Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blog Grown and Flown.
One of the most delightful yet difficult tasks in dog ownership is the very first one—choosing your pet from among a litter of absolutely adorable puppies. Taking time to carefully observe each puppy is well advised, and will help maximize the chances that the pup you pick is healthy and a good match for your family.
One summer day four years ago, I spent several hours with a pack of young chocolate Labradors, intending to take one home. At four weeks old, each pudgy member was simply irresistible. Mesmerized, I sat on the floor and watched them tumble, play fight, and curl up into a puppy pile for a brief post-nursing snooze. I knew it was going to be a challenge to pick one, but “cute” could not be the sole criterion for my future dog.
As the afternoon wore on, I realized that my attention returned, again and again, to “Larry,” one of the larger males. He could focus when I jangled my keys, he tolerated my handling and cuddling, and I loved the way he played with his litter mates. Sometimes he was top dog, other times he was dominated by a brother or sister. Yes, Larry, whom we renamed “Gus,” would become our new puppy after he was weaned and old enough to leave his litter.
If you have a chance to pick out your own puppy from among a litter, the ASPCA suggests that the pup’s physical health be scrutinized carefully. A reputable shelter or breeder should be candid in revealing all they have observed about each young dog. Further, here are six tips they suggest for evaluating a puppy’s behavioral health:
How do the puppies interact with each other?
Does the puppy seem to like people?
Does the puppy respond appropriately to your reaction when he nips you?
Does the puppy guard things from people?
Does the puppy like being handled by people?
Does the puppy seem overly sensitive to sights and sounds?
In this blog series, Sharon Discorfano, Esq., a Government Relations Intern at the ASPCA, will discuss her experiences with helping her nephew make food choices for better health and animal welfare. For more information about Sharon’s animal-related projects, please visit sharondiscorfano.com or follow her on Twitter @shadisco.
Meal Planning & Making Choices From our first trip to the grocery store together, it became clear that Nicky enjoyed the sense of empowerment he felt as he made his own food selections. When Nicky recently stayed with us for a week, I built on this idea and our experiences shopping together. Ahead of time, I informed him I was going shopping to stock up the kitchen and asked him which items I should include on my list. Nicky was more than happy to make suggestions. I wanted him to feel right at home and easily remember all his options, so I created a “Choices Café” menu whose categories included breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I posted it in the kitchen at his eye level. Nicky hadn’t been in our apartment for more than ten minutes before he was reading it over and planning which meals he would have throughout his stay.
I slipped in a few new things on the menu. An important sub-rule about trying new foods: we try it, and if we don’t like it, we don’t have to finish. We also rate things together. During his stay, we both were very pleased with one of the new things; another rated as “not our favorite.” On our “build your own tacos” night, I let Nicky take a pass on the black beans. He was in a less-than-adventurous mood, and the black beans would stand a better chance at another meal down the road.
“Choices Café” is an idea I borrowed from a board game called Fur & Feathers. The goal of the game is to be the first player to save five animals—a dog, a cat and three kinds of farm animals. In addition to visiting an animal shelter and a farm during the game, players also visit “Choices Café” where they choose from a menu that explains which animal you are saving as a result of your food choice. For example, by choosing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a player saves a pig (Nicky and I have elaborated on our own to explain: you save a pig because you’ve chosen PB & J instead of a ham sandwich). Nicky is not vegetarian or vegan, but he already understands, largely thanks to this game, that his choices have an impact on animals, and that by eating fewer animal products he can help put an end to factory farming. If we don’t eat as many animals, farmers won’t have to grow so many so fast. There’s nothing quite so endearing as a little boy raising his hand for a high five, so pleased with himself for making a good, healthy choice and feeling like he’s saved a chicken.