Know what you are looking for. Are you wanting a family companion, guard dog or show/competition candidate? Knowing what you’re looking for will help keep you on track as you talk to breeders about their dogs and litters. This is where you’ll want to think about health and longevity –how important is it that the breeder screen his/her dogs for things like Hip AND Elbow dysplasia and genetic diseases like Degenerative Myelopathy? Don’t be afraid to ask to see copies of the health certifications for the parents –think twice if the breeder can’t produce them. Chances are you will want to stack the deck in your favor of having a companion that is happy and healthy for years to come.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Good breeders are always happy to answer questions and help educate people about their dogs. If you feel like you’re getting the brush off or your questions are an annoyance…just remember that is how you’ll feel after you purchase the puppy and need help with something.
Pick a Breeder – Then a Puppy
Ask about the breeders goals, and what they enjoy doing with their dogs. If a breeder’s goals and interests match your own you will be more likely to get the right puppy. For example, if a breeder’s main interests lay in Schutzhund/IPO competition or producing police dogs then their blood lines and litters will naturally be filled with high energy/high drive working line dogs. Imagine the frustration of the puppy and family if they wanted a family companion who would maybe go boating, play ball or take walks with them, and the dog is bred to WORK hard all day and wants to go to bed tired from it!
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Many people ask me for my thoughts about indoor crates and outdoor kennels for their dogs. Often they feel they bad about confining their puppy. But here are some reasons to consider crate training!
Accidents Happen – during house training a young dog will give you signals such as sniffing the floor and wandering away to a secluded place in the house that he/she needs to go outside. In a perfect world we would always notice and immediately take the puppy outside, and once outside the puppy would automatically ‘take care of their business’. In the real world we take a shower, make dinner, or talk on the phone – with only limited awareness of our puppy’s behavior. A crate allows us to be able to keep the puppy close at hand where we can more easily monitor him. If we have taken the puppy outside and puppy just wants to play or explore, sometimes placing the puppy in the crate for 5 or 10 minutes and then taking them back outside is the break the puppy needs to realize ‘hey’ I really did need to go potty! Crates help eliminate accidents and therefore speed up the house training process.
Un-Attended Puppies get into trouble – most toys come with the warning to supervise the dog while they are engaged with the toy. This is certainly true of the German Shepherd Dog puppy that has never met a toy he couldn’t destroy! A puppy loose in the house may quickly shred pillows, chew on knobs and cart off the remotes, so once again a crate keeps the puppy safe and keeps your relationship positive!
Safety: Crates keep puppy safe. If you have a lot of company or are going in and out the front door of your home, keeping puppy in a crate means she is not being stepped on or bolting passed you into the world! Crates or seat belt systems are important to keep your dog safe when traveling as well. Of course teaching a dog not to chew on certain items is important, but it is a process and the crate is a great tool during that process.
So how to introduce your puppy to his crate? I like to start with a crate placed in a quiet corner but close to the family. I place the puppy in the crate with toys or a special treat for just a few minutes (start with 5 minutes). Do this several times during the day. Try to pick times when puppy is tired and ready to relax. Night time crating takes a little patience as puppy may complain a bit, but usually they will settle in quickly. Keep the crate close to whomever is in charge to taking puppy outside at night, so that they can hear restless movement, whining or scratching at the bottom of the crate indicating puppy needs to go outside.
One last word on Outdoor Kennel areas: Outdoor kennels can be important. Most fenced yards are great for fido to explore and contain him when you are home, however – can the dog dig under or climb over your fencing? If so, you may want to add a outdoor kennel area to contain Fido when you are away for a bit. This is also true if there are plants that would be dangerous for your pup, or landscaping you don’t want bored Fido to destroy. More on outdoor kennels to follow in another blog, but you may want to consider installing one for your puppy.