Doggy Training

8 Top Tips for Choosing a Puppy

8 Top Tips for choosing a puppy!

Have you decided to add a furry new addition to your family? Congratulations! What an exciting time, I bet you can’t wait to meet them. However, in the excitement of it all, it can be easy to get caught up and forget to use your head over your heart. Here are eight top tips for choosing the right puppy for you.

1. Adopt don’t shop?

This is a common phrase floating around social media at the moment. Often accompanied with a lot of judgement from the sender and guilt from the reader. The truth is – it isn’t helpful. A better version would be ‘adopt or shop responsibly’. But how can you tell if a puppy or a rescue dog is right for you?

An older rescue dog means a lesser likelihood of chewing, mouthing, toilet training, and sleepless nights. When acquiring an adult dog you have a better idea of who they are and their needs. However, there is often uncertainty about their past experiences and behaviour problems sometimes don’t present themselves until the dog is settled in your home, so it is far from the easy route!

A puppy allows you more opportunity to shape the dog that you want – although a puppy is never a completely blank slate, you can have more control over their early life experiences and make sure it is done right. Having said this, a puppy is hard work. Constant supervision, sleepless nights, needle sharp teeth and your favourite fluffy socks mysteriously being found at the bottom of the garden with holes in the toes…

2. Which breed is right for you?

When selecting a breed, it is so important to look into what they are bred to do. Breeds that are designed to do a high energy ‘job’ are likely to be harder work and require more active input than show lines or companion breeds. For example, a working cocker spaniel is designed to be on the go for 7/8 hours of the day and will likely have a strong desire to hunt and flush. As an owner of a WCS puppy myself, I can vouch that he was the hardest work of any of my puppies, and I have had to work very hard to teach him how to settle and switch off!

Crossbreeds are often forgotten here; the amount of cockapoos I see in first time owner homes is amazing, and whilst they can make incredible family dogs it is important to remember they are a cocker spaniel crossed with a poodle – two highly intelligent working breeds!

The best advice here is to speak to as many owners of your desired breed as possible – join forums and speak to people out and about. Find out what it is actually like to live with your desired dog. How much exercise do they require? How much training do they get every week? Then ask yourself, does that fit into your lifestyle?

3. Finding a trustworthy breeder

This can be a real minefield. It is a good idea to ask your potential breeder all of your questions before you see the puppies (avoiding a potential heart over head situation!). A good breeder will love that you are sourcing responsibly and should ask you an equal amount of questions back – it should feel like an interview on both sides. Some good questions to ask a breeder include…

What kind of socialisation do the puppies get? This answer should include more than just ‘raised in the house’. Breeders should be exposing our puppy to novel sights, sounds, surfaces, objects, other dogs (within reason), people, and handling. Read more about what socialisation is and how to do it properly HERE.

What kind of homes are you looking for? This is usually where the breeder gets their chance to interview you! If the breeder is looking for working or sport homes, is important to consider if this is something you can provide.

What paperwork will the puppies leave with? Kennel Club registration is not essential, but very useful to ensure responsible breeding – you don’t want to see the same name appear too many times on either side of the pedigree and it allows you to check validity of health tests. Good breeders usually provide an information pack, often some puppy food, records of weights and health checks, microchip details, and short term pet insurance.

4. Puppy mill red flags

There are many tell-tale signs that your breeder isn’t who they seem. This list is not exclusive or exhaustive, but if you are seeing one or more of these signs, dig a little deeper.

  • Not being able to see at least the mother with the litter.
  • Puppies available immediately – I know it is hard to wait, but a long waiting list is a very good sign!
  • Offer of delivery or excuses as to why you cannot visit.
  • Advertising on online selling sites. Particularly if there are multiple adverts from the same seller.
  • Puppies available to leave earlier than 8 weeks old.
  • Cannot provide evidence of health tests and checks.
  • Advertises ‘rare’ or ‘new’ breeds or colours. If they were breeding a true rare breed, they would have a waiting list longer than your arm.

5. Meeting the parents

It is common to not be able to meet the Dad, so do as much research on him as you can. Has he had litters before and how have they turned out? The Mother of the puppies should always be able to seen and should still be with the litter.

When meeting the parents, it is important that they are healthy and friendly. If possible, see them interact with other dogs as well as yourselves. If you are looking for a dog to do a job, is there evidence that the parents can be good at this?

Health testing is imperative. This is more than just a health check from the vets, these are physical or genetic exams that usually provide a ‘score’ of health. Use the Kennel Club website (Breeds A to Z | The Kennel Club) to see which health tests are advised for your breed, and check the scores of both parents. This reduces the likelihood of your puppy being poorly later in life and aims to emit these illnesses from the breed in the long term.

6. Meeting the puppies

In addition to the puppies looking generally healthy (bright eyes, coat in good condition, full of energy when awake), they should be confident and friendly. There should be evidence that they live in the house and are comfortable there – keep an eye out for signs of fear at household noises, people moving, hands coming towards them.

Have a play and a cuddle, but try and sit back and watch them interact with each other – is there one puppy that is more rambunctious? Is there one that keeps to themselves and steers clear of playtime? Watch them interact with their environment too – the breeder should have provided a whole host of enrichment, so see how they react to different toys, objects, and surfaces.

7. Have you found ‘the one’?

A slightly controversial one here… I am not a big believer in ‘the right puppy will choose you’. It is a lovely notion and feeling a connection with your puppy will help, but realistically, the puppy that rushes up to you and licks your nose is likely to be the most outgoing and confident in the litter. Is this going to be the right fit for you? Or would a slightly more laidback puppy be more suited to your needs?

This is where your breeder should step in with knowledge of the individual puppies and their personalities. It is not uncommon for a good breeder to allocate you a puppy dependant on your requirements, so do be prepared that you may not get to choose at all!

8. Patience

It is the most exciting time but please do not go home with the first litter you speak to without doing your research. It is far better to investigate multiple breeders and wait for the right breeder to be having a litter than just to go for what is available immediately. So, if you are thinking about getting a puppy next summer, start your research now!