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08 Jun Things to check before buying a puppy

So, you’ve made the decision to welcome a pint-sized bundle of fur and fun into your home – but before you take that leap and purchase your puppy, there are a few things you need to check first. 

Are you prepared?

Before buying a puppy, you need to be absolutely sure that you will be able to provide for its needs for the entirety of its life. Make sure you have considered the following:

  • Can I afford to look after my dog? There are lots of costs associated with owning a dog. Make sure you budget for all the costs to get set up as well as ongoing costs, such as insurance, vet bills, food and more.
  • Will my dog be left alone regularly? Most dogs do not do well when left alone for more than a few hours. Make sure you have considered how they will be cared for when you are at work, out for the day or on holiday.
  • Can I give my dog the exercise it needs? Your dog needs regular, high quality exercise in order to stay happy and healthy. Make sure you have considered whether you have the time and energy to give your dog the exercise they need, every day and make sure you know how much exercise your dog will need.
  • Is my home suitable for my dog? Different dogs need different amounts of space to live in. Some will be content with living in a flat as long as they get the right amount of exercise, whereas others will need a large garden to run around in. If you live in rented or council accommodation, you need to get written permission from your landlord before getting a pet.
  • Have I researched the dog breed I want, and understand their needs? Different dog breeds will have different needs and personalities. Make sure you are fully informed about the breed before buying a puppy – research online, talk to existing owners and meet dogs from the breed. 

Questions to ask your breeder before you visit

When you first contact a breeder, you should ask to speak to them on the phone before visiting the puppies. This is so that you can ask them questions about their breeding practices without your judgement being clouded by those oh so cute puppies. A good breeder will also want to ask you questions about your home and lifestyle to ensure you will make a good owner of one of their puppies.

You should ask:

  • Are they required to be a licensed breeder, and if so, can they provide evidence of their license? Some breeders will need a license, depending on whether they are operating as a business and how many litters they have each year. Check if your breeder would need a license and ask them to provide evidence of this.
  • Can the puppies be seen with their mother and at the place they were born? Puppies should always be seen with their mother and at the place they were born. Be sceptical of excuses that your breeder might make – it might suggest they are involved in puppy farming.
  • Have the parents been screened for health conditions relevant to the breed, and can they show you the results? Some breeds, especially purebred dogs, will be more prone to certain conditions. Check that your breeder has had the parents tested for the relevant conditions and that they can show you the results. Only buy puppies bred from healthy parents.
  • How many litters has the mother had? The Kennel Club recommends that a female dog should not have more than four litters. Even if your breeder is not Kennel Club registered, if the mother has had more than four litters there may be welfare concerns.
  • How old is the mother? The Kennel Club recommends that female dogs should not be bred if they are over the age of eight or under one year old at the time of mating. Even if your breeder is not Kennel Club registered, if the mother is of an inappropriate age there may be welfare concerns.
  • Can you visit the puppies at their home, and will you be able to revisit before bringing the puppy home? You should always be able to see puppies at their home. If a breeder wants you to meet them elsewhere, that can be a red flag, suggesting that the puppies may be from a puppy farm. Being able to revisit is also a signal that the home is genuine, and most responsible breeders will be open to you revisiting within reason.
  • At what age will the puppies be able to leave their mother to go to their new homes? No puppy should leave their mother until they are at least eight weeks old. Some breeders will choose to keep the puppy for slightly longer if they think there is a benefit to the puppies’ social development.
Golden coloured puppy

What to check when you visit the breeder and puppies

When you visit your breeder and puppies for the first time there are a number of things to pay attention to. Be prepared to walk away if things don’t seem right, and never buy a puppy if you suspect it comes from a puppy farm.

  • Do the puppies appear healthy, and happy? Puppies should be alert (though don’t mistake sleepiness for lethargy), have a shiny coat, be free from discharge and a healthy weight – not too skinny and not too fat. Check their sight and hearing by waving or clapping and checking they respond appropriately.
  • Does the mother appear healthy and happy? What type of temperament does she have? Make sure the mother appears healthy and happy. Interact with her to find out what her temperament is like and ask the breeder about her – your puppy may well share her qualities!
  • Are the puppies kept in a suitable environment? Are the puppies being kept in a clean, safe environment with plenty of stimulation (like toys) and access to food and water?
  • Have the puppies been checked by a vet, and are they being weighed regularly? A vet should have checked the puppies within their first few weeks to identify any health issues. Puppies should be being weighed regularly to ensure they are putting on weight at the expected rate. 
  • Have the puppies and mother had worm treatments regularly since birth? Worming is an essential treatment as most puppies are born with worms.
  • Will the puppies have had their first vaccinations before they go to their new homes? In most circumstances, puppies should have their first vaccinations before going to their new homes. 
  • Will the puppies be microchipped before they go to their new homes? In most circumstances, puppies should be microchipped and registered to their new owners before going to their new homes.
  • Are the puppies going to be registered with the Kennel Club or an alternative official dog club? If so, will the papers be provided and include information on bloodlines? Whilst not all dogs will be registered, if they are you should be offered papers, which will often include bloodlines. Check with your breeder and the dog club in question for more information.
  • Are the puppies used to being around people, and has the breeder been socialising them? The puppies should be used to being handled and your breeder should have started general socialisation. Ask your breeder what sorts of things they have ben doing in this area, such as getting them used to household sounds and smells and getting used to being handled and meeting strangers. 

Choosing a puppy

Once you’re satisfied that the puppies are healthy and happy and have been bred responsibly it’s time for the exciting bit – choosing a puppy!

If you’re lucky, you’ll have the pick of the litter and to give yourself the best chance of finding the right puppy for you, there are a few things you will want to consider and look out for.

  • Appearance isn’t everything. Unless you intend to show the puppy, their appearance is amongst the least important factors when it comes to deciding which puppy to buy. Instead, focus on the puppies’ temperament and the way they interact with their littermates, mother, and people.
  • Boy or girl? Ultimately, your future puppy’s gender should have little impact on whether they will make a good pet for you or not, especially if you intend to spay or neuter them. Female dogs who are not neutered will have ‘seasons’ at least twice a year where they will bleed and be attractive to unneutered male dogs – you’ll need to be prepared to manage this and prevent any accidental litters!
  • Interaction with their littermates. The way a puppy interacts with their littermates can be a big indicator of their personality, and the potential challenges that you might have to face as they mature. Look for puppies that aren’t separated from the pack or overly boisterous.
  • Interaction with you. The ways the puppies interact with humans is really important. Just like when they interact with their littermates, you should look for puppies that are confident enough to approach you, without playing too rough or being too demanding of your attention. 
Australian Shepherd puppy amongst bluebells

Paying for a puppy

When it comes to paying for your puppy, the process will be different with different breeders. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Paying a deposit. Some breeders will ask you to pay a small deposit to secure the puppy. You are usually not expected to pay a deposit until you have seen and chosen a puppy and have details of any health screening. You should be clear about the circumstances under which the deposit will or will not be returned, preferably in writing.
  • Cost of the puppy. Now is not the time to go bargain hunting – when buying a puppy your focus should be on the welfare of the mother and puppies and the circumstances in which they were bred, not the price. Puppies that are priced very low or very high may be a signal of puppy farming or other fraudulent activities – of course this is not always the case and that’s why it is crucial you visit the breeder and ask the right questions.
  • Paying the balance. Usually, you will want to wait to pay the balance of the cost of the puppy until the day they come home with you. However, if you trust the breeder, have visited them at home and they are registered with your local council or the Kennel Club you might be comfortable paying the balance earlier. In any case, make sure you get a signed receipt and all paperwork pertaining to your puppy (such as their microchip details to be switched to you, certificates of any dog clubs they are registered to, veterinary reports, etc.)

There’s a lot to consider when buying a puppy – but since you’re choosing a companion that will be by your side for many years, it’s best to get it right the first time. The hard work doesn’t stop once you bring them home though! You’re now responsible for their training, exercise, and welfare for the rest of their lives. Get off to a good start with a PitPat Dog Activity Monitor so you can keep track of their daily activity.

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