Downeast Dog News

Adopting A New Puppy

By Susan Spisak | Mar 04, 2019

A new puppy is a long-term commitment and will require ongoing work. If you’re up to the challenge, you’ll need to decide what breed is best for you. Then consider if you’re going to look for this new friend through a reputable breeder, shelter, or rescue. Finally, have a plan for training and guiding this sweet young one to dogdom.

Breed Choice

Be honest about your lifestyle, family, and home environment when choosing the breed or mix. Unfortunately, many dogs are relinquished because their new owners weren’t realistic about what they wanted or could handle. I know an elderly couple who had to have a pup--they found one through a breeder only to discover he had far more energy and strength than they did. The pup was rehomed with the help of a rescue group.

If your family walks daily, look for breeds who need and will thrive on that group activity. If you have small children, an unflappable breed is a must. Think toddlers who pull on tails or may ride the dog like a horsey. Speaking of children, it’s important that they understand proper dog manners if they’ve never had a pet.

If you live in a condo or apartment, don’t think you’re limited. Large couch potato breeds will enjoy lazing the day away. Small dogs will be fine, but stay away from yappers…your neighbors won’t be thrilled.

Another point is that while breed is important, the key is the individual dog--and here it’s up to you. Whatever pup you choose, it’s how you raise him that will shape his personality. If he’s exercised, trained, well-cared-for, and doted on, he’ll likely be a wonderful companion.

Take the American Kennel Club’s test to help determine the top breeds for you at

Breeder Vs. Rescue

Kathie Bangs, President of the Collie Club of Maine, Inc., as well as a Director for the Collie Club of America, said when making the choice to purchase a purebred puppy, your best ally will be your state and national breed clubs--they should be your starting point and will direct you. (She gets many calls from people who are considering a Collie, and she’s glad to advise them.) “Most organizations can provide a wealth of information, answer any questions you may have, and provide you with contacts for well-known, respected breeders.”

Once you have a breeder in mind, call him, and ask questions. Remember, this little pup is going to be part of your family for a long time, so no question is stupid. Kathie agreed, “Any good breeder should be forthcoming in answering any questions you may have and in turn, you, as the prospective buyer, should be happy to answer any questions the breeder may have. After all, breeders, too, wish to see their puppy, who they've brought into the world, end up in the perfect home.”

Find out how long he’s been breeding, and if he’s a member of the AKC Parent Club or a breed club. Discuss any concerns you may have on the breed’s temperament, behavior, and characteristics. A reputable breeder is aware of the breed’s potential health issues, and should share this information. In addition, is he performing the necessary testing and important vet checks prior to putting his puppies up for sale/adoption?

“For example, Collies have a couple of hereditary eye problems which require having those puppies examined by a Board-Certified Ophthalmologist prior to selling them. If a breeder does not have a certificate showing that the eyes were examined, this would be a huge red flag,” said Kathie.

If you’re satisfied with his answers, ask when the next litter is planned and schedule a visit. When you meet the breeder and tour the facility, you should get a warm and fuzzy feeling. Kathie agreed, “A buyer should feel comfortable in visiting a kennel or hobby breeder.” Meet the parents-to-be and any dogs he may have. Watch how he interacts with his dogs. Are they part of the home as family pets? If you’re pleased with the meeting, his dogs are loved, well-cared-for and healthy, and he is knowledgeable and informative, you may have found your breeder.

If you discover the dogs are kenneled in crates in the basement, garage or barn, and you aren’t allowed to meet any dogs, walk away. Start over and search for one of Maine’s countless reputable breeders. Kathie concurred, “Trust your instincts.”

(For information on breeder referral, specific breed information and breed clubs, visit

American Kennel Club - Breeder Referral Search.)

If you are interested in rescuing, there are pups in Maine’s humane societies, shelters, and non-profits awaiting homes (they have both purebred and mixes thereof). Danielle Blake, Board President for Maine Coast Animal Rescue, said her group brings in many pups from southern high-kill shelters. In fact, she’s expecting 14 Labrador pups this month. (See more info on this rescue on page 12)

A perk of working with rescues (and some humane societies and shelters) is that most of these pups are in private foster homes and the housebreaking, training, and socialization process has begun. Their fosters provide feedback on their personality, if they’re child- and pet-friendly and what setting the pup will flourish in.

Training and Beyond

If you’re new to raising a pup, arm yourself with knowledge on socialization, (a very important role in nurturing a well-developed pet), housebreaking, crate training, gating, feeding, and all things “puppy.” Libraries, book stores, and online sites offer much information. Check out area obedience trainers--ask to sit in on a class to determine training style. Choose a well-respected veterinarian and schedule an appointment. They’re going to be a great resource for any further questions you may have.

A puppy can be a magical addition to your life. By choosing the right pup for you and with foresight and preparation, you’ll be equipped to mold that little bundle of fun into a well-rounded, loving, and secure dog.

One last thought: If, after that consideration, you realize a puppy isn’t for you, don’t be hard on yourself---it’s best you discovered this now. There are plenty of adult purebreds, mixes thereof, and plain old awesome mutts awaiting forever homes in shelters, rescues, and breed specific rescues. Look into adopting one of those sweet dogs, you’ll change its life--and it may change yours.