What a wonderful time of year to add a new puppy into your house hold. . . the weather is warm, the days are long, the school year is ending.  With so much information available today, how do you sort through it all and come up with the best plan for your new puppy?  Plus, there are so many conflicting viewpoints.  Do you believe your veterinarian, your breeder, your dog trainer, the pet store staff, your next door neighbor, or the pile of books you just brought home from the library?  All of these sources of information have their merits.  At the end of the day, you are responsible for your new puppy’s health and well-being. 

If you have gone to a quality breeder to purchase a puppy, you are, most likely, in possession of reams of instruction on nutrition, vaccines, parasite control, and training.  Every responsible breeder wants the best for every one of their puppies.  If they are an experienced breeder they will have the most insight into the temperament, breed characteristics, health issues, and behaviors your puppy may exhibit and experience.  Their input is invaluable.  My first puppy was purchased from an excellent breeder who is my dear friend and most sage dog adviser, to this day.  You don’t always get that lucky.  And not all breeders have current information. 

Once your puppy is in your home, the next step is to find a good veterinarian.  This choice is one of the more critical choices you make to insure your puppy’s long term good health.  So much has changed in the last 10 to 15 years when it comes to nutrition, vaccines, training, and parasite control.  The fact that your neighbor loves Dr. Smith at the corner vet practice doesn’t mean it’s a good choice for your puppy.  Not all veterinary practices are created equally.  If you want to be a responsible pet owner, you need to understand the new vaccine protocols, the more progressive spay/neuter options, good nutrition, and what pesticides are really necessary (e.g. Frontline, Advantix, Heartguard)?  By understanding your options and making informed decisions, your puppy’s overall health will benefit.    So many puppies pay a huge price in long term health when their little bodies are inundated with too many shots, a Frontline application, a heartworm pill, and being spayed or neutered at 6 months.  Many puppies’ bodies never recover.  Stick up for your puppy.  If the veterinarian insists on doing things their way, find a new vet.    

A good trainer also makes a huge difference in the quality of your puppy’s life.  With science-based, motivational training techniques widely available, it is no longer necessary to use pain to train your puppy.  If someone recommends a trainer that wants to put a choke collar or a shock collar on your puppy, keep looking for a trainer.  If you’ve gotten a bunch of books on dog training, make certain they’ve been written in the last 10 years.  Dog training has been revolutionized over the last 10 to 20 years. Find current information – it will be a kinder, gentler way to train.   Begin training immediately.  If you wait until your puppy’s vaccines are completed, (often recommended by veterinarians), you will have missed the most critical period for developing a mentally sound, well-balanced dog.    

When choosing your new puppy’s food, again, do your research.  You are feeding a carnivore.  Find a food with quality, animal protein and fat from an ethical, caring manufacturer.  Talk to your breeder and check with your local, independent pet store.  Many smaller, independent pet stores specialize in nutrition.  Your veterinarian may or may not be the best source for nutritional information.  Nutrition is an elective in vet schools and the course material often comes from the large food companies.  Feed the best food you can afford and change the food, at least, once a year.  It will pay off for the lifetime of the dog.  You want your puppy to thrive on their food, not just survive.  Once the puppy joins your family, it becomes your job to sort through all of the conflicting opinions and make the best, most informed decisions you can for your puppy.  Never forget, you are your puppy’s advocate.