home with you too young, the main deficit is that he will not learn how to modify his bite strength by having practiced with a littermate. This means that when playing with you, your children or other dogs later in life, he may use too much jaw pressure and cause damage without knowing it.
PUPPY’S AGE AT HOMECOMING
SEVEN- TO TWELVE-WEEK-OLD PUPPY (DELICATE BABY STAGE)
- Adorable ball of fluff
- Has no bad habits, is a blank slate for you to fill
- Easily introduced into your life and to the people/ other animals in it
- You can watch her grow up
- No way to predict her final personality and looks
- Needs constant vigilance, correction
- Needs protection from other dogs, children
- Everything goes in the mouth — lots of destruction
- Housebreaking hell: bladder or bowel control for only a few hours
TWELVE-WEEK AND OLDER PUPPY (FRUSTRATING TEENAGER)
- Less fragile than the younger puppy, can exercise and play more fully
- Housebreaking easier, greater physical control
- You can see what he’ll eventually look like
- May have had some training so should be easier for you to train
- No longer the cute stage, may even be going though a gangly phase
- A teenager now, dog can be emotionally flighty, insecure
- Physically gawky, bounding around clumsily, knocking into things
- Leadership issues: testing you; rebelliousness may begin
- If he’s been raised at the breeder’s, he may have “kennel syndrome” (deep fear of everything new: people, objects, noises)
EIGHT MONTHS AND OLDER (MATURE ADULT)
- Probably housebroken, with some training
- Looks and personality are set: you know what you’re getting
- More set in her ways, may not be flexible
- Bad habits and behavior take time to undo
- You don’t know her past and how it affected her
GETTING TWO PUPPIES AT ONCE
Plain and simple, this is a bad idea that sounds good. One puppy at a time is about all that any household can successfully civilize. And if two puppies is bad, two from the same litter is even worse because although the idea sounds warm and fuzzy, you will run the risk of having two dogs who never really shape up. Littermates bond very closely, so if you take two at once it will be a constant struggle to get their attention, get them focused on you instead of each other, and keep them from inciting each other into “illegal activity.”
Ask people with twins what it’s like to have a pair of toddlers in the “terrible twos”! Except with dogs, the terrible twos can last the whole two years from when you get them until about their second birthday — generally speaking, small dogs exit from puppyhood at about a year but the larger breeds take at least two years to really mature. Two puppies at once is a recipe for disaster and destruction: if you think one puppy can do a number on a sofa cushion, you’ve never seen two go at it from opposite corners!
If you want two dogs, then your best bet is to first get one puppy and concentrate on molding that dog into a delightful companion who respects the limits you place on his world. You can get another puppy after about two years — most experts say to not get a second dog any sooner than the second birthday of the first puppy, since he will just be emerging into adulthood by that age.
The first dog will show the ropes to the younger one, who will learn by example. Turn your first puppy into a stellar role model and take half the work out of raising the second puppy.
Next Installment: Picking a Puppy: MEET THE PARENTS. . . .
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner