Buying a puppy, how to buy a good dog for life
First of all, I would advise you to read my article about choosing a dog before you start thinking about buying a puppy. This will help you think about what kind of dog and what aged dog will fit in with you, your family and your lifestyle, both present and future. You need to gather some information about the many varied breeds of dog, and, after some consideration, you may decide that a more mature dog would be better for you and your family than a young puppy.
If you do decide that you want to buy a puppy and you have researched and decided on the breed of dog that would suit you, here is some basic advice to help you avoid mistakes.
The first rule is that you should never buy a dog from a pet shop – it is imperative that you buy direct from an established breeder with a good reputation. It is advisable to ask you local vets for some recommendations, then contact several breeders and talk to them about the breed of dog in general and about their breeding practices and policies. Visit them and ask them about genetic problems that the breed is prone to and how they avoid them in their puppies. A good breeder will have a system in place of screening their dogs for hereditary diseases, thus giving their puppies the best possible chance of a long, healthy life. This is also the time to ensure that the breeder holds all relevant legal paperwork – find out what is relevant in your country.
Keep talking to and visiting breeders until you find one that inspires you with confidence and really cares about the dogs and puppies. Discuss the price and make sure that it is within your budget, bearing in mind all the other costs of having a new dog. Also keep in mind that a breeder that charges more may well be a better choice, as they will spend more money on the welfare of their dogs.
When choosing a puppy, make sure you see the litter with their dame, preferably seeing both parent dogs. Look at the puppies carefully for any signs of ill-health. Healthy puppies will sleep a lot of the time but once awake, they should be active, inquisitive and energetic. Inspect the general environment that the dogs and puppies are kept in – is it clean and comfortable? Do the dogs have everything they need – fresh water, clean bedding, a dry, clean room at a comfortable temperature? Are the dogs and puppies friendly and happy when the breeder approaches them?
Look for obvious signs of ill-health such as diarrhea, vomiting, bloated stomach (a sign of worms), discharge from eyes and nose (a sign of a bacterial or viral infection) and never buy a puppy that is anything other than in top form. It is stressful for even a healthy puppy to leave its dame and litter mates and go into a completely new environment, but a sick puppy will quickly deteriorate. It is the breeder’s responsibility to care for the puppies and get them into good health before they are well enough to go to a new home.
Once you have chosen a puppy, you should receive a written health guarantee from the breeder that allows you to return it within 72 hours for a full refund if any disease is found by you or your vet within that period. This gives you the opportunity to take the puppy to your own vet for a full health check – you should do this at the earliest opportunity. This sounds heartless to some people – how can you return a poor sick little puppy to a breeder? – but the point is to put the onus of responsibility onto the breeder to care for the dogs and puppies in his charge and provide healthy puppies to new owners.
Once you see a puppy that you are interested in, ask to see it away from the litter and the dame. You need to get an idea of how you’ll get on with this puppy in a one-to-one situation. If you decide it’s the puppy for you, go ahead with the purchase but make sure that all the paperwork is in order and legal in your country. A good breeder should be happy for you to phone them to ask questions and advice after you get the puppy home.
You should already have prepared your home for your new dog. A comfortable bed, food and water bowls, collar and leash and some safe chew toys should be ready for your new companion, plus a dog crate if you have decided to use one. It is usually advisable to keep the puppy on the same food as the breeder was feeding him, at least to start with. This can gradually be changed over the following week if you prefer a different brand, by blending the existing food with the new one. Sudden changes could upset the puppies tummy, so take your time with this.
Read my other articles for help with house training and generally caring for you new dog.