10 Golden Rules when looking for a Puppy
1. Research the breed of your choice, what are its good and bad points? Beware of a breeder who only tells you the good points about the breed; are they more interested in the money than your choice of breed being right for you? Try to see the breed at perhaps a Dog Show where there will be a few entered or perhaps a Breed Club Show, where you can talk to breeders and exhibitors and learn a little more about the breed. Buy some books on the breed, or ask you local library to stock some. Talk to Breed Club Secretaries and visit Breed Club websites, where there will be lots of information about your chosen breed. Some general websites give misleading information about some breeds, so beware of where your research takes you. For example, some websites say that certain breeds of dog are good for asthmatics, when that is NOT the case, so always check this out with a reputable source.
2. Always see the puppies with their mother (you may not always be able to see the father as the breeder may have chosen a dog who lives many miles away, but you should ALWAYS see the puppies with their mother)
3. Ensure that the puppy is at least seven weeks of age, preferably eight weeks, when you go to pick it up. On NO ACCOUNT should a puppy go before it has reached seven weeks of age.
4. Ensure the puppies have been socialised by the breeder and handled and played with (not just left in a shed or barn with no interaction with humans). Puppies starved of human contact may be more difficult to bring into a household situation and may be frightened of humans and not be prepared to be handled.
5. Make sure the puppies do not have parasites, such as ear mites, worms or fleas. The breeder should have wormed the puppies at least three times before they leave their premises. The breeder should tell you what worming preparation they used and the dates they used them.
6. Always take the puppy to your chosen veterinary surgery shortly after you buy the puppy, so they can give it a health check. The breeder may have obtained a Health Certificate from their own vet before you buy the puppy, which they will give to you. Vets usually check such things as ears, skin condition, heart (for murmurs) and eyes. This will only be a general health check, but is better than nothing. Some breeds suffer from hereditary conditions (such as Hip Dysplasia, Cataracts, Fits etc); you should research whether your chosen breed is regularly screened for certain conditions. Concerned breeders will have had all the necessary health checks done for their breed, checking out both parents before they use them, and will be able to show you the documentation.
7. The breeder should tell you what brand of dog food (or what feeding regime they have been using) for the puppies. They may give you a small supply of the food to take with you. At 8 weeks, most breeders will be feeding the puppies three or four times a day. You should be prepared to do the same. Do not change the type of food, as this may cause the puppy to have an upset tummy. Stick with what the breeder has been using and if at a later date, you do decide to change, do this gradually over a period of about a week, introducing a small amount of the new food mixed with the regular food and then increasing it to 50/50, then later 75/25 and eventually, all new food. THEN KEEP USING THAT FOOD. Chopping and changing food regularly can upset the digestive system of your puppy.
8. Be prepared for a large change in your household routine, as house training a puppy is not always easy and he or she will make many mistakes. But remember, all the mistakes a puppy makes are YOUR FAULT, not the puppy's fault. He or she is just a baby and needs time to learn. Be kind and consistent. Be prepared to leap about for a few weeks, looking for the signs that the puppy wants to go to toilet and then taking him outside and PRAISING him when he does it in the right place. Never scold the puppy for the accidents. They are your fault, as you have not recognised the signs.
9. When you leave the puppy alone, do so for SHORT periods of time to start with, so he learns that you go away but you come back. If you take some time off work to look after the new arrival, do not make the mistake of staying with him 24 hours a day for two weeks and then going to work and leaving him alone for 8 hours. He may develop separation anxiety and howl and cry all the time you are gone. Instead bring him home, play with him, feed him, make sure he has been to the toilet and that he is tired and then pop him in his bed in a safe place and LEAVE HIM ALONE FOR A COUPLE OF HOURS. Go into another room, go out shopping, anything, just leave him alone, so that he learns that there will be times when he is on his own. You could leave a radio on playing quietly and perhaps some toys (but these should be safe ones that he cannot tear up and choke on).
10. Ensure that you have the time and space to devote to a puppy and can give it a permanent loving home, with sufficient food, warmth and exercise. EVERY member of the family should want the puppy but if any of you family has reservations about having a dog in the household, this will impact on the dog's happiness and well- being in the future.
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