It's official...we are obsessed with our new baby! We adopted Griffin at 9 weeks old and it's been an amazing process to see him grow and learn. So many lessons learned, which I'm sure could help a few dog parents! None on housetraining, which we are still working on. Every time we think he's had a breakthrough, he pees on the carpet. Not. Cool.
1) Purebred vs. Mutt - We didn't have a particular preference, but knew we wanted something small (under 20 lbs.) and a male (we'd read that females can be, well, bitches). There are a bunch of online 'breed quizzes' you can take that will match you with certain breeds. Take into consideration your lifestyle (if you are super active, a toy breed may not be a good match) and work situation (if you work late most nights, consider the more independent breeds, rather than companion breeds). Also, be prepared for grooming and care responsibilities that come along with a long-haired breed. If you are looking at mixes, know the parent breeds to get a sense of temperament (Griffin likes to cuddle with us like Shih Tzus, but also gets a bit fiesty and sneaky like Brussels Griffons).
2) Buy vs. Rescue - I am personally a proponent of rescuing. Yes, you can find that purebred toy breed, or the designer mix you love through rescue. No, not all pet stores support puppy mills, but MANY do, and it's difficult for them to know for sure if they have puppy mill pups. We went through Petfinder.com, and spent months looking at listings and applying. We also kept an eye on breed-specific rescue groups. In the end, we were able to help a great rescue organization (which also happened to be a registered 403b), and find our perfect pup. Truth be told, many of the puppies in rescue originated from puppy mills...but they may end up in a foster home where they will receive some socialization...a nice bonus. Furthermore, I'm not necessarily opposed to breeders. I just think that there are SO many puppies and adult dogs out there, waiting to be rescued and adopted...too many are euthanized while more are bred (ethically and unethically). It just doesn't make sense! My only caveat is if you are looking at specific breed with certain health issues (like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels), in which case knowing the pedigree and health of past generations is critical.
3) Study, study, study...and then Improvise - We read a stack of books on everything from Puppy 101 guidelines to Dog Health. It definitely made us feel more comfy with the process and helped us get prepared. But honestly, every dog is different, and many of the things that worked with Griffin were tricks we created, after nothing from the books worked. Oh and remember, everyone will have an opinion for you about training...just figure out what works best for your pup and stick to it (or join a puppy class, which we did)!
4) Socialization - This is the buzzword among NYC dog owners, since we all live on top of each other and each other's pets. As soon as you receive the go-ahead from your vet (we did about a week after his second round of shots), take your pup out into the world! Have him meet anybody and everybody (if you have a puppy, you will be stopped constantly anyway)...kids, elderly, men, women, big dogs, small dogs, etc. It will go a long way to helping your dog become well-balanced, polite, and loved by all. Griffin is fast becoming the neighborhood favorite, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
5) Poop - Especially if you get a puppy, you will examine each poop like a detective. When Griffin poops, we throw a potty party on the sidewalk, then get to our detective work. Is he still eating carpet fluffs? Is there any blood (he has a sensitive GI, and gets irritated frequently)? How big is it (ie: will he have to go again in an hour)? Oh and just so you know, puppies get diarrhea. A lot. Deal.
6) Take pictures and video. All. The. Time. - I barely remember that I could practically fit Griffin in my hand when we picked him up. Thankfully, we look through our albums and videos constantly to remind ourselves. They grow up fast. Document it!