As Puppy Awareness Week (4 – 10 September) begins, the Kennel Club is sharing the results of its research on the public’s puppy-buying habits – and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

As a dog is meant to share your life for at least a decade, one would think a potential puppy buyer would give the matter a lot of thought before taking a puppy home – far more than one would give to a pair of shoes. Sadly, damning Kennel Club research shows it’s not the case, and impulsive puppy buying is a widespread problem. Of all people interviewed, 20 per cent (one in five) admitted that they spent no time at all researching their puppy, dwarfing the measly 8 per cent who’ll buy a pair of shoes equally on impulse.

It is a fact that the act of carelessly buying a pup – with no research on the chosen dog breed nor on the seller – is terribly damaging for the welfare of puppies, causing many of them to be dumped in rescues or in the streets when the reality of caring for a dog dawns. Leading dog welfare charity Dogs Trust has noticed an alarming trend: dogs being handed into rescue centres at the beginning of the new school year. Last year, as schools opened again, the charity recorded twice the amount of calls as the average day – asking to take in 220 dogs. 

Maria Wickes, Head of Dogs Trust Dog School, says, “In extreme cases we are finding people even buy dogs simply to keep their children occupied during the holidays. Gus, a nine-month-old Cockapoo, was handed into us because his owners bought him to entertain the children during the summer holidays and then passed him to us for rehoming when the kids weren’t around during the day anymore.  Whilst the majority of dog owners regard their dogs as valued family members, it appears some may be using dogs as four-legged nannies over the holidays and disregarding them come September. We hope people will remember that a dog is for life and carefully consider this lifetime commitment before purchasing a dog.”

Even if the puppy buyer is committed to caring for the dog, a happy ending is not guaranteed. Puppy farmers and smugglers take full advantage of the buyer’s impulse to bring home a cute puppy to cash in, all at the dogs’ expenses. The young, sickly puppies are badly bred in a terrible environment, and it is not uncommon for them to die early of avoidable diseases.

“Almost a sixth (15 per cent) of pups got sick in the first six months, with some needing ongoing veterinary treatment or dying, if their owner had chosen them than 20 minutes or less,” the research reads. “This is three times higher than those pups who experienced ill health, ongoing health problems or death if their owners had spent an hour or more researching where to buy.

“Similarly, more than one fifth (21 per cent) of people claim to have suffered emotional hardship, and the same (21 per cent) claim financial hardship after buying a puppy if they spent between 20 minutes or less researching where to buy their puppy, compared to 7 per cent suffering emotional hardship and 8 per cent suffering financial hardship for those who spent an hour or more finding out where they should buy their puppy.” 

Caroline Kisko, Secretary of the Kennel Club, says, “This research is a wake-up call for anybody who cares about dog welfare as a rather terrifying picture is emerging of a nation of people who are careless when it comes to choosing where and how to buy a dog, and who feel clueless about where they would begin, if they were to attempt to do this responsibly.

“The result is puppies with all manner of health and behavioural problems being sold via the internet, pet shops or social media to people who don’t know the true background of the pups and who pay the price in veterinary bills and heartache, as they watch their beloved pet suffer.”

If you want to add a puppy to the family, the advice is to consider a rescue dog first; if you wish to buy a puppy regardless always research the breed, buy directly from a reputable breeder and only after personally visiting the breeding environment to see the puppy interacting with the mother and the rest of the litter. For more information on what you should check and what to expect from a good breeder, see the video below.

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