National Puppy Day is to recognize the special love a pup can bring to your family and to raise awareness about shelter puppies. In honor of this day, pet expert Andrea Arden, co-host of Animal Planet's "Underdog to Wonderdog," shared tips on "The Early Show" for how to choose the perfect pup.
Arden says the first priority when selecting a puppy is to carefully consider all that is involved with having a dog join your family.
"A dog is a long term commitment, hopefully 15 years, and raising and caring for a pup requires effort and financial expense in order to do so responsibly," she said.
She said the annual cost of caring for a dog can be anywhere from $500-$2,500 depending on the dog's size, age and health.
"Before you commit to adopting a dog, be sure it is the right time for your family," she said. "Far too many people get a puppy when they aren't prepared and end up surrendering the dog to a shelter once it is an adolescent or adult."
Additionally, Arden says potential puppy owners should sit the whole family down to discuss what each member hopes for in regards to their relationship with the dog. This 'Puppy Wish List,' Arden says, will help guide you through the selection process once you head to the shelter at which point you should consider:
1. Activity Level: All healthy puppies have loads of energy. But, some dogs have lots more than others. Do you think your family will do best with a super active dog, a dog who tends to be more of a couch potato, or something in between? Consider your daily routine and activities and what part you hope your dog will play.
2. Size: A dog's size plays a part in the average cost of their care (especially in regards to food). For example, a premium food costs about $1 pound per food. So, a small dog by virtue of size is going to eat less. If your family is choosing a very large dog, be sure to consider the cost and the space the dog will need.
3. Grooming Needs: Some people really enjoy the time spent grooming a dog with a longer coat. But, if not, a dog with a smooth, short coat that is more wash-and-wear is probably best.
4. Temperament: A dog's general personality or temperament should be a top priority. Is your family more interested in the dog that is a party animal, ready to meet and greet everyone? Would they be most comfortable with the dog that is more laid back? Or would they be best suited for a dog that is more middle-of-the-road?
Arden added, "It is easier to get a more accurate gauge of an adult dog's personality than a pup's. But, spending time with a puppy and doing a bit of a temperament test with the assistance of the shelter staff, is a lot better than random selection based solely on the cuteness factor."
She recommends taking each individual pup you are considering to a more isolated area to spend as much time with them as possible.
"Be observant of the pup's demeanor from the moment you walk in," she said.
When you're interacting with the puppy, watch to see:
1. Does the pup initiate interactions with you?
2. Does the pup tend to follow you when you move about the room or is he or she more likely to focus on the environment?
3. How does the pup react to a loud noise, such as dropping a book on the ground? All dogs may be momentarily startled, but how long does it take the pup to recover?
Arden added that potential puppy owners should remember that a pup's behavior can be strongly affected by particular experiences on a specific day. So, if possible, you should try to meet the pup a couple of times, on different days.
"A bare minimum 15 to 30 minutes with a dog and you see it a couple of times, especially with a puppy, she said. "If you can't make this commitment, you probably are making a rash decision. You should at least promise yourself you will meet it twice."
When you have chosen the pup you think is best for your family, Arden recommended getting the puppy started off right when you first bring him or her into your home.
"Be sure to have a crate for resting, a 6-foor leash for on-leash supervision, so you can prevent the pup from running about the house and making mistakes, and plenty of food stuffable chew toys to keep the pup happily occupied doing something right," she said. "And be sure to sign up for a puppy training class as soon as possible!"
Special thanks to the Bideawee Foundation for loaning us the puppies seen on our broadcast. They are all up for adoption.
Roxie, 6 months old, sheltie mix, 26 lbs
Lara, 2 months old, beagle mix
Whitney, 2 months old, beagle mix