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Do Your Homework Before Buying Your Puppy

choosing a puppy

... You have a choice - please choose wisely

Puppies are a lot of fun, a lot of responsibility and a lot of work … before you get a puppy make sure that everyone in the house understands what the puppy needs and agrees on how the puppy will be trained. 

Take time to research the breeds that best suit your lifestyle. Make time to visit breed shows, dog events or fun days, talk to several breeders and other owners so that you get a clear idea of what your preferred breeds are really like to live with.

Ideally arrange to visit breeders, rescue centres or dog training classes where you will have the opportunity to ‘test drive’ several adult dogs of the size, breed or type that you think you’d like. This will give you a much clearer idea of whether you have the necessary skills and knowledge to train and control the adult dog that your puppy will one day become. This approach will give you a much more accurate indication of what to expect than any video, book or website will offer.

Choosing a dog is, in many ways, a similar process to choosing a car… first you need to learn to drive and gain the necessary skills and experience, then finally you search for a car that looks and feels right to you, and that fulfils your requirements in terms of size and performance.

No doubt you will have read lots of well-meaning, and often contradictory, advice from pet professionals advising that certain breeds are better suited to living with children, or that other breeds are not suited to city life, or apartment living. In reality, all breeds and types of dog can be wonderful or be problematic with children. How a dog behaves around children very much depends on how he has been taught to behave around children, and equally importantly how children have been taught to behave around dogs.  Naturally large dogs do take up more space than smaller dogs, but their lower energy levels often mean than they can adapt to apartment living, and active dogs, just like active people can live happily in cities provided that they are given sufficient opportunity to remain active.

Do your homework in terms of understanding the inherited instincts your dog is likely to have, for example terriers are likely to dig, sight-hounds are likely to chase, and also in respect of learning about your prospective pup’s family background. You want your puppy to be healthy, both physically and mentally. Confirming that his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents if possible, were free from breed specific problems and lived to a ripe old age is the best indication that the genes your pup inherits are from parents and ancestors who enjoyed good overall health both physically and behaviorally.

Doing your homework is equally important in terms of the breeder of your prospective puppy. A responsible breeder will have has many questions for you as you should have for them. Good breeders want to ensure that they place puppies into households that have the necessary time, knowledge and resources to raise, train and care for that dog throughout its life. Take time to find a breeder who encourages you to visit their adult dogs, who takes the time to answer any questions you may have and who expresses an interest in the ongoing development and well-being of dogs they have bred previously, good breeders often maintain contact with the owners of their puppies for many years and should be willing to offer support and advice should problems or concerns arise in future. 

Local, regional or national breed and kennel clubs are a valuable resource and often an excellent starting point in your search for a reputable breeder.

Once you find a reputable a breeder or two with whom you feel comfortable, be prepared to wait. Buying a puppy is not like buying a new TV. Rescue centres are overflowing with dogs often bought in haste, or bred irresponsibly, and discarded when they developed utterly predictable problems. 

It goes without saying that pet-shops, puppy farmers, online advertisers and profiteering back-yard breeders with a constant supply of pups have no interest in the health and well-being of the dogs they produce beyond exchanging them for your money. Bitches and stud dogs are often kept in appalling conditions. Puppies born into and raised under these conditions often suffer from poor health and ongoing behavioral issues having being separated from their mother and litter mates far too soon and having missed out on critical socialization.  Buying a puppy born and raised this way simply perpetuates the suffering of their parents, and ensures that more litters are produced to meet ongoing demand.  

When you visit a litter always check that the puppies have been raised indoors around people and that they are outgoing and happy to be handled. Ask the breeder how many people, especially men and children, have handled and trained the puppies. Check for yourself how willing the puppies are to be held, hugged and to have their ears, teeth and paws examined. Also check how quickly the puppy learns to come, sit, and lie down using lure and reward techniques. Make sure that you see the puppies with their mother, and that she is clean, healthy and sociable.

Check whether the puppies use a dog toilet rather than urinating and defecating at will all over the floor, and check whether hollow chew-toys are readily available. By eight weeks of age a well reared puppy should be outgoing, friendly and sociable, and having been raised in the care of a conscientious breeder, could be well on the way to being housetrained, chew-toy-trained, and at the very least, know how to come, sit, and lie down. Any signs of fearfulness are absolutely abnormal in an eight- week-old pup.

Irrespective of how much training has been started by your puppy’s breeder, from the very first day you bring him home with you it is important to start an errorless house training and chew-toy-training program in order to prevent any future house soiling, destructive chewing, excessive barking, or separation anxiety problems from developing.  Good habits are every bit as hard to break as bad habits.