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Whether a new puppy makes your dreams of the perfect family dog come true or turns into a total nightmare could well depend on how well you’ve prepared for those first critical days, weeks and months. 

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Once you have decided on the kind of dog and size that is best for your lifestyle (Breed Recommender will help you match your lifestyle with the right breed and size) you need to decide where to get the puppy.

From a shelter or reputable breeder? Take the time to research this thoroughly. The shelter of course presents the most affordable choice. 

Where not to get a puppy

The absolute worst place to get a puppy is a pet store. Sadly, virtually all pet store puppies are raised in puppy mills in horrible conditions, and the puppies are sickly with parasites and other serious issues. Not sure where to find a reputable breeder? Get a referral from a local veterinarian. Then check the conditions of the breeding facility yourself.

Family meeting

Now it’s time to set up a family meeting. Who will take the puppy to the papers or backyard and when? Who will be in charge of feedings 3 to 4 times a day? Who will make veterinary appointments for vaccinations and de-worming? A new puppy should not be left alone for quite a few weeks, so make sure you have proper coverage. 

Settle on vocabulary

If Mom says “down” when puppy climbs on the couch, Dad says “down” when he wants him to lie down and Junior utters “sit down” when he expects the pup’s rear to hit the floor, the result will be one confused puppy! Putting vocabulary list in writing helps everyone.

Purchase supplies

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You will need food and water bowls, chew toys, grooming supplies, bedding, collar and leash, identification tag, crate, gate and Nok-Out Odor Elminator. Pre-puppy shopping allows you to order from wholesale catalogs, Amazon, or to visit the pet superstore in the next county without the pressure of needing it right now.

RELATED: How to Get Rid of Stubborn Household Odors

Prepare puppy’s space

You’ll need to puppy-proof the area where the youngster will spend most of his time the first few months. This may mean taping electrical cords to baseboards, storing household chemicals on high shelves, removing plants, rugs and breakables, setting up the crate and installing gates. Once you think you’ve completely puppy-proofed, lie on the floor and look around once more to get a puppy’s eye view.

When you pick up your puppy, remember to ask what and when he was fed. Replicate that schedule for at least the first few days to avoid gastric distress. If you wish to switch to a different brand of food, do so over a period of about a week by adding 1 part new brand to 3 parts of the old for several days; then switch to equal parts, and then 1 part old to 3 parts new.

Once home, take him to his toileting area immediately. Don’t let him think the new carpet is the place to go. Return him often to the same place to do his “business” and soon he’ll make the proper association.

No such thing as a free puppy

Never fool yourself into believing there’s such a thing as a “free puppy.” The costs will be significant, so make sure you have allowed for this in your household budget. 

Cut the costs by utilizing the low-cost clinics many pet stores host. You may find inoculations and exams to be a fraction of what the vet charges. Or call the humane society or local shelter for referrals to low-cost clinics. Go to Friends of Animals for discount certificates for spay and neutering. 

Doing things right from the start prevents confusion for the puppy, the family. Get prepared and you’ll be one step closer to having your family’s dream dog.

Question: Have you had any puppy experience in your home? Oh, please share! And your best advice for anyone thinking of going the new puppy route.

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