While we all likely live for Fridays, some of us are particularly excited about Friday, March 23, which is National Puppy Day.
The internationally celebrated day, which was founded in 2006 by celebrity pet and lifestyle expert Colleen Paige, doesn’t just celebrate the magical cuteness of puppies, though.
“National Puppy Day came into existence not only to celebrate puppies, but also to highlight puppies in need of adoption in shelters nationwide and raise awareness of the abuses that are found in puppy mills,” explained Rachel Maso, a behavior associate with the ASPCA in New York City.
If you’re thinking of bringing a puppy or older shelter dog home in celebration of National Puppy Day or in the future, here are some things to think about from Maso, who plans to spend the day interacting with the available puppies in ASPCA’s Manhattan adoption center.
A life-changing addition
“Look at your personality, your lifestyle and how much free time you have,” Maso said.
Since puppies are very active and require a lot of time, work and attention to train, “it’s important to make sure everyone in your household is on board and understands the commitment and responsibility,” Maso added. “Identify each person’s role when it comes to care because consistency is really important for puppies.”
Adopt, don’t shop
“One of the really important reasons we suggest people adopt dogs is it’s a really good way to ensure you’re not supporting the puppy mill industry,” she said. “It’s not just a concern for puppies — it’s the mother dogs who are often living in dark and cramped, dirty conditions and spend their lives pumping out puppies for profit, so it’s about the quality of life for all of the animals involved.”
Buying from a dog breeder
If you want to get a dog from a breeder, however, make sure you can meet both parents “to see what their temperaments are and the conditions they’re housed in,” Maso said. “Make sure you get lots of references from that person and are able to visit their facility.”
The importance of interaction
In addition to talking to shelter staff, be sure to read the interaction you have with dogs you meet there, Maso said.
“I want to see if they’re interested in approaching me with a loose body and try to figure out what they’re communicating with their body language and what’s their comfort level with new people,” she added.
Ask how the dog interacts with other dogs and if you can take it for a walk on a leash to see how they act outside — but know that behavior does shift when you take a dog home from a shelter, which can be a stressful place for them.
“Sometimes behaviors are just in the moment, and dogs really need a chance to come out of their shell and get comfortable in a place where there’s a lot of consistency and a more quiet environment,” Maso said.
Scope out the dog park
Dog parks are a huge part of many dogs’ lives in big cities, but do some research at several different times of day before taking your new pup to one.
“Watch both the people and dogs to see what interactions are like,” Maso said. “You want to see that dogs are enjoying themselves and that parents are actively supervising their dogs.”
About that tail wag …
A common misconception is that a wagging tail equals a happy dog, but that’s not always the case.
“I want people to learn that a wagging tail means the dog is having an emotion, and there are all kinds of tail wags,” Maso said.
For example, a brisk, high tail wag could mean the dog is uncomfortable or tense, while a lower tail moving slowly and loosely means the dog is excited and having fun and a tucked tail indicates a dog is scared.