A dog can live for up to 15 years or more, so it is important to ensure that you and family really want a dog, will be able to give that dog the love and attention it deserves for the rest of its life, and know where to find the best place to get one from.
Choosing a Dog
So you want a dog! Does the entire family buy into this idea? Experience has shown that if one or more are against 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 take into consideration your health, age, and overall time constraints; do you want an active or sedentary animal? Some dogs demand and require almost constant attention, lots of exercise and mental stimulation. Others are more laid back; therefore you need to research which dog will suit you and your family's outlook and lifestyle that includes living arrangements. For instance if you live in a flat and had limited time, a Border Collie or Springer Spaniel type dog would be madness, and would most probably lead to serious behavioural difficulties. Not only for the dog!
Lots of people buy a dog because they like the look of them, i.e. for aesthetic reasons, without taking into account the needs and temperament of that breed. You need to research both the positive and the negative side of your chosen breed and make sure what you are looking for is suitable for your environment and lifestyle. Make sure you have fully decided on the breed before you start looking for your new addition to the family
WHERE TO BUY
If you have decided on a Puppy then there are some fundamental things you must do and some rules that you must adhere to, no matter what the breeder or seller tells you.
Rule 1. Never ever buy a Puppy from anywhere or anyone without being able to see at least one or preferably both the parents. There are places called Puppy Farms that are absolutely deplorable. The puppies from these farms generally have major problems throughout their lives, mainly caused through poor breeding, bad sanitation, cheap food etc. They are also often 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 clear, airy, and bright, and 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, then do not even consider buying a puppy or you could live to regret it.
Quite often dealers will buy the whole litter for, say, £45 from puppy farms in Ireland or Wales, then sell a puppy on to you at £450.00, complete with bogus pedigree certification.
Rule 2. Never buy a Puppy from a Pet Shop or any other similar outlet; other animals are generally 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.
Rule 3. Never buy on impulse, or because you feel sorry for a frightened and timid puppy.
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 concerning 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.
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 Cocker Spaniel yet it is clearly and without any shadow of a doubt an English Springer Spaniel.
Rule 6. Unless you are an experience handler/dog owner then do not pick the puppy that bounds up to you and pushes all the others out the way to get to you. This is normally the most dominant of the litter. 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 a 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 as this is not the case. Though an excellent and well meaning establishment, The Kennel Club really does not have the facilities, nor the ability or time, to check the credentials or bona fide of all the breeders on their books.
You would be better off to go to the breed clubs of the type of dog you are looking for, as they generally know each individual breeder, and respect each other ethics and work. Contact the secretaries and they should be able to point you in the direction of available quality pups.
Choosing a 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 4/5 weeks old and again when you pick up the pup. The best age to take the puppy home is 7 weeks. NEVER accept a puppy less than 7 weeks of age, as it is vitally important they are with their mother and siblings up to this age.
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 and signs of aggression, fearfulness, nervousness, or neurotic symptoms such as chewing feet, tail, or skin damage, are the dogs pacing etc. 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 shapes the behavioural future of the offspring, genetics may load the gun but 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 socialised. If the puppies have been socialised correctly, then they will adapt and accept situations that are potentially stressful. 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 and secure?
Purchase a collar, lead, bowls, and dog tag with name address and telephone (law 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. Leave a small blanket or towel on your first visit, so that it gets the mother and the litter smell on it, this should provide some comfort in the first week or so at home. Check with other dog owners as to the best Vet in your area.
When you pick up the pup take a crate/indoor kennel or 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.
If you have a loud ticking clock put this near the bed or crate and have a radio on in another room, make sure it is tuned into talk not a music station. If the puppy continues to get stressed 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 away over a period of time once the puppy has settled in. You can also put in a hot water bottle; this will mimic the heat from the mother and siblings over the first few nights. Make sure it is well covered or you may get a very wet bed/crate.
Your new puppy will needs 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 with what I truly believe is the world’s best companion — The Dog.
Finding a Good Breeder
So, you've decided on your chosen breed, what next? In order to ensure you buy a healthy puppy which will give you many years of joy and companionship, it is essential to locate a responsible breeder. But where do you start looking for such a person? To make it even harder, many good breeders do not advertise, but rely on word of mouth to find homes for the puppies they breed.
In my opinion, the best source is one of the official breed clubs. Most breed clubs have a code of ethics which their members must follow, and will usually know who has puppies available. You will find at least one official breed club on the Breed Information pages of this site.
One source we do not recommend is The Kennel Club. The Kennel Club keep a list of breeders who have puppies. However, no checks are carried out to ensure they are reputable breeders, you simply pay them money and you will be added to their list as long as you do not breed more than 4 litters a year and do not need a breeder's license. There are breeders on this list which I would certainly not recommend to anybody, and, in my opinion, are no better than puppy farmers. However, The Kennel Club are trying to improve on this and have started an accredited breeder's scheme. But as yet this is still no guarantee.
Another source is to visit some dog shows. This is an excellent opportunity to meet adult dogs of your chosen breed and talk to experienced people.
And of course you can check out the breeders advertising with The Dog Scene by visiting the Breed Information pages!
Some responsible breeders are now starting to advertise in order to help steer people away from the irresponsible breeders and puppy farmers. But when replying to an advertisement in a paper remember that the majority of those advertisements are probably not from responsible breeders.
"Visitors always welcome", "health tests on sire and dam (good results)", "give full breeder support"? these are just a few phrases that might wave a green flag and certainly worth visiting the breeder.
Phrases which may wave a red flag are things like "ready for Christmas", "low prices", "good hips", "adorable balls of fluff", adverts that are offering lots of different breeds, and many more.
What does KC Registered mean?
Any purebred dog who meets The Kennel Club's requirements for registration may be registered and receive "papers". The papers can't tell you if the dog is of good quality or if it even looks like the breed it is supposed to be. All it can tell you is that the dog is registered and his records are kept on file. Most people misunderstand this important point! Many, many poor quality dogs are AKC registered. You can't judge a dog's quality from looking at only his registration papers or pedigree.
Many people believe that when a puppy is registered with The Kennel Club that is a guarantee that the breeder is a responsible breeder, that the puppy is well bred.
This could not be further from the truth! It is no guarantee that the puppy is healthy or has even been bred by a reputable breeder. The Kennel Club makes no checks whatsoever; they simply receive the paperwork and register it. This means that indeed, the puppy might not even be the puppy on the registration certificate.
Although The Kennel Club has a code of ethics and rules to abide by, there are many scams and ways to get around these - and you can be sure that the devious puppy farmer knows them all!
To register a puppy with The Kennel Club is simple -- as long as both its parents are already registered. All you have to do is to complete a form with the details of the litter born -- when the mating took place, date of birth, dam, sire, breed, colour and preferred name. You then send off the form to The Kennel Club with your money. That's all it is -- there are no checks to ensure that the information you have sent is correct -- it is merely a registration system and is based on trusting the breeder is telling the truth.
So, why do breeders register at all? Most responsible breeders also compete with their dogs as part of their hobby, but to compete in official shows and trials, the dog must first be registered with The Kennel Club.
The Kennel Club also have a "puppy list" for those looking to purchase a puppy. However we do NOT recommend that you use this list as once again no checks are made upon the breeders. We personally know that The Kennel Club has had, whom we consider, puppy farmers and other irresponsible breeders on this list. The only requirement to be included on this list is that you do not breed more than four litters a year, other than that you simply pay The Kennel Club money and they include you on the list.
Having said all that you might be wondering why then should you bother to buy a puppy that is KC Registered? Well the fact is that the majority of responsible breeders register their puppies with the Kennel Club. But the point is you should not believe that it means that you are getting a well bred puppy from a responsible breeder just because it has a Kennel Club registered certificate.
What is a puppy farm?
"Puppy farm" is a derogative term generally used for somebody who is breeding dogs solely for money and with no care for the dogs or puppies in their care. The dogs are kept and bred in atrocious conditions - usually an old barn, stable or shed, in filthy conditions and often with very little light. The barns are never cleaned out, there is no clean water and very little food. The dogs, both adults and puppies, are in poor health, often emaciated, ridden with fleas and worms. Their coats are filthy and matted and they often have terrible skin problems, causing them great distress. They are packed into small spaces, sometimes cages where they barely have enough room to turn around.
Never being cleaned out the bitches have their puppies lying on weeks worth of faeces. Usually fed and watered only enough to keep them alive means that they don't get the necessary nutrients in order to produce good strong healthy puppies. The bitches are bred time and time again, with no break to recover and build up strength and stamina before having the next litter.
Then the puppies are sent away to be sold. They are taken away from their mother far too early, sometimes barely weaned, and sent on a long journey along with many other puppies - all cold, hungry and frightened.
All this means that puppies produced are very unlikely to be good, strong, healthy puppies. They will be poor, weak and sickly, costing the new owner not only a lot of money with expensive vet bills, but also heartache to watch so helplessly their beloved pet suffer in bad health, and often die at a very young age.
Most people know about these sort of people - there have been many programmes on the tv about them and stories in the newspapers. But most people do not know about the other type of irresponsible breeder, who can be just as bad.
There is a new type of "puppy farmer" growing up - one who is listening to all the advice given out, telling puppy buyers to beware of puppy farmers, and they act in accordance with that advice.
They clean up their kennels so their dogs LOOK healthy and happy, they talk as though they care about their dogs. But the reality is that they still breed from bitches every single season, they don't care about nutrition or hereditary problems, they don't care about socialising their dogs or puppies, they falsify pedigrees. The results are still the same - the buyer ends up with a puppy who is not in good health, perhaps has hereditary problems such as hip dysplasia or PRA, or perhaps they have a bad temperament through not being socialised correctly.
Then there is the other irresponsible type of breeder - the so-called backyard breeder. They have a bitch and think it a good idea to let her have puppies. There are many different reasons - sometimes it's for some extra money, or perhaps they want another one just like their "Fifi", or they just simply think it would be nice. Sometimes these people are lucky and produce a lovely litter of puppies and all goes well. But most of the time once again they don't do their homework, and there are problems. Perhaps, through sheer ignorance, they do not feed the mother or the pups correctly, do not realise they must be wormed, and taken care of. These "breeders" do not know or understand about hereditary problems and do not check to ensure their bitch and the dog they choose to mate her to are health and free from problems. Once again the pups end up with poor health and often poor bones and ligaments creating problems later on in their lives.
So, how can you tell if the breeder you visit really is a responsible breeder? How do you know that they are doing everything they possibly can in order to produce good, strong, healthy puppies with good temperaments in order to provide you with a wonderful companion for many years to come? The bottom line is that you NEVER buy from a dealer or pet shop, always go directly to the breeder. Find the breeder from a reputable source, such as an official breed club.
Most important of all NEVER buy a sickly puppy simply because you feel sorry for it! That is what keeps these people breeding. If the puppy farmers could not sell these puppies would eventually stop breeding - as long as they can make money they will carry on.
What is a Responsible Breeder?
A responsible breeder...
- breeds dogs because they admire a breed, never just for money, and is dedicated to promoting and protecting their chosen breed
- takes the responsibility of breeding dogs very seriously
- is proud of their dogs and is always pleased to show them ALL off and talk about
- has spent time researching their chosen breed and pedigrees
- cares who buys their puppies and will ask questions of any prospective purchaser to ensure they are able to provide a good, loving home for the rest of that puppy's life
- will explain all about the breed the prospective buyer is interested in, to ensure that it is the right breed for them
- ensures their breeding stock is tested for any hereditary problems known to be in their breed
- ensures all dogs and puppies in their care are well looked after and correctly socialised
- does not continually breed from one bitch, season after season, but allows them to recover between litters
- will help to rehome any puppy that does not work out in its new home
- supplies at least a puppy diet and care sheet, and often a lot more, when selling a puppy
- does not sell their puppies to a third party (dealer or pet shop), but direct to the puppy buyer. Nor would they allow any of their dogs or puppies to be won in a raffle or sold at an auction
- will ensure their puppies are wormed at the appropriate times
- will not let their puppies leave home before seven weeks old
- welcomes enquiries about their breed, whether or not they have puppies for sale
Once you have made the decision to have a dog, the next thing you must consider is which breed? With over 200 breeds currently recognised by The Kennel Club, and many, many others that are not, the decision can be difficult and research is required.
There are various ways in which to research a breed to ensure it is suitable for you and your family. You could start right here on The Dog Scene with the breed profiles, you could visit dog shows and chat with breeders and exhibitors, or contact a breed club. One of the best ways, however, is to visit an event called Discover Dogs. Discover Dogs is run by The Kennel Club and occurs twice a year, once in conjunction with Crufts at the NEC, Birmingham, and again in November at Earls Court, London. Each breed, recognised by The Kennel Club, is offered a booth where experienced people can attend with their dogs in order to tell people all about their chosen breed. You will be able to collect leaflets and talk to breeders and owners and even have a "hands-on" experience with their dogs. This has proved invaluable to many people who, once seeing and understanding what their favoured breed really was like, have actually changed their mind and gone for a different breed.
So where do you start in choosing? Everybody has certain preferences, perhaps a big dog with long hair, or a small dog with short hair, but will your preferences mean that that type of dog will fit into your lifestyle?
Take a look at your life-style:
Do you have young children or are you planning to have children?
If you do, then you will need a dog that is good with children and is sturdy and tolerant enough to cope with the antics of young children. Of course all children should be taught how to respect animals, and the puppy must have an area which is "no-go" to the children where he can retire to when he has had enough!
Do you enjoy walking or high activity?
If you do then a dog with a higher activity level might just suit you, but ensure your activity is one where your dog can join in. It's no good getting a dog if he can't join in all your activities! If you or your family are not particularly active, then ensure the breed you choose prefers just a short walk a day and more cuddles on the sofa!
Are you very house proud?
Then look at the type of coat. Some dogs, like the Dalmatian, shed hairs constantly which are difficult to hoover up and get everywhere! Some breeds shed only seasonally and the hair is reasonably easy to clean up. Then again there are the few breeds, like the poodle, which do not shed at all. But these breeds must have their hair trimmed regularly.
Where do you live?
If you live in a small flat it is no good getting a Great Dane or St Bernard! Equally some breeds do not do well living in a large, busy town.
Do you enjoy grooming?
Some people find sitting and combing a dog is very relaxing, or enjoy snipping and clipping at hair. If you don't then be sure the breed you choose doesn't need much grooming!
What about training?
Do you need a dog which is easy to train and willing to please? Some breeds are more dominant than others and require more training, while others are stubborn or willful.
Once you have a rough idea of your needs and lifestyle you can make up a list of breeds which fall into those categories. That is the time you need to go out and meet those breeds, see what they're really like and talk to experienced owners and breeders.