Getting the right puppy is an important decision for you and your family. A happy, playful puppy is a very enjoyable experience but it is also a big commitment and demands time, money and care for many years to come.
When buying a dog it is important to think before you click and do your research first. This way you are more likely to find a dog that is well suited to your whole family and your everyday life.
Charity The Dogs Trust is asking everyone thinking about getting a puppy this Christmas to consider the following:
*Are you committed to looking after a dog for at least 12 years of your life?
*Do you have the time, space and money to devote to a dog every day for the duration of their lifespan, regardless of how your lifestyle may change over the years?
*Did you know owning a dog can cost around £21,000 over the duration of their lifetime?
*How much exercise does the dog need?
*How big will the dog grow?
*Are you prepared to train, socialise and settle in a puppy?
What should you look for when buying a dog:
Can I see the puppies with their mum? It is absolutely essential to see the puppies with their mother. 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! 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.
How old are the puppies? They must be at least 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 not obviously 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. Most puppies will become fully protected two weeks after the second vaccine. Rarely, some puppies will require a third vaccine at 16 weeks. You will need to do this if the breeder has not and your veterinarian will advise you if any further vaccines are required.
Does the puppy look healthy – clean eyes, ears and bottom? If the puppy is unwell, ask the breeder if you can collect him when he’s well again. If the breeder will not allow this 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 health 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.
What should I do if I have doubts about a breeder or are concerned a puppy has been smuggled into the UK from abroad? Contact your local authority or Trading Standards Office and make a report. If there are signs of obvious neglect or cruelty, contact the RSPCA as soon as possible. Investigating and thoroughly researching the best place to get your dog will make this journey all that more wonderful. If you have questions about this, or would like some impartial advice on the best way to go about this and the commitment involved, please call our expert helpline on 020 7837 0006 or ask your local vets or rescue charities for advice.