Part 2: Where should I get my puppy from?
You’ve got an idea from the last post of what type, size, sex, and age of dog you’re looking for. Now, in Choosing a Puppy, Part 2, you can source your puppy.
There are some fantastic breeders, dedicated to the improvement of their breed, and fanatical about rearing the best puppies possible. They invest a lot of money in genetic testing to ensure their puppies do not suffer from inherited problems (e.g. Hip Dysplasia, Eye diseases, temperament issues). They devote three months of their life to each litter. They really earn their money! They will give you a detailed Puppy Pack, with pedigree, registration forms, medical history, diet history, breed-specific advice, and so on.
• Then there are those who have a pet dog who has pups. If there is enough hybrid vigour in the mix you may get away with the absence of genetic testing, as long as the puppies are reared right. These puppies are often reared in the home with lots of love and attention from family and friends, so can be a good bet temperamentally. This would be the old-fashioned household mongrel dog, now sadly disappearing through over-zealous neutering programs. You may be taking pot-luck on size, type, and health.
• Sadly there are many people who I refer to as greeders. Their interest is in getting as much as possible for as little investment of time and money as possible. They often focus on the most popular breed of the time - currently the troubled brachycephalic breeds like Pugs and French Bulldogs - or more often the fashionable “designer breeds”. Greeders usually focus on small dogs, as they can pack more into their sheds and they cost less to feed. They may try and offload the puppies at 6 weeks for some spurious reason (the real reason is laziness - this is the most labour-intensive stage of puppy-rearing). No genetic testing is usually done. In my experience it’s not uncommon for dogs from these greeders to develop chronic conditions like Hip Dysplasia within their first six months of life, necessitating lifelong medication or surgery. This suffering is appalling when it could so easily have been avoided. These people couldn’t care less.
• The worst of these greeders are the puppy farms aka puppy mills, who have lots of tricks to fool you into buying something that was reared in a filthy cage in a cellar or shed, with no human contact. The poor, overbred bitches live a life of loneliness and misery till they’re thrown out as spent. Often these puppies are much older than is claimed. They even charge a lot of money for them! You’ll soon be paying much, much, more for behavioural and veterinary help to try to partially repair the damage these monsters have inflicted. A disproportionate number of dogs bought off the internet classified listings die within their first year. Do NOT feel sorry for the puppy and take it, even knowing or suspecting its background. You will pay for the whole of the dog’s life. Worse, you are giving money to help further this cruel trade.
As one otherwise intelligent businesswoman said to me, as she regarded her puppy who had clunky hips, wonky teeth, and was afraid of his own shadow, “I can’t believe I fell for those tricks”.
• You’ll find advice about all this through your national kennel club. Here’s the UK Kennel Club’s page. Many kennel clubs have a breeder assessment scheme.
Meeting your prospective puppy
• Your first viewing
When you first visit a litter, do NOT take the family with you. You’d be better taking a friend who hates dogs and will not be beguiled by the cute little fluffy puppies! Decide on your priorities before you go in, and interview the breeder carefully. Ask penetrating questions and require thorough answers with written proof. A genuine breeder will be interviewing you at the same time, to see if you are a suitable owner for their precious puppies.
The pups should be spotlessly clean and smell sweet, with no tangles or mats, no sticky bum, no runny eyes. Their mother should be interested but not concerned at you handling her pups. (This is an important pointer to the litter’s temperament later on.)
Oh so critical!
On no account agree to a puppy on your first visit. You are looking at a commitment for the next 12-17 years: be fully prepared to WALK AWAY.
• Beware of a breeder who wants you to take a bitch and rear puppies from it for them. It’s your choice what you do with your dog. It’s not uncommon for a breeder to prevent you being able to register progeny at your national kennel club without their permission. They are trying to protect the health and standards of the breed and protect their puppies from those greeders.
Now you have some concrete issues to research. See how this will all pay off in the next post.
Thinking ahead - enrol in our free e-course on how to change the things you may not appreciate in your new puppy into the things you like - all force-free, of course!