Although choosing a puppy might sound like an easy task (they’re all cute and fluffy right?!), the selection of a puppy should be very carefully considered. Bringing up a puppy is not always an easy task and they can require a lot of time and patience. However, the process should be fun! By thinking about the breed type and energy of dog you are bringing home (more on this later) and your individual requirements and lifestyle as an owner, the following tips should help to make your puppy selection and parenting a little easier, better informed, and hopefully make it a little less likely for you to run into problems along the way!
Choosing the correct breed for your lifestyle and needs
Before heading to your nearest breeder or rescue centre, it is important to consider what breed of dog best suits your everyday lifestyle and needs. Would you like your future dog to accompany you every day in an active, outdoor lifestyle or are you looking for a dog to confidently join you in coffee shop escapades? Similarly, you might be wanting a dog to take life at a steadier pace with you, perhaps joining you for a snuggle on the sofa of an evening, or maybe you’d like your dog to fit into a bustling family home, running happily around with the family in the garden. What do you require? This is the question you must have in the forefront of your mind when selecting the right breed of dog for your lifestyle and family home. It is important to match your energy levels, social life, and family needs with your chosen dog. Thoroughly researching your preferred breed or breed type (by type – think hunting breeds, guarding breeds etc) of dog will give you an insight into whether this breed is indeed right for you. Another good tip is to actively seek out owners of your preferred breed and ask them questions about their lifestyle with their dog. Does it match your own? What do they have to say about the needs of their dog? What are the pros and cons of the breed or type of dog? Does this sound like it would suit your lifestyle? Your local community, dog training school and social media (think: breed specific groups and pages) can be fantastic resources for finding owners and those knowledgeable about the breed to talk to. Put time into this.
Remember, unlike humans, dogs develop extremely quickly and your cute bundle of fur can soon become a mature, much larger adult. It is important to make sure that your fully grown, four-legged best friend is able to fit into your desired lifestyle.
Choosing the right breed of dog
Although you might think that nurture always wins over nature, this is unfortunately not always the case. Just like us humans are all born differently and with different needs, likes and dislikes, individual dogs will have different personality traits also. Often, this is determined by breed however puppies within a litter can also vary in their personalities and energy levels. Firstly, however, when considering a puppy, it is important to consider what your particular breed or type of dog was originally bred for. For example, Labrador Retrievers were originally built for retrieving fisherman’s nets off of Labrador, which is a region within the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This typically makes Labrador’s great swimmers, retrievers and very willing but also, when from working blood lines, also typically high in energy. If considering a dog from working blood lines (think husky, working cocker spaniel, some cockerpoos, lurcher, German shepherd and many others), it is crucial to consider how you will tailor your day to meet their exercise needs – both in terms of physical and mental stimulation. Without the right level of stimulation, you may find that your dog places this energy into unwanted behaviours, finding themselves a ‘job’ to do due to boredom or even putting excess energy into ‘worrying’ and stressing about things it needn’t have to. However, with the right level of stimulation, you could find your dog an absolute joy to spend time with, a great companion and a loyal friend.
It is important to stress that the breeding heritage of your chosen dog does not always determine their development, character traits or any behavioural issues, however it is extremely important to consider these attributes when choosing a puppy and deciding how you might work to ensure you are able to bring up your puppy to be a well-rounded, well-mannered and confident dog.
Choosing the right ‘energy’ of dog
In addition to carefully choosing your breed, another key consideration when selecting a puppy is selecting the right energy level. Although the breed of a dog should give you a good indication of the energy level, energy levels of dogs within the same litter can also vary. As a general guide, a good breeder should be able to tell you an individual puppy’s traits and characteristics within the litter. Consider your needs as an owner. Some puppies in the litter may benefit from a more experienced owner than others. For example, a very shy puppy who might be prone to being nervous, or a very bold puppy that might benefit from a confident owner with an active lifestyle.
Finding a breeder
Once you have considered which breed and energy of dog is right for your lifestyle, it is important to find a reputable breeder or rescue centre. As with selecting the right breed of dog for you, this task should be carried out with care and be thoroughly researched. As a general guide, the following are good indicators of a reputable breeder:
1) The breeder should welcome any questions that you have as well as ask questions of you
The puppies should be, after all, their pride and joy. They should want them to go to the best homes possible. This does not necessarily mean who will ‘love’ them the most, but instead who will be most able to fulfil the dog’s needs and provide the dog with the correct environment, mental stimulation, physical stimulation and experiences. Polite interrogation should be welcomed and should be viewed as a positive thing!
2) The breeder should be able to show you the bitch and any relevant paperwork associated with them
In relation to the sire, you should expect to see any relevant paperwork and pictures if the dog is not available for viewing. For pedigree and some cross-breed litters, you should expect to see the breed history of both the bitch and the sire. It is also useful to observe the bitch (and the sire too if available). If this adult dog matches the type of dog you are looking for in terms of temperament and personality, this gives you a good indication of whether a puppy from this litter is likely to grow into the dog you would like to be part of your family. Other useful observations are those of any dogs the breeder has previously bred and homed. If you are able to, speaking to the owners of these dogs will also help you to make your decision as to whether this is the right puppy for you.
3) The breeder should demonstrate a secure knowledge of what they are selling
By this I don’t just mean what the dog looks like or typically behaves like as a breed. Instead, the breeder should also be able to talk you through this history and the bloodline descendants registered on any paperwork. The breeder should also offer their thoughts on whether a puppy from the litter is right for you and, if so, which puppy in the litter would best suit you. Their choice should be based on solid reasoning in regards to the puppy’s temperament and personality traits.
4) The breeder should allow you to visit their establishment and the puppies on multiple occasions
They should be willing to spend time with you and allow you to spend time with your puppy. Whilst you are visiting, they might also allow you to carry out activities that will help you to create a seamless transition from their establishment to your home. This might be as simple as allowing you to introduce a blanket with your scent on it to the puppy, or allowing you to introduce the puppy to your car (with it off and stationary) so that they become familiar with this environment before having to travel in it. The more you can see, experience and understand your puppy’s world, and vice versa, the better!
5) The breeder should provide evidence that they have wormed the puppy and provide you with a vaccination plan
Some breeders will provide the first vaccination, others may not. In either case, the breeder should clearly outline their requirements for vaccinating the puppy against harmful diseases.
6) The breeder should be able to tell you how they are enriching the lives of the puppies on a daily basis
Look for good nutrition, hygiene and positive exposure to enrichment activities.
7) The breeder should ask you to sign a contract of sale, often outlining their expectations of you as an owner
As with any important purchase in life, you should expect to receive a contract of sale. This should outline both the breeder’s responsibilities as well as your own.
8) The breeder should be willing to give you a receipt for your purchase
Puppies are often not cheap, and shouldn’t be! Raising a puppy correctly can cost a lot of money, not to mention take a lot of time. As with any other big purchase, you should expect a receipt.
9) The breeder should only allow you to take your puppy home once it has reached eight weeks of age
Any earlier is not healthy for your puppy and is not in their best interest.
10) The breeder should be willing to help you find your dog a new home should you ever find yourself in a situation where you are no longer able to keep them
Should you ever run into difficulties, a reputable breeder should want to know and should offer to try to help you to find a suitable home. Just like when they first allowed you to purchase the dog from them, they should want to know about any potential new owners.
Taking your puppy home – what happens next?!
So, you have done your research, spent time selecting the right puppy and have brought a puppy home. The investment doesn’t stop there! Think again about what sort of dog you would like your puppy to grow into and take positive steps to make this happen by embarking on a good training course. Whether this is self-guided or at a reputable dog training centre, remember that training is not a 6 week ‘quick fix’ and will take much longer. As with children, sending them only to Nursery School will not fully educate them. Whilst puppy training is crucial, your training should then progress and adapt to each of your dog’s life stages. Have patience, practice daily and stay consistent. Most of all, ENJOY the process and your puppy as they grow and develop!