CONGRATULATIONS! You have made the decision to welcome a puppy into your home and family! Dogs make amazing companions and family members but introducing a puppy to your home needs to be done properly and with a lot of thought in order to ensure your puppy grows into a good-mannered, well-balanced and friendly adult dog that fits in with your family’s personalities and lifestyle. Whilst exciting, making the decision to get a puppy is the easy bit – there is now a lot to consider before the day when puppy arrives!
It takes time to learn about dog ownership and make an informed decision as to whether or not a new puppy is a good idea for the family and the household. The decision to get a puppy shouldn’t be taken lightly or made quickly. It should be done with a great deal of care and thought. Getting a puppy should be on the understanding that you are committed to providing for and caring for your new puppy, not just in the short or even long term, but for the lifetime of that puppy. I would strongly advise anyone thinking of getting a puppy to undertake research on what is involved, the commitment that is required, the work that is necessary and the costs associated with having a puppy, plus the general responsibilities of dog ownership and the affect that having a dog will have on your life (social and work).
Here are a few things to consider before getting your puppy.
Which Breed or Crossbreed?
There are many factors that should be thought about here. A decision must not be based on what the puppy looks like, but how their breed specific characteristics will fit in with your lifestyle.
Essentially, you need to consider three questions:
- Why do you want a puppy? Is the puppy for a specific purpose?
- What genes does the puppy have and how will they affect future behaviour?
- How do these genes fit in with your family’s personalities and lifestyle?
If you have children, you need to look for a breed with certain traits such as being gentle, patient and caring. Bear in mind that there is no perfect dog that fits all families with children though and both the children and new puppy will need to be taught to respect each other appropriately, irrelevant of the breed you choose.
You may hope that your puppy joins you in any hobby that you have when he is older, such as jogging, hiking or a hunting partner in a field. In this case, you will be looking for a medium to large, athletic breed or crossbreed. For hunting, you may be best suited to those bred for retrieval, such as the Labrador or Springer Spaniel.
Many dogs are now bred as companion dogs and they can be any size or shape, but will still need to have their individual needs met.
You’ll need to consider the amount of space you have in your home and garden and then relate this to the size and activity level of the dog when it grows into an adult. A small dog will be better suited to a small apartment than a Great Dane for example! A large rural home would be more likely to accommodate any breed or size of dog.
Also in relation to size, consider whether you will be able to train and control a large breed dog. Dogs of all sizes need to be trained appropriately, but larger breeds may be more difficult to control just because of their sheer size and weight.
You’ll need to consider the level of activity you are prepared to give your puppy and the adult dog it will become. Are you a jogger who wants a very active dog or someone who prefers a dog with a slower pace in life? Some breeds of dog need more exercise than others and if their needs are not met, you are likely to see behavioural issues as a result.
You’ll need to consider the type of coat the dog may have. For example, will it shed, will it require a lot of grooming, including a professional groomer? Do you know anyone with allergies to dog hair (please see link for further information)? Even if you can afford a professional groomer, you’ll need to commit yourself to regular home care such as brushing, trimming, baths and basic health checks etc.
Pedigree or Crossbreed
There are advantages of both and the choice is as individual as the dog is!
If your preference is a pedigree, then consider what breed of dog you are interested in and research everything you can about the breed. The Kennel Club website provides useful information on pedigree breeds including their characteristics, what health problems they are prone to and general information on size, grooming requirements etc).
If you are thinking of getting a crossbreed, research information on both/all the breeds involved in the cross to have some understanding of what they might be like as adult dogs.
Do you have a preference over the sex of the dog you would like?
Consider the lifetime work, commitment and costs involved in having a puppy and adult dog (your time, cost of food, training, insurance, vet bills and bedding, their exercise regime etc). Sometimes, the bigger the dog, the more expensive they are due to increased food consumption, larger crates and beds, larger toys and sometimes, increased costs for surgery and medicine.
Essentially, it is important to find a dog with the genetic make-up that best suits your family and lifestyle as many behaviour problems stem from families choosing dogs with genetic characteristics and traits that do not suit their way of living.
Why is Choosing a Good Breeder Important?
Now you have narrowed down a breed or crossbreed and even chosen one that is right for you, it is extremely important to find a good, reputable breeder! AVOID PUPPY FARMS and PET SHOPS LIKE THE PLAGUE!
A puppy’s life is affected long before it comes home to a family.
From the moment a decision is made is by a human to breed from two dogs, the fate of the resulting puppy is decided. This is because the health of the resulting new puppies relies heavily on the choices the breeder makes. The personality, health and wellbeing of those puppies will be affected one way or another by the breeder’s choice of parent dogs and these effects will have an impact on them which may continue right through adulthood.
In my opinion, the responsibility to produce healthy baby puppies relies solely on the breeder. Whilst it is understood that even the healthiest and well looked after parent dogs may produce puppies with problems, the likelihood of this happening is reduced if careful and sensible breeding choices are made. It is imperative that a breeder therefore, holds the welfare of parent dogs and resulting puppies as priority.
If they do not consider or have an awareness of genetic issues, have the wrong motivations behind wishing to breed or do not select the appropriate breeds to mate together then the resulting puppies are likely to have health issues, behavioural issues and may even face re-homing issues as a result later in life.
A good, ethical dog breeder:
- Will be concerned about the health and temperament of the puppies
- Will not have over bred the mother or be breeding to order
- Will allow you to see the mother with the puppies
- Will let the puppies live in the house or have regular access
- Will socialise the puppies with people and other animals and get them used to things they will encounter when older
- Will let you hold all the puppies, not just the one being offered to you
- Is knowledgeable about dogs
- Cares about what happens to the puppies they breed
- Will ask you to sign a contract that outlines the obligations of them as well as your requirements as the new owner
- Will be happy for you to ask as many questions as you like (for example about vaccinations, worming, food, health screening/testing, pedigree history etc)
- Will explain about any vaccination and worming programme they have followed
- Will ask you questions about your lifestyle and reasons for wanting a puppy.
In addition, the puppies:
- Should look clean, happy and healthy.
- Their environment should be clean and warm with warm bedding and fresh water.
- Should be moving around normally and not sitting in an unusual manner (could indicate underlying hip problems).
- Should be eating a well balanced diet.
- Should be getting human contact frequently throughout the day
- Should be experiencing normal background noises in a home such as the radio, people talking, and walking, sounds of the kitchen etc.
- Should be experiencing an enriched environment to help their brains to develop normally and stimulate all 5 senses to help them develop mentally and physically (this is when the puppies are given different toys to play with and areas to explore). These new experiences must be given carefully to the new puppy and in a way which does not overwhelm them!
Essentially, good breeders are caring and knowledgeable about their breed (or crossbreed puppies) and want to improve their breeding lines and reduce the production of puppies with inherited disorders or health problems. If you don’t like what you see or you don’t get satisfactory answers, leave and look elsewhere! Your instinct will tell you a lot!
By choosing a responsible and reputable breeder, not only are you more likely to have a healthy puppy, but you’ll also help to discourage the sale of ‘puppy farm’ offspring.
Consider the Health of the Puppy
I have mentioned that the breeder you choose will have a big impact on how healthy your puppy is, or isn’t.
However, having an understanding of which diseases some breeds and crossbreeds are susceptible to may also help you decide what puppy to choose. It is important to choose a dog that is as healthy as possible and that it hasn’t inherited any undesirable disease-causing genes from its parents. For example, is the breed you are interested in prone to skin disease or eye problems?
Your breeder should be able to tell you what health testing or screening has been completed and the Kennel Club and British Veterinary Association offer canine health schemes which aim to detect and monitor certain inherited conditions such as hip and elbow scoring to detect hip and elbow dysplasia for example.
Whilst Pet Insurance is not mandatory, I would always advise on getting Pet Insurance and to a level that you are most able to afford. Do your research though – the cheapest is rarely the best!
If you would like more helping on how to go about choosing the right puppy for you and selecting a reputable breeder, why not consider myPre Consultation on Choosing the Right Puppy 121 Service?
Finally, the preparation doesn’t stop here! Please do your research on how to deal with a puppy and introduce him/her correctly to your family. It may not be as easy as you think! I provide a 121 service where I can help you with suggestions for bringing your puppy home, setting up your home in preparation for his/her arrival, introducing children and other pets and what equipment you might need etc. Please click here for more information on this 121 service and also my Early Puppy Guidance visits.
I would also recommend reading the following book (or another puppy training book, however, this one I particularly recommend)! ‘The Perfect Puppy’ by Gwen Bailey.