We’ve been seeing so many new puppies and it really is so exciting to see new owners come into the practice with the gorgeous new addition to their family- fully of excitement and anticipation.
Buying a new pup will bring you much joy, but there are a few pitfalls best avoided. Firstly, it is highly recommended that you find a breeder who rears the puppies at home with their mother, ideally only letting them go to their new homes from about 8 weeks old. Before that, puppies are still learning vital lessons from their canine family. At 8 weeks old, your puppy should be mature and strong enough to make that big transition to a new home. It is important to see the bitch and check that she appears healthy and of good temperament.
If your puppy is sold through a newspaper, from a pet shop, on the gumtree or other online classifieds, then be wary! Farmed puppies are often sold this way. These pups are often bred without regard for their welfare, en masse, in unsanitary conditions where diseases such as parvovirus and worms may be rife. The parents of these pups are often of dubious quality, suffering from inherited diseases which they pass onto their pups. There is no way to check this if you have no record of the pup’s parents. If you are concerned the litter you are looking at may be from a puppy farm, don’t purchase the puppy. Far from saving the puppy, this encourages the practice of puppy farming to continue and the unscrupulous breeder to produce more litters.
We have seen a number of pups whose mothers have been taken pregnant to Ireland just so that the puppies can have their tails docked as newborns, and then the litter brought back into England at a very young age to be sold to unsuspecting owners. A docked puppy should ring alarm bells, as it is illegal in England unless of it can be proved that that puppy is intended to be a working dog, and the breed of the puppy is within a certain group. Most of our patients will only ever be pets living in London, so we should only rarely be seeing docked pups. Unfortunately a number of puppies are coming in with certification for their docking. We recommend walking away from a breeder selling docked puppies unless you genuinely intend to use it for hunting or other working activities. Similarly, removal of front dew claws is an unnecessary amputation.
Examine your puppy for obvious signs of disease or other problems before you bring it home. Your pup should not be too thin (or too fat) and should not have a pronounced pot belly (which could be a sign of worms). Its coat should be shiny and without too much scurf (similar to dandruff). The eyes and nose should be clear. There should not be a pronounced over or underbite of the jaws- check that the front teeth do not have an obvious gap between the top and bottom row. Avoid pups with exaggerated features- such features are often associated with problems. See the Kennel Club site on Fit for Function- Fit for Life for more information. Check that there is no sign of diarrhoea or sickness.
The breeder should be able to give you details of the puppy’s diet (brand of food, frequency of feeding, amount fed), worming (brand of wormer, dates of worming) and any flea treatments (brand of flea treatment, dates of treatment), and any vaccinations (type and date) already given. Details are important- so remember to ask for them. If there is a kennel club health scheme for your chosen breed, also check that the parents and/or puppies have been tested, and ask for the dates and results. See the Kennel Club website for more details on health testing.
The newer ‘designer breeds’ (made up of two or more breeds, often with a poodle as one of the mix eg. labradoodle, puggle etc) deserve a mention here. We see these puppies on a regular basis and they are very much loved by their owners. It is important to realise that these breeds are not free of inherited disease. Often they can inherit the problems of both parents. It is just as important that cross bred dogs are health tested, as it is for pure-bred dogs. Please ask the breeder if they have done any health testing.
You have chosen your puppy- what next?
On your pup’s first night in a new home, we recommend using a crate for the pup’s bed. This crate should be not much bigger than your pup lying down comfortably- larger crates that have dividers that can be removed as the pup grows are ideal. Use of devices that mimic heart beats (such as are available for babies) may help your pup to settle in. The pup may not eat much on its first night in a new home- resist the temptation to give too many treats or hand feed. Most pups regain their appetite fairly quickly.
It is a good idea to make an appointment for a health check with us straight away, even if the pup’s vaccinations are not due immediately. We will check the pup from head to tail, check what needs to be done in regards to vaccination, worming and flea prevention, give advice on diet and exercise, talk to you about behaviour, socialisation and training (including toilet training), discuss neutering and answer any questions you may have.
All pets should be insured. We highly recommend making sure you have pet insurance before you visit us, from the first day you pick your puppy up- check with your breeder who may be able to provide a certificate for 4-6 weeks free insurance. Make sure the insurance is verified (you will need to phone the insurance company, or make sure the breeder has done so). Most insurance companies will not cover pets for the first 14 days of the policy, so it is important to organise ongoing insurance with your preferred company in plenty of time before your free policy runs out. We recommend taking out life-time policies so that any chronic illness is covered for more than just the current policy year. Puppies, like babies, are susceptible to illness so it is important that your puppy is insured from the beginning.
Puppy school will help socialise and provide basic training for your pup. Luckily for our clients, there is one held just around the corner in St Dionis Church Hall. If this does not suit you, then please contact us for details of other puppy classes.
Finally, congratulations on the new addition to your family! Your new puppy should provide you with much joy for years to come.