Late spring and early summer present the best opportunity to get that new puppy or kitten your family has been clamoring for. Most female dogs come into season twice a year with Mother Nature encouraging births in the warmer months for the survival of the pups. While winter litters are slightly more critical to raise, nowadays survival rates are excellent and winter puppies tend to be hardy and adaptable. Cats are considered seasonal breeders and normally have litters when the days grow longer, April through September. However, these generalizations are not firm since the advent of electricity and heated homes have lengthened breeding biology in both species.
So let’s imagine it is a perfect day in June and you are going across town to check out a litter of puppies or kittens. First, you have done your homework and decided on a breed that fits your family’s lifestyle. Our hypothetical family wants a medium-sized, average-energy dog that will be a trainable family pet, happy with adults and kids. This puppy will have to fit into a busy household but will go on walks, take a training class or two and get lots of affection from the family. This hypothetical puppy, let’s say a Labradoodle, is going to live with you for the next 12 to 15 years. That’s a long time, and you want to be as confident as possible about choosing the right puppy. Nine adorable little fuzz balls of cuteness are about to surround you. Which one do you choose?
This scenario also applies to cats where certain breeds are known to be “wilder” while others have a more domestic temperament. Do your research on breeds and, if possible, go to a few cat shows and network with various cat breeders. They will give you invaluable advice about what characteristics you can expect from different breeds.
Now, back to our hopeful puppy owner. In chatting with your potential puppy breeder prior to this visit, you completed the second phase of your homework by talking with a few Labradoodle breeders and probably filling out their questionnaires. Hopefully, the breeder you picked has studied this information and may have a likely puppy candidate in mind for you. Remember that the breeder has been interacting with this litter for the past eight weeks and she or he has some pretty good insights into the temperament of each puppy. Listen carefully, but in the end, trust your own judgment. Unethical breeders will occasionally try to push a difficult puppy onto an unwary buyer just to get the puppy out of the house. Responsible breeders want each pet placement to be a success for the new owner and the pet.
How Do You Pick the Perfect Pet?
In the course of your lifetime, your opportunities to choose a pet will be limited to a precious few. But as someone who has been involved in the hobby of dog breeding for 20+ years and helped make many successful placements, here are a few suggestions for improving your chances of getting the pet of your dreams when you choose your next puppy or kitten.
- When you enter a breeder’s home sniff, look, and listen. Are you smelling stinky litter or puppy feces? Are you seeing grungy towels and unclean toys? Are you hearing excessive frantic barking or overwrought yowling? Are water dishes empty and food dishes dirty? All bad signs indicate a lack of proper care which could result in physically/emotionally stressed pups or kittens.
- Talk to the breeder and get a sense of their integrity and love for the breed. Before you meet the little ones is a good time to check health certificates, and any credentials, look at contracts, etc. Good breeders are proud to share that information with you. And don’t forget, they are sizing you up at the same time.
- If possible, spend a few minutes with the puppies’ mother and father. Often fathers live in other locations, but seeing a photo and getting some insight from the breeder is helpful. Usually, the mom is around and you can interact with her. Just remember she might not look her best after having a busy litter of puppies and she may be tired.
- When you are introduced to the litter relax and take your time. Sit on the floor or ask for a chair so you can comfortably observe the individual pups or kittens. If there are children with you, keep them calm and do not let them get focused on the first puppy that approaches them. That is not the best way to choose a pet. This is the time to discuss the breeder’s recommendations and take them into consideration.
- Most people want a puppy that is sociable. When looking at nine beautiful puppies, look for a puppy that is a part of the pack, not sitting alone or hiding or being ignored by his littermates. Those behaviors can indicate an introverted personality (which is perfectly fine if that fits your lifestyle but is not practical for most family situations).
- When observing puppies some may display dominant behaviors: direct stares, upright tails, challenging body postures, loud barking, bossy with siblings. Dominant puppies can make wonderful companions but are not for novices. If you fall in love with a dominant puppy expect more dog training classes and you must train your whole family to be very consistent with commands.
- Submissive puppies may pee when you look at or approach them. They will usually cower, roll on their back, tuck their tail, and avoid eye contact. With gentle training, these pups can also become great companions. Building trust will be important and, again, your behavior must be low-key and consistent.
- Look for an affectionate puppy. One who is enjoying him- or herself and seems to be interested in you.
- Pick up each puppy and note their reactions. Do they become wild, stiffen or act nervous? Not good. When you gently handle them and roll them on their back, do they relax quickly and gaze into your eyes? Very good. Gently stroke all over and be alert for any sore spots which might indicate a health problem.
- Make sure the puppy interacts well with all family members.
Picking a puppy is similar to falling in love. Generally, we know why we like someone yet there is always that indescribable extra sense of specialness that tips liking into love. It’s the same when discovering your new family member. Whether you are looking for a kitten or a puppy, two or three in a litter may meet your criteria. But it might be a little spark of mischief in their eye or an especially sweet nose bump or warm lick that wins your heart, and suddenly you feel this is the one. Pay attention to the details for that is often where love blooms.
By Carol Kendig