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Make sure puppy is ready to leave mom

By Monique Laracuente

Many people give away their dogs because of behavior issues that many times could have been prevented or could be modified with proper training and guidance. To have a happy, healthy long-term relationship with your dog, preventing these behaviors is your best bet.

One thing to consider is what age you get your dog. Many breeders sell puppies and put them into their new owners' homes before they are even 8 weeks of age. Just because a puppy has been weaned and is eating solid food does not mean he's ready to be taken from the security and stability of his mom and littermates. These critical few extra weeks with mom and siblings are necessary for the pup to learn how to be a dog, how to read/speak dog body language, bite inhibition and other dog life lessons. A puppy taken too early from its canine family will be more likely to suffer from separation anxiety, destructive behaviors and will also be more likely to draw blood, even in play. So if the puppy is not at least 8 weeks of age, do not bring him into your home.

Where you get your dog is another thing to consider. If you choose to get a puppy, ask to see the parent dogs, if possible. Some aggressive tendencies can be inherited and learned from the parent dogs, so if you see human aggression in them, get your puppy elsewhere. While aggressive parents do not necessarily mean aggressive puppies, it is one precaution you can take to safeguard against the possibility.

Pet stores are, as a general rule, not a good place to pick out your new pup or dog. Most pet stores are supplied by "puppy mills," which breed as many litters as possible and keep the breeding dogs in deplorable conditions. Often these dogs are malnourished, very ill and suffer from injuries and illnesses sustained from lack of proper housing and sharing close quarters with other unhealthy dogs. These dogs are also over-bred and are not of breeding quality. The resulting puppies oftentimes result in costly medical conditions, and the breeding conditions certainly affect the behavior of the puppies as well. They are taken too early from the litter and kept in filthy conditions with little or no human contact until sold.

There are many puppies, young and adult dogs cramping shelters and rescue homes, waiting to be adopted. While the backgrounds of these dogs are not always known, it is still possible to get a dog that will fit your family. Look for a dog that is happy and alert. Ask to visit with a possible candidate for your family out of the shelter pen area. Spend as much time as possible with the puppy or dog, and watch how he interacts with your family and workers at the facility. Watch for warning signs, such as lunging, stiff posture, whites of eyes showing, grumbling and snapping. Ask about the circumstances surrounding the dog's reason for being in an adoptive setting.

Early training and socialization are musts to ensure a well-balanced, well-rounded dog. Getting a handle on things before they become a problem will save you a lot of heartache later.

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