This article explains how to choose and take home your new puppy plus the do’s and dont’s of your decisions
Buying and Choosing a Puppy
Updated Advice: I have updated this article to take into consideration the pandemic as the demand for dogs and puppies has increased dramatically.
There have been 3.5 million new dogs sold over the last 18 months mainly down to lockdown and loneliness.
Many will end up in rescues and sold on as the realisation of the requirements of looking after a dog or puppy hits home.
The cost has rocketed and a puppy is three to four times more expensive than before the lockdown.
This price will reduce dramatically as lockdown is now starting to ease, so you may wish to want to wait before making this life-changing decision. Plus the rescues will be overflowing and you may get a dog for a fraction of the price. Having said that it may come with issues because of lack of socialisation and separation anxiety issues.
Breeders: I bred my very first ever litter of puppies in 2017 despite owning and working dogs for 45 years There were seven puppies and I made sure I did everything right.
That included 400 + people, children, and older people handling them before they were seven weeks old. The picture above is of the mother Fizz and her pups just look how healthy they look.
I wrote this article to warn of the dangers and scams that people can easily fall into when buying a puppy. Read it and take on board the advice, as many people may regret buying a puppy especially from the wrong breeder.
Buyer remorse is because they did not research the breed, breeder, and ongoing costs before buying. Remember without choosing wisely you may find yourself with a dog with behavioural and ongoing health problems.
Your First Decisions: Before you decide that you want a puppy please make sure the entire family buy into this idea? Experience has shown that if one or more is against having a pet, then bringing an animal into that environment can cause considerable family friction and stress.
Have you weighed up the financial and time implications, these can be considerable, owning a dog is a serious commitment and should never be taken lightly. You should not purchase a puppy if you are going to be working for most of the week and the puppy will be left alone for longer than a few hours at a time.
People buy puppies for many reasons, for some, especially first-time buyers it can be a difficult and traumatic time.
It can also be a very difficult and anxious time for the puppy.
Suddenly taken away from the security of the breeder the mother and the pups siblings, anxiety, and fear can set in deeply.
They need your attention comfort and reassurance at this critical time.
On the right is Gunner. The puppy I kept out of my litter, he is an absolutely amazing dog and I am very proud of him.
Dogs are pack animals, they take solace and comfort in the family/pack environment.
If someone buys a puppy then leaves it for hours each day many behavioural problems can arise, not least separation anxiety.
Think long and hard about whether your lifestyle and employment both now and in the foreseeable future will allow you to give the time, patience and security that this little scrap of a puppy needs.
If you have decided on a Puppy then there are some fundamental things you must do, There are also some places and situations you should never buy from. and hard and fast rules that you should adhere to. Whatever the breeder or seller tells you.
This is your guide to finding, choosing, and preparing for your puppy to come home with you. Follow and don’t be swayed by your heart let your head rule that decision.
Puppies Where To Buy and What to Walk Away From:
Rule 1. Never buy a puppy from anywhere or anyone without being able to see at least one or preferably both the parents. that includes during the pandemic
There are places called Puppy Farms that are absolutely deplorable. Just look at this link for more information and to report a potential puppy farmed dog.
Puppies from these farms normally have major health and behavioural problems throughout their lives.
This is caused mainly by poor breeding, bad sanitation, cheap food, and a lack of handling.
They are generally taken from their mother and siblings far too early causing socialisation problems with people and other dogs.
Do not let the word Farm give you the wrong impression. It may not be a farm but kennels that are clean, airy, and bright.
On the face of it look like a professional establishment. If you cannot meet at least one parent or there are lots of different breeds of pups around, then do not even consider buying a puppy, you will almost certainly live to regret that rash decision.
These people will often buy the whole litter at say £65 per dog from puppy farms in Ireland, England, Scotland or Wales. Then they sell them to you at £550.00 to £750.00 complete with fancy bogus pedigree certification.
Pets4homes is not a place that I would ever search for a puppy. I have heard far too many horror stories of people buying through this mode of advertising it is almost a front for unscrupulous breeders and puppy farmers.
Rule 2. Never buy a puppy from a pet shop or any other similar outlet; other animals are OK but not Dogs.
You could be supporting the horrific trade in puppy-farmed dogs. I have even seen pups being sold at car boot sales. Many of the dogs sold in Pet Shops are from puppy farmers.
Rule 3. Never buy on impulse or because you feel sorry for a frightened or timid puppy. You will have that puppy for many years, that period could be a pleasure or a pain.
Rule 4. Never take the word of a breeder or any seller who says you cannot meet any of the parents, or they skirt your questions about the parents.
The excuses commonly used are the mothers ill or not available or at friends or they are selling a pup for someone else.
Another scam is to meet you somewhere away from the so-called breeders home.
Or they will bring the pup to you. You must see the house, the kennels, and where the puppies are being kept.
It is better if they are reared indoors. Commercial breeders rarely give each litter the attention they need.
Rule 5. Do not automatically believe that your dog is a pedigree. Just because they have supplied a certificate, especially if parents cannot be seen, some of these certificates are not worth the cheap paper they are printed on.
I have a puppy at my classes at the time of writing this, with a full pedigree certificate, sold as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier yet it is clearly a Mastiff.
Rule 6. Unless you are an experienced handler/dog owner then do not pick the puppy that bounds up to you and pushes all the others out the way in its haste to get to you. This is normally the most dominant of the litter, the bully. Do not also go to the other end of the scale and pick the runt or the frightened one, because you feel sorry for it, you are taking on a whole heap of problems if you do.
The majority of all dog attacks are based on fear, not aggression. You are far better off picking a pup from the middle rankings. The breeder if worth their salt, should be able to advise you on this. Alternatively, you can employ a behaviourist or specialist who can assess the pups using specialised puppy assessment tests.
Rule 7. If you looking for puppies do not automatically think that if you go through the Kennel Club route, that those dogs and breeders have all been personally checked or vetted by that organisation.
This is not the case, although an excellent and well-meaning establishment in most cases, they do not have the facilities nor the ability or time to check the credentials or bona fide of all the breeders on their books.
Rule 8. If you have a young child under 5.5 years of age, then I would not recommend bringing a puppy into this environment. You cannot negotiate with a child under this age. You have more chance of negotiating with a terrorist. They do not understand right from wrong, no amount of work or explanation that the puppy is not a toy is going to convince them otherwise.
Rough or careless handling in the first two main fear periods and the formative weeks of pups life will have a permanent and detrimental effect on their life. There are two slight acceptions to this rule and that is related to the breed of dog chosen. Two breeds are considered exceptionally good with young children. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and this main surprise you? The Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Read my article (1) The History of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. This may change your perception of this breed as it explains why it is called The Nanny Dog.
Rule 9. Never buy two puppies at the same time, whether siblings or from different litters.
This is a recipe for disaster read my article (2) Siblings The Worst Of Both Worlds.
It may be better to go to the breed clubs of the type of dog you are looking for.
They generally know each individual breeder and often respect each other’s ethics and work.
Contact the breed secretaries and they should be able to point you in the direction of available quality pups.
Rule 10. Do not buy any breed unless you have researched the breed temperament and requirements thoroughly, Many breeds are not suitable for city or a sedentary lifestyle, the reverse also applies. Certain breeds are not suitable for an active or busy environment.
It is far easier to research this information now we have the internet, however, I would tend not to look at specific breed forums or clubs as they do tend to have a rose-tinted glasses attitude to their particular choice of breeds.
CHOOSING THE PUPPY AND TAKING IT HOME
You have now set out what you want and where to buy it from. I would recommend you visit the puppies at the very least twice, at 3 weeks and 4/5 weeks before you finally pick up the pup.
The second time you go wear a tee-shirt overnight and give it to the breeder to put in with puppies. or post it to the breeder unwashed, ask them to put it in the with all the puppies. so that they will recognise your smell.
Puppies and adult dogs have a scent memory. Therefore, it will feel far more relaxed and comfortable when you take it home, your scent will be very familiar allowing the puppy to bond easily and quickly with you and your family. Remember to take what is left of the tee-shirt home as it will have the siblings, breeder and mothers smell on it.
Therefore they will totally accept you when you finally come to pick them up.
Another important point, buy a safe cuddly toy specially made for puppies as this will mimic the soft feel of the sibling and it will cuddle up to it at night.
A chew log or rope toy is also a pacifier dip them in water and freeze them. Click on the picture right to see choices.
This helps cool down the gums and allow them to chew which is also a serotonin uplifter and calming action
Existing Dog: If you have existing dogs get the breeder the first time you see the pups to rub the puppy you have chosen in an old clean towel or cloth and take it home with you.
Put this in with the existing dog or dogs. The existing dogs will then be used to the puppies scent even before you bring it home and will accept the new pup far easily
However, do not bring the puppy straight into the house, if possible ask a friendly neighbour or relative if you can use their garden put the puppy there and then bring your dog in on the lead and let it find the pup.
You can then take both of them home the dog will accept the pup’s presence far easier because the smell is familiar and that your dog found the pup and then you took it home.
The best age to take the puppy home is 7 .5 weeks see my (3) Psychological Changes in a Puppies Growth. NEVER ever accept a puppy less than 7 weeks of age, it is vitally important they are with their mother and siblings up to this age. Puppies over twelve weeks should be avoided if possible. Having said that, this would depend on where they are kept, ie if they are kept in a house, and if it is a loving home with plenty of contact with the breeders family and outside people coming in, then it can be considered. Never in a kennel outside without human contact.
Check the appearance of the mother and puppies.
Do they appear healthy; eyes clear and bright, free of any discharge? Are their coats shiny?
If possible get confirmation of the eye and hip scores of both the mother and the father.
If the breeder allows you, always stroke and fuss the parents.
Check their temperament, look for signs of aggression, fearfulness, nervousness, or ‘neurotic’ symptoms.
Also look for chewing feet, tail, or skin damage, are the dogs pacing and are the pups and the mother in good condition.
This is especially important in the mother, as the puppies are in close contact with her.
It has been shown that it is the mother that mainly shapes the behavioural future of the offspring. Genetics may load the gun but the environment fires it. Make sure you handle the puppies, if they become distressed or shy away, this could mean that they have not been properly handled or socialised by the breeder
If the puppies have been socialised correctly, they will adapt and accept potentially stressful situations. You should then end up with a happy well-balanced dog in maturity. Before bringing your new dog home, make sure your garden is ‘Safe & Secure’.
Purchase a collar, lead, bowls, and dog tags with your name address and telephone ( max £5000 fine) bed, toys and treats etc. Check with the breeder what she is feeding the pups, a good breeder will supply you with some food and give you a feeding chart. I sell what I believe are the best leads, collars, and air-dried natural dogs treats in the UK.
Check with other dog owners as to the best Vet in your area. If you live near me check the (4) Local Links section.
I have recommended what I believe to be the best Vets around here in London, Surrey, Middx etc Read my article.
When you pick up the pup take a cardboard box with you and line it with newspaper.
Take spare newspaper with you as the pup may be sick and will almost certainly urinate and defecate on the journey, especially if it is any distance.
When you get home place the bed or crate near somewhere warm. If you are using a crate, and I heartily endorse them.
Cover the crate with a blanket or sheet to make it more den-like introduce the puppy to the crate gradually and positively, see my article on (5) Toileting With a Crate.
If you have a loud ticking clock put this near the bed or crate, you can also put in a hot water bottle; it mimics the mothers and siblings heat.
Make sure it is well covered or you may get a very wet bed/crate, and the tick of the clock the heartbeats, leave a radio on in another room, make sure it is tuned into a talk, not a music station talk Radio is my favourite and the one I choose every time.
Not sure about what the pup thinks, though? If the puppy continues to get very distressed after a couple of days you can take it into your bedroom.
Though I would only normally advise this when using a crate/indoor kennel, as you can gradually move this back to the original location over a period of time. Once the puppy has settled in. (6) See Puppy Crying at Night
Your new puppy will need lots of sleep, just like a human baby so too much interference in this pattern will be detrimental, rough handling by children or adults could affect the behaviour and attitude of your new puppy and could have a long-lasting effect as the dog matures. However, not enough contact and gentle handling will also have a negative effect on your dog, finding the right balance is of vital importance.
A puppy can be an absolute joy or an unmitigated nightmare, which one you get, can be affected by the effort you initially put into your research, decisions, training and ongoing socialisation.
It is vitally important to book your puppy into a good socialisation class, make sure that they do not have more than 8/10 dogs in any one class and that the pups at the start of the course are not over 18 weeks old, and the trainers do not allow the puppies to just jump on one another at the start of the class, integration of the puppies in the class should be careful and slow to avoid problems and long-term bad manners in later life.
Puppies need lots of time, care and patience. Follow the above guidelines and your efforts will be positively rewarded for what I personally believe is the best companion in the world.
Stan Rawlinson February 2011 Updated regularly
Last update November 2021
|Is your dog pulling on the Lead, Unruly, Bad Recall, Aggressive on Lead, Jumping Up?
See my article and Video Clips on how to stop this. The Jingler
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These are some pictures of the Sire and Dam that I own and their litter of 7 puppies they are working Cocker Spaniels. The pups were born on Easter Friday 14th April 2017 It also includes a little video of them at three weeks.