So you’re dead-set on getting a pedigree puppy are you?
Well with so many different breeds around of all shapes and sizes it can sometimes prove just a little too easy for us to get totally carried away and let our hearts rule our heads.
As any popular wall calendar-seller will tell you, baby animals like kittens, piglets and puppies will always melt our hearts year-upon-year, but before even making the first moves to buy a puppy there’s a lot of research that needs to be done.
It’s important to note that every happy and healthy pedigree dog has been properly bred, trained, fed and looked-after with extreme patience and thought.
So my first advice would be to try not to be too impulsive and to prevent your exciting enterprise ending in a complete canine catastrophe!
Buying a puppy is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make, for both you and your new pup.
Exceptional careful consideration must be given to all factors involved, as ignoring expert advice or assuming everything will be ok will prove disastrous in the long-term, and is the commonest reason our nation’s rescue centres are full to the brim with unwanted seductive impulse-buys, and confused and lonely good-ideas-at-the-time.
Breeder or Pet Shop?
Quite simply, breeder every time; and you might as well replace the words ‘pet shop’ with ‘puppy farm’.
Tragically more and more puppies are being bred at these horrific establishments around the UK, purely for money and with no concern for the health or welfare of the pups or pup’s parents.
Farmed puppies commonly develop an array of behavioural and physical health problems; sold on to pet shops or ‘agents’ with massive infestations of worms, fleas and skin infections, not to mention kennel cough, vomiting, the runs and even deadly infections like parvovirus.
Inherited conditions like hip dysplasia and congenital heart disease may not manifest themselves until the puppy becomes much older. Behavioural problems are due to total lack of normal socialization, or from questionable temperaments passed on by the parents.
Puppies spending the first five to eight weeks of their life with only their mother or siblings may find the transition (sometimes by car, lorry, train or even plane) into a caged environment in a pet shop or even a normal domestic environment particularly distressing, leading to future aggression or nervousness.
Sadly many dogs will eventually be abandoned for these very reasons.
Puppy farmers sell their ‘stock’ through pet shops, free newspapers, notices in shop windows and via the internet. They’ll usually have many different breeds for sale when most good breeders only have one; or the fake breeder will suggest meeting for the handover of the pup somewhere well away from their farm, classically your nearest motorway service station.
Puppy farmers have no interest in the puppy’s aftercare and will usually pressure you into buying for two reasons. Firstly the quick cash sale, sometimes hundreds of pounds; and secondly the longer the pup lives the less it looks like the pure-breed it was advertized to be.
Sadly this barbaric practice will continue until people stop buying their product. Never buy a ‘farmed’ pup purely because you feel sorry for it or feel you must rescue it, it’ll only be replaced by another.
For the best dog breeders contact the Kennel Club directly. Ask for their list of fine Accredited Breeders too; the crème-de-la-crème of the British dog-breeding population, where parents of pups are health-tested and the breeders themselves have agreed to be spot-checked.
Once you’ve decided to purchase your puppy from a Kennel Club-recommended breeder, the next step is to please consider the following:
Will this new cute fluffy addition fit into your daily routine? Are you out all day? Do you keep irregular hours? If so then forget it.
Puppies require patience and commitment; needing constant supervision, socialization and training from the moment you carry them over your threshold.
Don’t jump in at the deep end, especially with a challenging breed; if you’re lazy then perhaps a super-active breed like the Border collie (pictured below) is not for you!
So What Breed?
Do your research. And then do some more. Events like Discover Dogs at Earl’s Court in November are perfect places to start meeting all the different breeds and asking your long and carefully pre-prepared list of questions to their actual real-life experienced breeders and breed-rescuers.
They’ll be only too happy to share their thoughts and opinions with you, and will always give you good advice. Be prepared to put your name on a waiting list for a litter to be born too; a well-bred puppy is well-worth waiting for.
Is Size Really Important?
With dogs it is – very. How big is your tiny puppy going to be, and will you even have space for it? Also smaller breeds can sometimes live twice as long as the giant breeds, as well as costing far less to feed, groom, kennel, and insure per year too.
Will I Make a Good Owner?
All good responsible breeders will interview you to assess whether you are suitable – and the best will absolutely grill you about it! No breeder wants their pups falling into the wrong hands; they love their dogs and want the very best future for them.
Credit Crunch… for Dogs?
In these tough economic times, ask yourself if an extra mouth to feed and look after is such a good idea? Is your income stable enough to look after your new purchase; as special diet, training, vaccinations, worming, vets bills, toys and bedding are all required within your first few weeks at home together?
Coat Length and Type
Will you spend hours every day grooming and cleaning your dog and house? Or would you much rather have a more convenient low-maintenance breed? Some breeds even have their own characteristic smell. Even the Obamas have carefully searched for a non-moulting breed to join them in the White House as their daughter is allergy-prone.
Many breeds will have their own inbuilt characteristic temperaments as they’ve been bred for their looks to their working abilities. Remember the original purpose for which a particular breed was developed won’t just disappear when these animals change environment.
Once you’ve decided on your preferred breed and you’re about to visit the breeder, here are some questions that may help:
Can I Meet the Parents?
Always insist on seeing mother interacting with her litter; if there’s no mother present then be extremely wary that these aren’t farmed pups. If possible meet dad too.
What are the Puppies fed?
Ask about the puppy’s feeding regime. Good breeders will supply you with a diet plan and a few days worth of the puppy’s normal food to take home too.
Where are the Puppies kept?
You’ll most likely be shown into a room and a pup or litter is brought in. Make sure that the puppy appears alert, responsive to sounds and that he is interested in you. If you’re concerned for the pup’s health contact your local vet.
What is the area like?
If the dogs are kept outside, ask if the pups have been accustomed to the sounds of everyday life, like washing machines, TVs, dishwashers, human conversations, etc. These may involve short periods inside the house or playing good-quality recordings.
With animals bred inside, find out where, as a quiet dining room isolated from the hub of the household won’t be much better than an outside pen. Puppies need a place where these familiar home-noises are commonplace, allowing them to get used to their new home.
Are the Pups Toilet-trained?
Especially important if you’re purchasing a slightly older puppy, but is also a useful means of assessing how dedicated your chosen breeder is. You don’t want to be struggling and constantly cleaning-up numerous indoor accidents whilst looking back wishing you’d bought elsewhere.
Should I Keep the Receipt?
For sure – always request a written agreement that your purchase is subject to a satisfactory examination by your own vet within 48 hours. Ask if any veterinary treatment has been carried out and if so, what was it for and were there any results.
Inspect all the breeder’s relevant paperwork which may include pedigree and registration papers (although be wary of these as there are many fakes) and the parents’ hereditary screening certificates.
Ask if the puppy will be covered by insurance for any illness during its first six weeks in your care as most good breeders will subscribe to this scheme. Responsible breeders should also be willing to take the puppy back if your circumstances change and written confirmation of this should be given.
Are there any Alternatives to buying a Pedigree Puppy?
Yes. If you’re still unsure about whether to purchase a pure-bred pup, then why not consider adopting a rescue dog instead? There are many thousands of beautiful stray and abandoned dogs wondering why they are now in a rehoming centre, all needing loving homes.
Most are already house-trained, and many are pedigree breeds too of all ages – even puppies!