Adding a new furry member to your family is always going to be a fun and exciting time. Puppies are a big bundle of joy and a long term commitment, so it’s important you find a dog that is suitable to you and your family.
You must take the time to research dog breeds to find one that fits your lifestyle, then find and contact a reputable breeder. This is the first, and most important, stage of finding a dog that is happy and healthy.
Visiting the Litter
- Try to visit the puppies from four weeks of age. This way you can see the puppies all together watching how they interact with each other before they are sent to their new homes. Make sure you visit them regularly so you can see how they develop over the next four weeks.
- On the first visit, stand at a distance and just observe them. Watch to see if they are playing nicely or if there are signs of aggression towards others or their toys.
- Observe the mother and puppies together. Does she seem happy for you to look at them? If not, and she is being protective, this trait might be inherited by the pups. The mother should always be there when you visit, so you can witness these characteristics. If she is not present, always ask why not.
- A reputable breeder should be knowledgeable about the general health and demeanour of the litter and should be confident about the health of the mother. As the breeder has watched them grow, she can advise you on the puppies’ characteristics. Always ask questions about the parent dogs’ history so you can get an idea of what to expect form the puppy.
- Watch the puppies feed. Puppies should ideally be fed separately or in small groups. If they are fed communally they may develop food guarding behaviours.
- Look to see where the puppies are toileting. The breeder should already be teaching the puppies to toilet in a designated place. If they are fouling their beds or playpen then the puppies will need significant training later.
Choosing a personality type that’s right for you
- When amongst the puppies, which ones approach you? If there is a puppy that sits back and waits, then he/she is unlikely to be comfortable in a busy family home. This is a dog that might be better suited to a quieter or adult-only home.
- Is the puppy readily excitable, excessively bitey or show signs of pushy behaviour? If so, and she is like this every time you visit her, then this is a puppy that might need extra attention, care and training. Likely to be a very bright dog, this pup will probably be more suitable with an experienced dog owner, who has the time and desire to teach her correct behaviours.
- Is the puppy comfortable being picked up? If she is loose, relaxed and playful then this puppy is fine being handled, however if she is stiff or immediately struggles then it would indicate she is uncomfortable with the situation. A puppy like the latter, will be unsuitable for young families as children like to cuddle and handle their furry playmate, which may be too much too soon for this particular puppy. She will be more suited to a household that has the time to teach her (at her own pace) that being held is a good interaction.
- Is the puppy looking for conflict among the rest of the litter? This is a bad behaviour and could mean the puppy is domineering and will be hard to manage. This puppy will need to be taught and trained well in a setting where she can socialise with other dogs. Good behaviour training is likely to be necessary.
- Remember you might observe these behaviours one week but not the next; there are a number of factors that can change a puppy’s mood. That’s why it’s a good idea to visit them regularly and ask the breeder- she will know the overall characteristics and demeanour of every puppy in the litter.
Checking the pup’s physical health
- It is a good idea to do an all-over check of your chosen puppy. He/she should be a good weight, meaning she will look nice and round- not fat, and not skinny. Even naturally thin breeds like greyhounds are lovely plump little pups until around four months of age. Notice the gait too, to check the health of the pup’s bones and joints.
- Check the pup’s eyes, ears, mouth and rear end. A healthy puppy will have bright, clear eyes, smooth ears and clean gums, teeth and coat.
- Conduct visual and hearing tests. To make sure the pup can hear and see properly it’s ok to conduct tests. Separate the puppy from the rest of the litter and gently clap your hands together behind him, if it startles him or he turns then you know he can hear well. To test his vision, roll a ball in front of him and watch to see if he interacts with it or follows it with his eyes.
- Check to see how the puppy is breathing. A healthy dog will breathe quietly and smoothly, without coughing or sneezing too much.
- After a few days of bringing your new family member home, be sure to take them to the vet. The breeder should have provided you with a copy of the puppy’s vaccination and worming record.It’s a good idea to keep your puppy at home, except for short visits to the vets, until he is 12-16 weeks old. As new borns’, puppies get their initial immunity to disease from their mother, but as they get older they will need vaccines from the vet. So try to keep them at home until they are 16 weeks of age.