Title - The Poop on Puppies


You’re weakening.
You know you want one.

You have puppy lust!

Well, here’s the deal, you can be
a lamb led to slaughter or you can be
an educated victim…
The choice is yours.

THINK FIRST: Do you really want a puppy?

Do you have a fenced yard where the pup can safely play?
If not, how do you intend to keep him safe and well exercised?

Can you get home for a midday potty party with the little furball?
Can you explain this to your boss without sounding crazy?

Do you mind cleaning up vomit?
Puppies like to refund a lot of things they shouldn’t have consumed in the first place.

Will you be willing to scrape droppings off your lawn and hose urine off your patio furniture?
Are you willing to forgive housebreaking accidents? Do you love your new carpeting?

Are you allergic to dogs? Now is the time to find out - not later!

Do you mind dog hair on your clothing? Your furniture? Everywhere?

Can you cope with damage to clothing, furniture, shoes, lawns, - all your favorite things?

Can you afford hundreds of dollars a year (I’m being conservative, too) for food, vet care, grooming, toys, etc.?

Can you provide the exercise level necessary for the breed or size dog you have chosen?
Even after a long day at work? Don’t forget the extra energy a puppy will require for a year or more!

Do you want to sleep all night? Every night?
Do you mind being in your yard at 3AM watching your pup take a leak?

Are you willing to reach into a pup’s mouth (and sometimes elsewhere) to pry out a potentially dangerous object?
I’ve pulled some mighty interesting things out of puppy mouths (also ears and rectums) in my day.

Do you have the time and money for puppy shots, worming, heartworm testing and preventative, etc.,
not counting spaying or neutering, dental care and the occasional emergency or injury?

Will you take the time to properly introduce the puppy to pets already in the home?

Are you willing to spend the time and money to train your pup to be a good and trustworthy citizen?

Are you willing to change your lifestyle to accommodate a canine companion’s needs and quirks?

Do you promise to provide for this dog through sickness, cross country transfers, the birth of children?

Are you ready for a long term commitment?
Will you love this puppy when he's old, deaf, blind and just a touch incontinent?

Consider The Top 10 Reasons to Adopt and Older Dog and The Unique Joys of a Mature Pet and check out PetFinder to take a look at thousands of adoptable adult pets in your area.

Said yes to everything? Bravo! You’re crazy too…

proceed down the path to puppy parenthood!

Emma's HeadReady...
the quest begins...

Do your homework… I cannot stress this enough. Millions of lovely animals are euthanized each year. Most of these pets weren’t just roaming the streets. They belonged to someone once. They were somebody’s cute little furball - once. Now they’re hunting dogs that won’t hunt, Great Danes that eat too much, herding dogs that herded children for lack of suitable work, terriers that dug up the yard, or hounds that howled. Shelters are filled with dogs who were cast away for doing what came naturally. Humans have bred dogs for centuries for certain tasks - they can’t undo all that instinct for your convenience. The library and the Internet are filled with information that will tell you about temperament, size, activity level, and behavior for various breeds. This information allows you to make an educated guess about mixed breed pups as well. Know what you’re getting yourself into. Read, talk to owners, talk to breeders. Watch and listen! Ignorance never was bliss. Ignorance kills. How to find the dog of your dreams offers some helpful tips.

Emma's headSet...
Where’s that pup?

Pet Shops?
No, No, NO, Never!!! No reputable breeder will sell to a pet shop. You are getting a substandard pup from substandard parents and a substandard environment and usually paying more than a good breeder would charge anyway. Even worse are the expensive "Cockapoos" and "Yokiepoos" filling shopping mall pet shops. You can get a very nice mixed breed pup for almost nothing at any shelter or from a private home. The final insult is the "health guarantee" some offer. These usually involve replacing the dog if its health fails within a year. Most genetic diseases take far longer than a year to show symptoms - long enough for you to fall in love and then have your heart and your finances ripped apart by suffering and vet bills. As for replacement - if you believe any dog can just be replaced when it becomes sick or injured, please don’t get a dog! When I was 5 years old my parents bought a pet shop Cocker Spaniel for me. I loved Jerry to pieces. Within weeks, it became obvious that Jerry had major health problems. The next thing I knew, Jerry had "gone to live with the vet" and a Poodle had been substituted, as "guaranteed". You can guess how I felt. Puppies in pet shops often come from "Puppy Mills" where dogs are kept in appalling conditions and treated as nothing more than breeding machines. If you love animals, work toward putting a stop to Puppy Mills. Do not buy supplies from pet shops that sell puppies - and tell them WHY you will not spend your money in their shop. Tell your friends. Education is power and we can stop this horror!
OK, the tirade is over…
You want a carefully bred, well cared for pup - a pup who spent his impressionable youth with someone who knew a bit about dogs. You don’t want a pup who has spent the most impressionable time of his life penned in a cage under bright lights with fingers poking at him all day. All our dogs spent their puppy days playing with their litter mates and becoming accustomed to household noises, children, grooming - the works! I can’t stress enough what a huge difference it makes. Puppies raised right grow into confident adults with a lot less work and heartache on your part. Pet shops capitalize on ignorance. What you don’t know can come back to haunt you and your dog later.

There are many adorable mixed breed puppies available at your local shelter. Rescue groups find foster homes for abandoned pets until permanent homes can be found. Find a shelter that is clean and offers the puppies a chance to play with other pups and socialize with people on a regular basis. Ask if anything is known about the parents of the litter. If you’ve done your homework, you can sometimes (with the help of your vet and the shelter workers) make a good guess at the eventual size and type. If you don’t mind surprises and are ready to love this pup, no matter how he ends up, a shelter pup can be a joy. As a teenager, I brought home a darling black and white puppy from a shelter. He looked just like a cocker spaniel pup with a white blaze down his chest. He was cute and soft and needy. He was actually a terrier mix in disguise. His ears stayed short. His fur grew course and long. He ran and he barked like the rowdiest Beagle you ever saw. The white blaze vanished. We loved him anyway and he spent 13 happy years tearing up the grass in the backyard and eating my mother’s cooking. Just remember, what you see is not necessarily what you get.

Look for a good environment, clean facility, and informed staff. Ask about the pup's behavior and care while at the shelter or foster home. Ideally, the pup should have been to the vet at least once and should be current on vaccinations and heartworm preventative. If the pup has not been to the vet, ask if you can arrange to do so. It’s worth the time, money, and effort to get an educated opinion of the pup’s health and eventual characteristics.

Petfinder lists dogs and animals from shelters and rescue groups across the country. Some shelters will allow out of area adoptions if you can arrange transportation. There are wonderful dogs waiting for you.  I found my dog Holly on Petfinder! 


Heartwarming stories and helpful tips...

If you want a purebred puppy, a breeder is the obvious source. You have done your homework and have chosen a breed based on your lifestyle, energy, aesthetic preferences, etc. You want a healthy, pet quality puppy.
Where to start?
Try the Internet!
Dog shows, breed clubs, breeder lists - it’s all out there - just search by breed name!
Talk to people who own the breed you have chosen.
Ask your vet.
Talk to breed clubs.
Their members offer a wealth of information and can help you
locate available puppies or tell you about upcoming dog shows.
Visit local dog shows and talk with breeders.
Be prepared to "sell" yourself. Be prepared to have them question your choice. Breeders spend a lot of time and money on their dogs. They want their pups to go to suitable homes. If they don’t ask you even a few questions about the life you’ll be providing for the dog, walk away. Look at their dogs. If you’re looking for a nice blocky head, a particular coat color, a laid back dog, a really driven, enthusiastic dog - look for that in the adults the breeder has brought to the show. You might want to wait for a litter if you’re looking for specific parentage. Most breeders are willing to put you on a waiting list. Breeders will ask (or require) that you spay or neuter your pet. Many breeders have contracts requiring you to return the dog to them if you become unwilling or unable to care for the dog. A good breeder will look you in the eye and tell you what genetic diseases run in their particular breed and what they’re doing to identify and eradicate health problems. They will tell you what tests and health certifications they obtain for their breeding stock. Of course, as part of your preparation, you already know the potential health problems lurking in your breed of choice and what certifications you should look for (you do, right?). Ask anyway. If you know more than the breeder, walk away. Interact with the breeder’s dogs. Is the temperament, health and appearance what you hoped to see? Remember, what you see at a show is the best the breeder has. If you’re not impressed by that, walk away.

What’s a "Backyard Breeder"?
A backyard breeder is an amateur breeder hoping to make a few quick bucks off a litter of pups. They usually know little about the breed or raising the pups. Most realize, after a litter or two, that there is no quick cash to be made. Proper care of the pregnant bitch and the litter can be surprisingly costly and time consuming. Others cut costs by shortchanging the dogs and become little more than miniature puppy mills. Beware of backyard breeders. While some are novice breeders just starting out, many are in way over their heads and you may well end up paying for their ignorance. You’ll see their ads in the newspapers…."purebred whatevers for sale". Use caution. Again, as an educated consumer who has done the research (yes?) you can judge how knowledgeable and serious these breeders are. Two of my boys came from ads in the paper placed by novice breeders. Both came from "show stock". One has had so many health problems we call him "The Six Million Dollar Dog". Think about it. Dog breeding is an art and a science.

Mixed breed pups are a slightly different story. They are usually the result of careless owners and accidental breeding. Sadly, these litters are often killed outright, tossed out on roads to die, or abandoned at overcrowded shelters and euthanized by the millions each year. Many of the genetic problems common in pure bred lines are diffused by crossbreeding. My vet calls this "hybrid vigor". Use your judgment. Are the pups and mother healthy and well cared for? Are you willing to love this dog? Ugly or cute? Small or large? Maybe the unique aspect of these diamonds in the rough is appealing? There are loving little surprise packages waiting out there.

Breed rescue?
There are many breed rescue organizations dedicated to plucking their chosen breed from danger and locating good homes. Most rescue dogs are adults, but there are occasionally puppies and young adults which have been picked up as strays, or rescued from shelters or unsuitable homes. Rescue groups can verify how important it is to research a breed before you make your selection. Sadly, they often get dogs who are abandoned simply because they did what was natural for their breed. Great Dane Rescue fosters numerous dogs relinquished because they "got too big". Great Dane’s are big - that should be common knowledge. As a result, you may be able to benefit from someone else’s carelessness and get a wonderful dog . Adoption fees are considerably less than the purchase price of a dog from a breeder and, in some cases, an older pup may already be housebroken. On the other hand, you might be taking in a Puppy Mill pup or a pup with temperament and/or health problems caused by bad breeding or abuse. Make the rescue organization earn your trust by providing you with candid information about the behavior they have observed. They should also be willing to share what little of the dog’s background and history they do know. The pup should be fully vetted and current on shots and heartworm preventative. You will be asked to fill out an adoption form and answer questions which help the rescue group ensure that the pup is going to a good home. You can understand their caution. Their goal is to find each dog a permanent, loving home. Mutual honesty is vital to a successful adoption. A rescue pup can be a bit of a gamble, but can also be a golden opportunity.

Learn more about purebred rescue and adoption...


AKC Breed National Breed Rescue Network  offers a good list of breed rescues - or search PetFinder for the breed you want.

Emma's Head

Pick a pup…


There are countless opinions on picking a puppy; "go with your heart" "choose the most outgoing" "choose the color you like best" - it’s a dilemma!

There are tests you can find in any book about dogs which are supposed to help you determine the temperament of the pup. Will he be dominant? Will she be easy to train? That type of thing. Use them with caution. They are valuable - up to a point. Our latest addition, Emma, passed the basic exam with flying colors. She could be rolled over easily and resisted only slightly when held down (not a wimp, but a pliable nature). She played hard with her litter mates but was not a bully (dominant dogs are more work for you!). She was curious about people but just a teeny bit cautious (outgoing but not careless). She responded to sounds (not deaf), and was enthusiastically exploring her surroundings (confident and curious). I went down the list, cuddled her, played with her, and pronounced her ideal for our needs. One thing I didn’t consider - she had an intestinal parasite that was just starting to make her sick. A few trips to the vet cleared that up. As a well pup, she was far less endearing. We had our first dominant bitch! Her original good behavior was the result of fatigue and illness. She was exactly what we didn’t want in a puppy - a bossy, rude, dominating bully. Oh well, that’s what puppy school is for… On the other hand, our first boy failed all the tests. He was shy and fearful, not inquisitive - a dog to avoid by conventional standards. Research would have warned me that such pups can become fear biters and may need special handling all their lives. I hadn’t done my homework. We fell in love at first sight and within weeks he blossomed into the most social canine you ever saw. We called him "Saint Puppy" and he was welcome wherever he went. You never know…. So, use the various guidelines and tests you find. Just remember, nothing is foolproof .

If you're buying from a breeder, ask about each pup's personality and temperament. A good breeder watches each litter. They are, after all, looking for potential show prospects. The breeder watches how the pups interact with the world and with each other. Listen to what he or she has to say.

All in all, the important thing to remember is that YOU will be a major influence on your pup's eventual character and behavior. Our second pup was somewhat aloof toward people until he was over a year old, then became very intent on being near (or on!) his people all the time. Remember, puppies (like children) grow, mature, and change with age - usually for the better!

Before you take the plunge, read
"A Pup in the House!"
and do your  homework. 

Resources to help you choose and train
the puppy of your dreams...

or search for yourself...

thoughts for puppy addicts...

OK, you love puppies.
Can't get enough?
Want nothing but puppies?
Love training, and raising, and watching them grow?
Then consider raising a pup (or two, or three) for a service dog organization!
Service dogs start life as pups in foster homes where they are loved and trained and exposed to many different situations. These foster homes give the pup a solid foundation for the specialized training which follows. After about a year, you will need the strength to part with your little trainee. It's a big responsibility but the rewards are monumental!

Canine Companions for Independence
PAWS with a Cause
Leader Dogs for the Blind


Pick with your head. Pick with your heart.
Each pup, in their own way, will be the love of your life!



Copyright 1997 - 2007 Elizabeth Cusulas
Tale Waggers - Stories for Dog People
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction without written permission is expressly forbidden