So you’ve decided you want a puppy. You’ve got the time to give a new puppy, you can afford the lifelong cost, the whole family are on board and you’re ready to get one… but hold on! Now that you’re sure you definitely want a dog, the next set of decisions you make will affect the next 10-15 years, for good or for worse!
For many years I’ve been listening to different “experts” give their advice on getting a puppy. I’ve decided to collate all of the expert advice and opinions with my knowledge and past experiences to create my pre-puppy checklist. I hope it helps!
There are thousands of dog breeds to choose from and it’s vital that you select a breed that is best for you. Do you want a big dog? A small dog? An energetic dog? A dog that will chase? A dog that will sleep a lot? A dog that will kill rats? A dog that can flush out game? A dog that will follow the scent of a fox for miles?
You may want a cross breed, a mongrel, a Heinz 57!
The key is research research research! You should know your chosen breed inside out before you even go to collect your puppy. Or if you’re getting a cross breed dog and you know the parent breeds, make sure you learn everything you can about all of the breeds in your dog.
But before you do, a word of warning. Just because two breeds have been crossed together does not mean you’ll get the best of both breeds, what actually happens is that you often get the worst of both breeds, creating a very difficult dog!
Okay so you’ve chosen your breed, or a few different breeds you’d be willing to consider, now where to look for your dog. There are two main options;
If you are considering a pedigree dog then start by searching for a Kennel Club approved breeder and ask around for recommendations. Once a breeder has registered a litter of puppies with the Kennel Club and you have their registered name you can look at the health records of the parents of the puppy on the KC website. It’s all very clever!
– Rehoming/rescue centre
Often bitches will come into a rehoming kennels pregnant, and her pups will need rehoming the same as she will. Or sometimes an unwanted puppy will find itself looking for a new home, or a whole litter will be abandoned.
Dogs available for rehoming often don’t come with pedigree papers (although its worth inquiring with breed specific rescues), and you may not be able to guarantee what breed they are or how big they’ll grow. However, unless you want to show or breed your new dog then the pedigree papers don’t count for much. You can get full enjoyment with your dog without having a scrap of paper that says it’s definitely a pedigree.
Avoid free to a good home ads!
Try to avoid the likes of Gumtree, Preloved and other websites selling dogs. These private ad sites are perfect places for dog thieves to resell stolen pups, or puppy farmers to make an easy sale by falsely advertising a puppy which “is just too much for our lifestyle”. Buying from these sites often results in heartache and expenses. If everyone stopped buying from them it would help to solve a lot of problems.
So you’ve found a breeder or a rehoming kennels and you’re off to have a look. Here’s some tips to think about while you’re there;
- Listen for barking! Especially if you’re visiting a breeder. When you knock on their door do dogs bark inside? Puppies will copy their mother, so if there are dogs barking inside the house then there’s a good chance your dog will bark at home. Is this something you want? Of course there will always be dogs barking in kennels, but watch the mother of the litter particularly, does she bark when you’re stood outside of her kennel? If she does the pups are likely to bark at strangers too. If the pup is on its own then is it barking at you?
- Listen to the staff/breeder. What the puppy experiences between birth and 12 weeks old is crucially important. Anything new that the puppy meets after its 12 weeks old it will approach with caution and fear, therefore it’s so important that the breeder demonstrates a good knowledge of puppy development stages and behaviour. While all breeders tend to have very good knowledge of their particular breed of dog, they often vary in knowledge of dog behaviour and training. The puppy could be ruined before you even bring it home! The same applies to the kennel staff and volunteers in the rehoming centres. Listen to the words they use too… do they mention pack leader, dominance, or alpha male? If they do think long and hard about taking a puppy from them.
- Puppy appearance and temperament. We often veer towards cute and pleasing appearances, such as coat colour, without watching the dogs behaviour. Try to decide if you want the bold, boisterous puppy or if you’d prefer the gentle, thoughtful puppy. Above all make sure the puppies are healthy and happy, preferably with 4 legs and a wagging tail.
- Look at the parents. The parents cosmetics and behaviour will give you an indication of what the pups will turn out like. If you’re looking at breeds which are prone to exaggerated features, such as bulldogs, have a look at how short the snouts are on the parents or how many wrinkles the shar pei has. Personally I would avoid buying either breeds, but if you are dead set that’s what you want at least try to get the healthiest one.
- T&Cs. Breeders and rehoming kennels alike often have terms & conditions you must sign before taking a pup. Breeders normally put restrictions on future breeding of the dog, or some even demand that the dog be returned to them every so often for the purpose of breeding. There is no right or wrong but it’s important that you are happy with the T&Cs for your puppy. Personally I like to see breeders that ask that you contact them should you have any issues or change your mind about the puppy, showing their caring and responsibility for that puppies future. The big thing to look out for are rescue centres which only allow you to “adopt” a dog, therefore never passing you ownership of the dog. This is one my pet hates! By only adopting the dog somerescue centres believe that they have the “right” to remove that dog from you at any given time, and although you can fight to keep your dog should this ever occur, it’s simpler and more beneficial if you get black & white ownership from the word go. Rescues such as these often also prevent you from transferring microchip details from them to yourself, which can have dangerous consequences if you were ever to lose your dog.
- Watch out for puppy farms. Unfortunately puppy farms are getting better at disguising themselves as genuine breeders every day. You may visit a lovely family home with mother, father and pups, but actually the two adults may be of no relation to the puppies, and the pups may even be from different litters. Ask lots of questions and research the breeder online and on the Kennel Club website. Try to look at the history of the breeder and keep an eye on how many litters and how many different breeds they advertise over a few months. Don’t just assume that because they are Kennel Club accredited, or have pedigree papers that they are good. I once knew the Kennel Club to accredit a breeder that didn’t even have a council breeding licence. Check out the Where’s Mum campaign for lots of tips and further information: http://pupaid.org/wheresmum/
Finding the right puppy takes time. Sadly it’s our impatience and need to have something right now that fuels the puppy farming business. They source puppies on demand to meet our expectations. It’s always good to meet with a breeder a few times before the litter is born, or it may take several trips to different rehoming centres, or months of searching their websites, before the right pup comes along! A few months of patience could prevent you from 10 years of unhappiness, or even worse, another puppy ending up in a rehoming centre. Plus it gives you time to keep re-thinking your decision and know for certain that you are 100% prepared for a puppy.
If you have any questions or would like any help and advice please do get in touch via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.