Choosing your puppy
The time has finally arrived to choose your puppy. Hopefully you have decided which breed you want? This would be decided partly on your personal preference on looks and temperament. Maybe you have previous experience of a particular breed and if not it’s a good idea to read up as much as possible about the type of dog you have chosen. If your thinking about getting a dog, check out our ‘When is it the right time to get a dog?’ article.
Some dogs are more docile and prefer a quiet lifestyle, some are working breeds and need a lot of exercise and training and some are lap dogs and are happiest with a very domestic set up. Whichever breed you have opted for you have already thought through how you are going to accommodate this puppy and fit it into your life. Check out our ‘What dog suits my lifestyle’ article for more info.
Now you have located some litters to go and view. Don’t feel that you have to choose a puppy on the first viewing. It is best to first go and see the puppies at 4 weeks when they are just walking and moving about. You can view them with their mother and observe their movements and behaviour at this very early age. It will give you an idea of the temperament of the mother, the health of the puppies and the household they have come from.
Visit the whole family.
It is vital that the mother should be observed with her puppies. If she isn’t there you must seriously question why not? No one wants to buy a puppy from a disreputable breeder or puppy farm situation. It would be great to see the father too, in order to see his temperament and appearance but this isn’t always possible if he isn’t owned by the same person. It is important to see that the mother and puppies are being reared inside the house, do check evidence of this. If puppies are reared outside they are generally not so sociable, are more wary of being handled and are nervous of people. This is not the good start in life that you want for your puppy.
By watching the mother with her puppies you can get a good indication of her temperament, how she is treating her puppies and that good behaviours are being reinforced to her offspring. You can see that the puppies are being fed and cleaned and generally nurtured by their mother. An attentive mother is great, remember your puppy is inheriting her genes and a friendly dog is exactly what you want. Tiny puppies shouldn’t be handled too soon by the future owners. It is natural for the mother to be concerned and protective.
But after a few weeks handling the puppies is completely necessary to make them sociable and confident with people. Stroke the mother and reassure her before you handle her puppies. Small children should be watched closely to make sure they don’t squeeze or love the puppies too much! Discourage squealing and encourage calmness during the visit.
When you pick up a puppy is it happy or does it appear frightened? Does it come towards you or hide in the corner? This is all indicative of its character and whether it is a confident pup or maybe a bit nervous and needs encouragement and maybe a quieter household.
How many times should I view the puppies?
If possible it is good to view the puppies a few times before you take yours home at 8 weeks. That way you can observe that behaviour is consistent. Stand back and watch. Which puppies are pushy, which if any, are quieter. How do they interact? How are they at feeding time once on early solids?
Do they play happily together or is one a bit more assertive than the others? You should already have an idea of whether you can give adequate time to training and exercising a lively dog or whether the moderate exercise needed by a quieter, smaller dog is a better fit for your lifestyle. The breed tells you a lot, but within a litter there are also different characters. Observe and make a considered choice if you can. However, there is always the puppy that looks you straight in the eyeball and says ‘pick me!’, which is pretty hard to resist.
What questions should you ask the breeder before buying a puppy?
How many litters has the mother had?
Who the father is?
Are there any medical concerns associated with that breed?
If medical checks are needed have the puppies been screened?
Will they be chipped before you receive your puppy? It is now law that the breeder must microchip the puppy before they go to a new home.
Do they have their pedigree paperwork (if applicable). You would need to have researched this already and do check the results.
Hopefully there is a designated toilet area which will help the puppies with good habits for toilet training. No puppy wants to mess his bed and it is kind to encourage them to soil on newspaper in a designated area of the pen. Then once home it is easier to enforce this and start your own system.
If your puppy is a pedigree pup then do get the relevant paperwork signed and sealed on purchase. And don’t forget that it is now law that puppies are micro-chipped by the breeder before they leave for their new home.
Good luck and enjoy your new best friend for life