Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

So many cute puppies — where do you start?

Many puppies are gifted with perfect homes. We love that. Sadly, some are the wrong fit from the get-go. When planning to pick a puppy, start with common sense. If you are not a robust physical specimen or if you have a small yard, get a small dog. A human couch potato and a mountain climber should be looking for different sizes and personalities.

Puppy temperament testing is supported by science, but it’s controversial, including among veterinary behaviorists. A lot can change in those developing, immature canine brains. Who knows what behaviors may lurk now and appear later? There are no guarantees, but you can objectively evaluate each fuzzy candidate and find pretty good predictors of adult behavior, including future challenges.

Relationships matter. I’m talking about you and the breeder/foster. These folks love their parent dogs and they’re proud as punch of those adorable offspring. If you are patient, you can visit these puppy sources before the youngsters are ready for their forever homes, in fact while the mama is still in “a family way,” or even before her first date with that canine suitor attired in a white sport coat and a pink carnation. Good breeders are motivated to get to know people like you because they want only the best pet parents.

Foster homes and shelters are certainly worth visiting. If you’re lucky, mom might be nearby. Watch her from a distance, and then squat down and invite her to chat. Offering a biscuit is always polite, but she won’t care much about who takes the kids off her paws. And forget about dad, the bum. He’s already changed his identity and hopped a freight for Chicago.

Ask questions. Breeders and foster folks can provide the medical and behavioral histories of their puppies’ families. Ask for photos and videos of mom and dad, of the litter from Day One, and, of course, their delightful antics as they nurse, learn to walk, play and eat. OMG! You’ll want all of them! Please pick just one.

Next week: The short list of applicants.

PET PROBLEMS?: For help with behavior problems, you can sign up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.

dr Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in person and in groups via Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week, he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.

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