It was a year ago when our family seriously began our quest to bring home a puppy. Hubby grew up with dogs but I didn’t. Our kids, like many other kids, have been asking for us to bring a dog into our family for a few years. They did research and zoned in on a breed. 

I admit that I had daydreams of what life would be like with a fuzzy little companion. I was convinced it was the right time for our family to bring a bundle of joy into our home. The kids are teens so they’ll be able to help. My schedule is flexible enough for me to be home during the days especially for the first few puppy months. It would be so snuggly to have a fur ball. After all, pets can not only bring joy into a family’s life but also help with stress and …forced, daily exercise.

None of us really knew too much about corgis but research kept coming about how this breed is loyal and make wonderful family pets. Corgis are compact dogs (read: big dog in a little dog body). The parting words from our breeder were, “they are great dogs once you get over the puppy stage.”

We brought Harley home at the end of April and to say it’s been a whirlwind is an understatement! We’ve learned so much about being a puppy family. Now that it’s nearly spring, we know there are others that will start the process as well. It’s an ideal time of year to bring a puppy into your lives. The weather will start getting better and you have the summer to map out the first stages of puppyhood. Yes, there were options of rescuing a puppy or an older dog but that wasn’t the route we ultimately chose. Heather may chime in on that soon as she has a beautiful rescue named Hershey.

Here are some tips that may come in handy for those of you who are thinking it’s time for a puppy:

Tucker Roach

MATCHING YOUR BREED: Of course we all will fall in love certain breeds, but understanding the lineage and history is important. Herders, hounds, sporting, toys, working, and non-working are some of the terms. Knowing what’s ingrained in the breed helps to determine if their personality and temperament is the right kind for you. Are they highly active? Will the breed suit your home and lifestyle? 

BREEDERS AND OTHER SELLERS: If you’re planning to get a pure bred, no doubt you’ll be looking at breeders. Within each breed you’ll be able to easily find reputable breeders with a solid history and healthy lineage. The right route to go but have patience. They aren’t necessarily people who breed to make money. The Canadian Kennel Club of Canada is a good place to start. They maintain breed registries for all purebred dogs including dogs that are top of the class show dogs. Expect to fill out a questionnaire and be interviewed as a potential match. You’ll either be put on a waitlist or you’ll be told to just check in once in a while to see if one is coming a long. It’s not uncommon to be asked to put down a deposit in a year in advance. There are other options out there and some that may not be to your comfort level. Yes, there are people out there who breed as a business. But if it’s a legit business they will have nothing to hide. It really is up to you to do the research. Tread cautiously with pups and dogs available through sites like Kijiji. The only way to find out is to ask a lot of questions and all the questions. Don’t rush in deciding on a puppy. It’s hard not to fall in love immediately and want to scoop up each and every one of them. Remember, this puppy will be with you hopefully for a long time so do your research. Find out their living conditions,  seeing the parents’ disposition and even getting referrals can help. Once you’ve decided on your breeder — there will be a contract between you and them. Even in this situation you may not necessarily have a chance to bring home a puppy just quite yet. Be patient. I’d be wary of anyone who says they can offer you puppy at your command. We had that happen and we ran so fast the other direction! We did visit several and when we zoned in on a breeder we felt comfortable with we just waited until he contacted us with a litter which was a couple months. This breeder allowed us to visit litter when he was comfortable in showing them and there was no pressure to make any decisions. We stayed two hours with one litter before deciding and even then, we didn’t take him home immediately. He stayed in contact with us on the progress of his growth and continued to stay in touch after bringing the pup home.

WHEN TO BRING HOME PUPPY: There is much research supporting the health and wellness of pup and mom recommending that they are not separated till after 8 weeks. Waiting means puppy has more time to find his place in life and will be weaned off mom’s milk at a better age. There is also a lot of learning the pup receives from mom and litter siblings that are crucial at this stage. We picked up our little guy at 10 weeks. Luckily for us, he received extra learning from his momma! AND bonus, the breeder began crate training for us so when he arrived home he was already comfortable.

Ask your breeder what type of items you should have ready for a smooth transition. They will sometimes offer you a part of blanket or hankie that was with the mom as well as some of the food your pup has been consuming. Since we could not find the food that was fed to our little guy, we decided to try something else but used the provided bag of food to transition him into a new diet by mixing in slowly.

FIND YOUR VET: Even before puppy arrives home you’ll want to have a vet ready. Most breeders will have written in their contract that your puppy needs to have a medical examination within the first few days of being home with you. Your vet will require the paperwork, including what vaccines have been administered, they type of food, and the breeder’s vet records, that will come home with puppy.

SUPPORT: The internet has no shortage of information and even specific to a breed. In the early stages, I found it useful to join in Facebook groups for advice – pretty sure there’s at least one FB group for every breed out there. Having said that, take it all with a grain of salt. You quickly learn how common some concerns are and just like anything else, everyone has an opinion. I’ve seen people appear on the social network prior to getting their puppy and asking some great questions. Also, sign up for daily tips from sites like ultimatepuppy.com that offers week-by-week tips that are relevant to the stage of puppyhood you are going through.

PUPPY TRAINING: Start looking into puppy trainers even before you bring home puppy. Often you’ll find local trainers offering puppy classes and those who believe in positive reinforcement training are in very high demand. Not only are these classes invaluable for teaching puppy owners the basic skills but it often offers early socialization opportunities in a supervised environment. Most classes will only accept puppies after having the first set of vaccines so make sure you’re up-to-date. Often, trainers or animal behaviour specialists will have options to come to your home if classes are full or not convenient. In Toronto, two came highly recommended and we worked with both: RaisingRover.com and DeenaSpeaksDog.com . BTW, if you know someone who’s going to bring home a puppy, Deena has created a handy little Puppy Training Kit that includes puppy friendly treats, and handy tips for new puppy families. We’ve also checked in with The Toronto Centre for Canine Education that not only have training classes but they offer quick advice that could be done over live video conferencing – convenient when you just can’t get out or find a trainer for advice.

HOUSE PROOF: Just like toddlers, puppies can get into things and they will. Be sure to get on all fours and take a look around your house that their eye level. Remove any electrical wires, take away anything that could break or anything of value away from their reach. Secure cupboards and drawers that could potentially be opened. Install safety gates at stairs and entry points. At the early stages you’ll just want to keep puppy in a smaller area and gradually expand when he’s ready. This will also help in potty training. Too much space can be overwhelming.

The first few months can be wild. It’s like having a newborn. Not gonna lie. It was rough and there were times where I thought we were really in over our heads. But we were determined to give it our best shot. Thankfully our nights were always good from the beginning. He’s a damn good sleeper like the rest of us.

TOP 10 BASIC STUFF TO HAVE HANDY FOR BRINGING PUPPY HOME:

1.Food & Water Bowls: Duh, but take a look at what fits your pup’s snout. You’d be surprised. Also, you may take a look at puzzle feeders as an option if you find your puppy inhales food faster than lightening. These “slow feeders” helps your pet slow down and eases with digestion. This Top Paw can be found at PetSmart.ca 

2. Crate:  help give puppy a safe space for him and you. Size is important not only for your puppy feeling secure but also aids in potty training. But it’s important to learn how to crate for the health and wellbeing of your newest family member. 

3.Basic Toys: size and age appropriate toys are important and so is constant monitoring. It’s easy to splurge of cute stuffed toys…but it’s common for puppies to want to tear them part and fast! Hey, our pup’s nickname is “Shredder” for a reason. We’ve often hit up HomeSense  for some great finds. You’ll want to keep an eye for squeaky inserts and little parts that can come off. Stories of puppies going in for surgery to remove obstructions can run you thousands of dollars.  Also, remember pups will be going through teething fairly quickly and will be interested in soothing their sore gums. Softer toys are idea as well. Rope toys are fun (they can be soaked and frozen during teething stages for added comfort). Toys that can dispense treats and keep them busy are real life savers. Kong Puppy is very popular and great for stuffing in kibble and peanut butter to keep a busy puppy pre-occupied when you need him to be. We also found the durable PetSafe Busy Buddy puppy toys help stimulate and satisfy our curious guy.

4.Apple Bitter Spray: pup is seriously cute but not so cute when he starts chewing up furniture. Most dogs dislike the taste of this natural product and it’s also safe for furniture.

5.Eco-friendly cleaning solvents: yes, your pup will have accidents in the house. You want to clean them up FAST so THAT the scent doesn’t linger. Otherwise, pup will determine that it will be the perfect spot to do his business. Look for pet friendly solvents for obvious reasons.  On Well.ca we discovered Canadian Brand ATTITUDE Furry Friends Floor Cleaner & Odor Eliminator. 

6.Leash & Collar and ID: First few months of walks can be a challenge for most pups. All the smells and new stuff is fascinating. So, start with a basic leash and collar. Bring puppy to a reputable pet store, we found Ren’s Pets and PetValu had super helpful staff who can definitely help you fit puppy so he won’t accidentally slip out. Get a quick ID tag made. As you grow and learn about your dog, you’ll also soon learn about all the different style of collars and harnesses. At about 6 months we had discovered that we really liked Canada Pooch’s Everything Harness that kept Harley secure as a “puller” – it didn’t put pressure on his throat and now he doesn’t pull as often. Your dog trainer is also a great resource for advice on finding what’s best suited for your pup.

7.Securing space:  indoors and outdoors. Indoors get suitable barriers as mentioned before. But take a look outdoors. See what’s in your garden. Some common plants and shrubs can be poisonous to pets.  Also, start with a smaller space – an enclosure helps with teaching pup about “going” in a specific area without being too distracted.

8.Treats:  training is crucial the first few months of a puppy’s life with you. Treats are great incentives especially for food motivated puppies. However, like babies, you’ll need to monitor for tolerance of sensitive tummies. Canadian brand Crumps’ Naturals has small training treats that our pup loves without over indulging or interfering with meal times. Tip: you can also take kibble from your daily food ration early training to prevent over feeding.

9.Pee Pads & Other Indoor Potty training: If you’re a condo dweller, chances are you’re already concerned about where your furry friend will do his business. Rushing to the elevator and heading to a patch of green space in time will be a challenge (but as my vet says, it’s just pee and poo!). Be prepared and be responsible in cleaning up. Many people train on disposable pee pads, even Dollarama sells them, or house training “stations”. If you have a small size dog you may want to invest in Pet Loo Portable Pet Toilet with PetSafe. This well designed “backyard in a box” drains fluids into the waste container for easy removing and cleaning. And yes, get your poobags. 

10.Pet Insurance: When it comes to your pet’s health, it’s a real eye opening experience to find out that you will have to pay out of pocket for everything. Beyond the basic health needs (vaccines, etc), puppies often get into things they shouldn’t and unfortunately accidents can happen. Emergency Vet bills can catch you off guard. It’s worth exploring the different plans out in the market today. Some popular ones today include Truepanion and PetPlan. PC Financial and Costco also offers pet insurance. Make sure you understand what each plan covers as policies differ depending on age, breed, and even where you live. 

Looking back at the earlier months I wished I had enjoyed the experience more. I’ve been so fixated on giving Harley a decent foundation that the first crazy few months whizzed by fast. No kidding when people tell you that it’s like having  a newborn all over again! But I wouldn’t trade having the little sock stealer around.