Bringing a new puppy into the family is a big adventure. This little fluffy bundle is going to be an important part of your lives for the next 10-15 years so it’s important to pick the right puppy for you.
Choosing a breed of dog
Crufts 2018 saw almost 200 breeds of pedigree dogs on show. From teeny tiny Chihuahuas to great big Great Danes. There were curly haired dogs, long haired dogs, black, brown, white, red, liver, golden and blue coats, an amazing array of markings and some very different characters. As well as pedigree breeds recognised by the Kennel Club there are lots of designer dog breeds too. Deliberately bred crossbreeds with great names such as labradoodles, cockerpoos or pomskis. And then of course, there are the “happy accidents” whose parentage is not always obvious.
It’s important to pick a breed whose size, shape and general temperament will fit well with your lifestyle. That cute face on the internet advert will change over time, so don’t fall in love until you have asked yourself some questions.
- Size Matters! How big will this dog grow? Do I have room for him in my home, my car and my garden?
- Fit for your lifestyle? How much exercise will he need when he’s fully grown? Can I commit to all that walking – even in bad weather?
- Time. Do I have the time and the patience to train him and socialise him so that he grows into a happy healthy dog who won’t embarrass me in public?
- Grooming. Will his coat need a lot of care and am I able to either groom him myself or afford professional grooming services?
- Health. Does this breed have any inherited conditions? How can I reduce the risk of buying a puppy with hip, eye or elbow problems that could affect the quality of our life together
- What the future holds. Is my lifestyle likely to change in the next 10-15 years? We can’t always plan for changes but whatever happens in the journey of your life, you would like to think that your dog could travel alongside you all the way.
Only buy from a responsible breeder
A dog’s physical and mental health depends on lots of things. Not least of those are his genetics and what he experiences in the first few weeks of his life.
Are the Parents health tested?
Some breeds of pedigree dogs are vulnerable to inherited diseases. Breeders are encouraged to have their brood bitches and stud dogs tested for things like hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). If you plan on buying a pedigree dog, be sure to do some research first. Find out what parent’s should be tested for and what could happen if you are unfortunate enough to unwittingly buy a dog with health problems. A responsible breeder who cares more about the puppy’s health than their own profits will have bred from healthy parents who are not likely to pass on inherited illnesses.
Suitable premises for breeding
Puppy farms are not nice places. No puppy should begin its life in filthy conditions, deprived of mental stimulation and opportunities for exercise and play. Sadly that’s exactly what happens for some pups. As a dog behaviourist and a dog trainer, I can promise you that pups reared in those conditions are likely to have problems adapting to life amongst humans.
If you suspect that the litter of puppies you have spotted in an advert come from a puppy farm, please don’t buy one. Instead tell a dog rescue charity about your concerns and ask them to check it out. You may think that by buying a puppy from somewhere like that, you are rescuing it from a horrible life. Wrong.
You are filling the breeders pocket and encouraging him or her to breed even more pups to get even richer. You are also most likely taking home a dog who will have health and behavioural problems for the whole of his life. It’s hard to walk away. It’s also hard to care for a dog who is excessively nervous, often unwell and struggling to live amongst humans.
How to tell if you have found a good breeder
- You are introduced to the mother dog as well as the puppies.
- Mother dog looks healthy and is happy to greet you (if Mum is nervous or grumpy she may have passed those traits onto some of the pups)
- The puppies are all bright eyed, waggy tailed and full of energy
- They are kept in an area that is light, bright, well ventilated and not too pongy. A litter of puppies has a distinctive smell but it shouldn’t be overwhelmingly strong, neither should the area smell of ammonia or decay. Bedding, bowls and toys should all be clean.
- The Puppies have plenty of space to play in and suitable toys to play with.
If the puppies have been reared in the breeders own home that’s fabulous. If they’ve been reared in an outdoor kennel take note of how they react to your voice, clapping hands and waggling toys. By the age of 4-5 weeks they should be curious about everything but not nervous. If they are nervous about new experiences, they may have been inadequately socialised.
Puppies will have been checked by the vet before they leave the litter and you will be handed a health report along with their vaccination certificate. The law says that breeders should have puppies microchipped and vaccinated before they are sold on.
How do you feel about the breeder? Your instincts will probably warn you if something is not right. If there is something about the puppy, the premises, the people or the parents that makes you feel uncomfortable, do not buy. It’s a big world out there, it has lots of puppies in and one of will suit you perfectly. You’ll know it when you find it.
Picking your perfect puppy
You’ve chosen your ideal breed of dog and found a breeder you can trust. How will you decide which puppy from the litter is going home with you?
Boy or Girl?
Would you prefer a bitch or a dog? Some people have a preference. But quite honestly, unless you are planning on breeding from your pup, gender doesn’t matter as much as you think it might. It’s the personality that’s important.
Pick the puppy by its character not by its dashing good looks
Puppies are just adorable. Grown dogs with behavioural problems are not. Please don’t be tempted to choose a pup solely because you like the way it looks. That could be a mistake. Your puppy’s future will largely be defined by amount and the quality of the training and socialisation you put in. A poorly trained dog is a pain in the backside – no matter how good looking it might be. So choose a puppy whose personality appeals to you.
Are you attracted to the bouncy bossy one who stamps on his litter mates to get your attention? He’ll most likely try your patience by pushing the boundaries. If you like that sort of challenge and won’t give up – he might be the one for you.
Or do you prefer the quiet observer who sits back from the rest of the litter and thinks hard about whether or not he should join in? He might try your patience by being fearful of new places and faces. Socialising him will be an interesting, sometimes frustrating but ultimately rewarding process. Do you have the time and patience?
Help with the decision
You may be tempted to bring the children along when you choose the puppy. I’d strongly advise against it. You should choose for them – they’ll love it whatever. The person best qualified to help you pick a puppy is the breeder.
A good breeder will know the individual personalities of his or her puppies and will be able to advise you. They will be more interested in finding the right home for the pup than in getting it sold and out of the door.
Still can’t make your mind up? Don’t rush into a decision. A dog should never be an impulse buy. Why not ask a dog behavioural expert to come with you and offer independent advice?
A good breeder will give you the option of returning the dog for a refund if he or she doesn’t suit your home or family. Normally, you only have a week or two to make your decision. So there are a couple of things you must do within a day or two of bringing your new puppy home.
What to do when you get your new puppy home
There are two things to do as soon as possible after buying a new puppy and certainly before you build a strong bond with him or her:
- Visit the vet for a puppy health check and
- Find out about puppy training classes in your area. Training is not just about learning commands, it’s about introducing your pup to the big wide world. And the sooner you start, the easier it will be.
Pedigree puppies are listed for sale on the Kennel Club website. There’s also a lot of information on this site about breed characteristics, puppy health KC questionnaire to help you find the right breed and the right puppy for you.
Puppy training classes in Surrey
Photo credit: Angela Lambert Writeservice
This story is a guest submission and does not reflect the views of Dogs Monthly Magazine, always consult a qualified expert.