It’s a dilemma many dog lovers face. They want a puppy, but they also want to find their next dog at a rescue. Many people think that only older dogs wind up in rescues and worry about what bad habits or behaviour problems these dogs might have. While most older dogs can and do adapt well to life in a new family, learning new tricks and routines, it is indeed possible to find puppies in shelters too.
Pups wind up needing new families for the same heart-breaking reasons older dogs do. An irresponsible owner got sick of them. They proved to be more work than someone expected. A genuinely loving and responsible owner got sick, had to move or even died. And of course, someone learned the hard way why dog welfare advocates plead with the public to spay and neuter their dogs. If you want a puppy but prefer to find your dog at a rescue, it is possible to find dogs from those just old enough to leave their mum to those who have been with a family who decided they could not care for them. It will, however, take patience.
The first step to finding a pup at a rescue is to consider what criteria you have for your next dog. While you might have to wait a long time if you are determined to get a specific breed, it makes sense to think in general terms about what type of dog you want. A high energy terrier or collie cross? Or a dog that will eventually mature and mellow?
Pups coming into a rescue won’t come with any guarantees about their parents or future size, but experienced dog rescues can give you a rough idea. A pup with large paws is likely to be a large dog, for example. Or they might know all about the mother, but have no idea about the father. Try to have some broad ideas about what kind of dog you want, but do keep them very broad. The important thing is to be certain that you can care for the puppy you get when it is full grown. So if you live in an apartment, for example, a lab or collie puppy probably is not a good choice for you.
Committing to Puppy Care
Even if you bring home an older pup, you have to be prepared for all of the usual puppy behaviour. Your pup will need to be trained and especially to be house trained. And the odds are high that a rescue pup has had bad experiences with both already in his short life. That means you will to devote extra time and patience to the tasks. It’s best if someone can be home with the puppy all day, at least for the first weeks as he settles in and learns the ropes.
There are many, many training methods out there, each with their own passionate advocates. But if your pup has had a rough start in life, he will do best with a firm but gentle and affectionate approach. Your pup wants to please you, but if he’s had bad experiences, he might also be afraid of displeasing you. For example, he might anticipate getting in trouble for relieving himself but not know how to tell you when he needs to go. Take him outside frequently, and reward him for doing his business in the right place with lavish praise and a little treat. If he soils in the house, simply clean it up and use a product that will eliminate any smell. He might be so afraid he will try to go somewhere you won’t catch him. So limit his access to any type of hiding place such as behind the sofa or under a bed. Avoid shouting at him or raising a hand near his face. A dog that has been hit will expect to be hit again.
Minimize his opportunities to get into mischief by keeping him restricted to one room such as the kitchen, supervising him closely and providing him with safe, durable toys to chew. He’ll need a few sessions of vigorous play every day to burn up that crazy puppy energy. Play time is also a time to build his trust in you and learn that you are the source of food, fun and safety. Puppies are quick learners. If you are consistent and kind, his past bad experiences will soon be eclipsed by your loving care.
Another given when you adopt a puppy is that you will need to get your dog vaccinated and neutered. When you get an older dog from a rescue, these two things might already be done. But if you are getting a young puppy, he might not be old enough when you get him.
Preparing for Your Pup
Whenever you bring a new dog home, you need to prepare your house before the dog arrives. Get him his own bed, dishes, lead and harness. Have his bed and dishes set up. Ensure your garden is escape-proof. Remember, puppies can wiggle out under gates and fences easily and they are instinctive diggers. If you are going to crate train, be sure to purchase a crate that is big enough for the size you expect him to eventually be. There’s no point buying a crate or bed he will soon outgrow. His harness is a different matter. For his safety, it is important that his harness fits snugly.
Your pup might have had a rough start in life, but with your care he can overcome that. He needs optimum nutrition to support his growth, including calcium for his growing bones. Not all puppy foods are the same because not all puppies are the same. Small, medium and large breeds have different needs as pups just as they do as adults. Dogs mature at different rates depending on their size and type. While a small terrier will be fully grown at 12 months, a larger breed won’t quite finish growing until 18 to 24 months. That’s why Connolly’s Red Mills makes a comprehensive line of puppy foods to help every pup grow into a strong, vibrant, healthy adult.