A new puppy is a wonderful and exciting time for everyone involved. However, it is easy to make mistakes, so this is our quick guide to buying or adopting a new puppy.
Are you ready?
Everyone loves puppies and it is easy to get caught up in the excitement. However, puppies are hard work – they take time and dedication, and may it may be difficult to find the time if you are already stretched. Also, even if not expensive to buy, they are expensive to care for – remember about food, bedding, toys, boarding kennels, vaccinations, insurance, worming, vet fees, grooming…..
We hope you are ready, but if not, it is better to wait, than have a puppy not properly cared for.
Buying or adopting?
Most puppies either come from a private breeder, through a friend or a charity organisation. The advantages of buying a puppy is that often they will be Kennel Club registered, and by buying a known breed from a known breeder, you have more advanced warning about what to expect from your puppy when he or she grows up. All these advantages may also be present in an adopted puppies, as well as knowing you are giving a home to an otherwise unwanted pet. Remember, not all breeders are responsible breeders, so buying a puppy is no guarantee of “quality.”
What are the potential problems?
Puppies may be sold underage, unwell or may not even be the correct breed. Check lists of assured breeders or go by word of mouth – puppies advertised on the internet may be stolen or ilegally imported. Good breeders will want to meet you and will not be put off by you asking questions, and they will often have a long waiting list.
What is correct breed for me?
Different dogs have different advantages and disadvantages. Remember about size, level of exercise and temperament. Some dogs may look cute, but will require lots more attention, such as long haired breeds. Finanically, there is a big difference in the volume of food a 2kg dog eats compared to an 80kg dog! If you want a dog to accompany you hillwalking, a short legged breed is not a good choice; if you want cuddles by the fire, an energic dog will easily get bored. Do your research and go to meet the breeds you are interested in.
Please also remember different breeds of dog have different health problems. There are significant variations in how long different breeds of dog live for, and some breeds do have significant health problems. Think about how much you want to risk having an unhealthy dog.
What to ask yourself and the breeder:
- Can I see the puppies with their mum?
Be sure mum is a nice, friendly dog because temperament can be inherited. She might be defensive of her puppies so take that into account. If you’re not allowed to see them together, it might be that they’re not really her puppies!
- How old are the puppies?
They must be at least seven to eight weeks old to leave their mother.
- Are the puppies weaned?
At seven weeks they should be fully weaned. If they are not, they could be younger than the breeder claimed.
- How old is mum?
She should be over a year old, but obviously not very old.
- How many litters has mum had?
It is against the law to breed a bitch more than six times in her lifetime. If the breeder breeds frequently they are required to have a licence.
- Have the puppies been wormed?
All puppies have worms at birth. Worming should start with the breeder at about two weeks old, be repeated every two weeks and be continued by you.
- Have the puppies had any vaccinations? If so, when is the next dose due?
Puppies should be vaccinated at 6-9 weeks of age and then again at 10-12 weeks. They will become fully protected one week after the second vaccination. You will need to do this if the breeder has not.
- Does the puppy look healthy – clean eyes, ears and bottom?
If the puppy is unwell, collect him another day. If he’s still ill then, do not take him and try another breeder.
- What should I feed my puppy? Do you have a diet sheet to take away?
A good breeder will give you enough food to continue exactly the same diet for a couple of days. They should also give you a diet sheet that shows how feeding should change as your puppy grows.
- What sort of socialisation or experiences has my puppy had so far?
Puppies should preferably be raised in a home environment with all the noise and through traffic of a normal home. Those raised in kennels away from the house will need more intensive socialisation training to ensure they can cope with daily life as a pet. If puppies have already met other dogs, domestic animals and people they will have more confidence than those that have not.
- Can I return the puppy if there are any healthy problems?
You should take your new puppy to a vet for a health check within 48 hours. A good breeder will offer to take the puppy back at any point should you be unable to keep him.
- Is the puppy Kennel Club registered?
If so, make sure you are given the registration certificate and pedigree when you pick up your puppy. You should also get some free health insurance for the first few weeks.
- When can I take the puppy home?
It is absolutely essential to see the puppies with their mother. Some unscrupulous people claiming to be breeders might in fact be dealers who have bought the pups in. They are likely to be poorly bred, might be ill and are usually too young to leave their exhausted, ill-treated mothers. If they survive, these puppies rarely make good pets, and you will be fuelling this cruel trade where money is the priority and welfare of the dog is ignored.