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Do you really want a puppy?

Here, you can see how small Fern's puppies were at about 3-4 days old, when we got the little family to foster.
Here, you can see how small Fern's puppies were at about 3-4 days old, when we got the little family to foster.
Susan NC Price

Seriously, folks, why do you want a puppy? Note, I’m not asking why you want a DOG, although that’s another good question to answer before deciding on a companion animal. No, I’m asking why you’re set on getting a BABY dog.

Fern finds herself pinned down by an adventurous puppy
Fern finds herself pinned down by an adventurous puppy
Susan NC Price

Right now, our Warrenville house shelters seven dogs. Two belong there on a permanent basis, and four of the rest hardly count yet as they’re only about three weeks old. At this stage, mamadog does all the work, feeding and cleaning up so, functionally, we really have three dogs and a pile of adorable little furry squeakers. The most we need do is return an occasional strayed wiggler to the pile. And melt at their squished-face cuteness.

But the pups’ eyes opened more than a week ago and, in the past couple of days, the pups have begun staggering around on unsteady legs instead of just crawling around randomly. By week 4 or 5, they’ll be ready to try a little mush to supplement mom’s milk—and that means they’ll also be peeing and pooping on their own. No more mamadog cleanup.

By 6-7 weeks, Fern will probably be weaning them. Which can be adorable, too, as this video shows. Between 7 and 8 weeks, then, they’ll be completely weaned, Fern will get spayed, and all five will be available for adoption through the Chicagoland Dog Rescue. So again I ask, do you really want a puppy?

True, you’ll be a lot more involved in your dog’s training and socialization the earlier you start—but between 3 and 6 months old, dogs need a LOT of training. Puppies are like human babies on fast-forward. The good news is they mature faster—the downside is that, during those formative months they need near-constant attention, encouragement and correction.

But, if you have children who want a puppy and an adult at home all day anyway, sure, go for the puppy. The kids will love it and so will you … when you’re not muttering about the need to take said puppy out for potty breaks every 2 hours all day long, starting about 6 a.m. and continuing through at least 10 p.m. The smaller the puppy, the smaller the bladder.

If you’re working out of the house full time or your kids are grown—or you already raised a dog from a pup and can remember how much work that was—you might want to look for a dog in the 6-month to 2-year-old range. Those dogs more likely come already housetrained (though you should still expect a few accidents adjusting to a new home), knowing how to walk on leash, and responding to basic commands like sit, down and come.

Yes, you’ll have missed a few formative and adorable months of puppyhood, but dogs remain puppy-like for at least 2-3 years, and a 2-year-old dog still has most of its life to share its love with you. Our Fern, for instance, knows sit, down, come and (with some reminders because she IS young) will walk on leash without pulling. Much. Unless she sees a bird/bunny/squirrel … She loves, even demands attention and would surely bond quickly with a new family. And, at probably about a year old, she has all the puppy enthusiasm anyone could want.

Coming soon: The puppy who chose us.
... Because sometimes rational thought has nothing to do with the dog you choose.

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